The next two highlights on our upcoming December 11th concert are arrangers Bruce Chase, and composer Engelbert Humperdinck. Please enjoy the following program notes, provided by Karen Anderson-Sweet.
Engelbert Humperdinck 1854-1921
Although some people of a certain age may recall the British pop singer who commandeered his name, the original Engelbert Humperdinck was a child prodigy and German composer known primarily for his opera Hansel and Gretel. Although he produced his first composition at the age of 7, his parents pushed him in the direction of architecture as a more lucrative profession. Instead, his talent earned him a scholarship to study music in Munich. Traveling through Italy, France and Spain, he collaborated with Richard Wagner and eventually became a music professor.
Hansel and Gretel began as a favor to his sister, who asked him for songs for her daughters’ puppet show. Using the Brothers Grimm gruesome fairy tale, he composed a singspiel of 16 songs, eventually working on a complete orchestration. His opera premiered as an instant success in 1893, the perfect amalgam of Wagnerian techniques and traditional German folk songs. He created dramatic, short melodies to represent the different characters. The Overture acts as a prelude based on the themes that will be heard later in the opera. The horns and bassoons introduce the peaceful spirit of his famous “Evening Prayer” in the Prelude, which will be sung later by the lost and hungry children in Act II.
Bruce Chase 1912-2001 (picture unavailable)
An American composer in our own backyard, Muscatine, Iowa, Chase was born into a family of well-known local musicians and by his early teens was also performing concerts. Making a living playing in dance bands, he discovered a real talent for making arrangements. He was eventually hired by NBC radio as a violinist and arranger, which led to a career as staff arranger and conductor for many popular radio shows. When live shows declined, he transitioned to making educational music albums, many still available today. After playing violin for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, he was recognized for his talent in music arrangement and frequently conducted the orchestra until well into his seventies.
His Around the World at Christmas Time includes the following traditional carols:
“O Tannenbaum” Germany
“Infant Holy, Infant Lowly” Poland
“What Child is This” England
“O Sanctissima” Sicily
“Where Comes the Rush of Wings” France
“Go Tell it on the Mountain” American spiritual
“Hanukkah Song” Jewish