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News

‘Liquid Compass’ guides bands’ way to 140 years

April 15, 2014

The Carthage bands will wrap up their 140th anniversary celebration with a concert Saturday, May 10, featuring a new work by influential composer Alex Shapiro.

The concert takes place at 7:30 p.m. in A. F. Siebert Chapel. It culminates a full year of events that mark the major milestone for the Carthage Band, which was formed in 1873 as a six-piece brass ensemble.

Composer Alex Shapiro wrote a new work titled "Liquid Compass" for the 140th anniversary of the Carthage Band's formation.Composer Alex Shapiro wrote a new work titled "Liquid Compass" for the 140th anniversary of the Carthage Band's formation.One of the most noteworthy composers for the 21st century wind band, Ms. Shapiro wrote “Liquid Compass” on the theme of journeying. The theme relates to the College’s various locations over the years, its growth and development as a liberal arts institution in the Lutheran tradition, and the development of the band from a small ensemble to a band program with an international reputation.

The composer plans to attend the concert, which will be held in A. F. Siebert Chapel. She also will participate in rehearsals and workshops for area high school and Carthage classes throughout the preceding week.

Ms. Shapiro draws from a broad musical palette that defies genre; her acoustic and electroacoustic works are performed and broadcast daily. In 2011, national music fraternity Mu Phi Epsilon presented her its highest distinction, the Award of Merit, for her innovative use of new technologies in composing.

“She’s just a really good person, and she seemed to connect with our background and mission,” said James Ripley, director of instrumental music activities and conductor of the Carthage Wind Orchestra.

Recently elected to the Board of the American Society of Composers and Publishers (ASCAP), Ms. Shapiro is also a nonfiction writer, public speaker, wildlife photographer, and environmental activist. She is the recipient of many national honors and recognitions; in 2011, the national music fraternity Mu Phi Epsilon honored her with the highest distinction given to its members, the Award of Merit, for her innovative use of new technologies to develop her composing career and help colleagues do the same.

Along with the Music Department, alumni and two private donors covered the cost of the commissioned work and Ms. Shapiro’s travel expenses. Prof. Ripley said the nine-minute “Liquid Compass” is based subtly on the Carthage “Alma Mater.”

“People who know the ‘Alma Mater,’ they’ll get it,” he said. “If they don’t, it won’t get in the way of their enjoyment.”

The composition includes recorded sounds that will emanate from speakers in the aisles during the performance. Prof. Ripley said the style of music would maximize the acoustic assets of the chapel.

In addition, the Wind Orchestra will perform selections by Timothy Mahr, Andrew Boysen, Dmitri Shostakovich, and Zo Elliott. The Concert Band, conducted by Margaret Young-Weitzel, will open the concert with works from William Latham, David Maslanka, and Steven Bryant.

The anniversary events began in May 2013 with the performance of another commissioned work, “Boss Battle” by Sydney Kjerstad. Carthage also celebrated with a re-creation of the first concerts performed in 1873-74, an alumni band at Homecoming, the appearance of guest conductor and composer Johan de Meij for the Lakeside Band Festival, and the Wind Orchestra’s fourth tour to Japan in January.