2003 Carnegie Hall Tour
It is the dream of every musician to have an opportunity to perform in Carnegie Hall. For 75 Cal Poly students that dream became a reality on April 3, 2003 when the Wind Orchestra performed an evening "Showcase" concert as a part of the New York Wind Band Festival. Each year the World Projects Corporation produces the International Music Festival in Sydney Australia bringing in musical groups from throughout the world to perform in the Sydney Opera House. As a result of September 11, World Projects decided to begin a new festival in New York City bringing in wind bands from throughout the United States to perform in Carnegie Hall. Two university groups were chosen to perform the festival's evening "Showcase" concert, the Cal Poly Wind Orchestra and the University of Tennessee Wind Ensemble.
Cal Poly's invitation came as a result of its performance in the Sydney Opera House in June, 2000, when it participated in the International Music Festival. In a recent letter received from Mr. William Lutt, President of World Projects, the following statement was made: "Over the years, the Wind Orchestra at your university has shown the artistic performance level necessary to be successful in a Carnegie Hall concert at the New York Wind Band Festival...."
Conductor and music professor William Johnson said:
"It's hard to believe that anything could top the experience we had performing in the Sydney Opera House in June, 2000. Our evening concert in Carnegie Hall was certainly on the same level and perhaps beyond. I am very proud of the student's outstanding performance.
Since the performance was just across town from Ground Zero, we decided to program a concert that would pay tribute to the fallen heroes and survivors of 9/11 connecting the life and times of Abraham Lincoln to present times. We began with Stephen Melillo's Without Warning and then brought out Kevin Shea to do the narration for Copland's Lincoln Portrait. Kevin arrived at the South Tower with his Ladder Co of 13 other firefighters. He is the only survivor and is recovering from a broken neck. His performance of the Copland was flawless and brought tears to the eyes of the many FDNY people in the audience as well as the festival attendees. The concert was concluded with David Maslanka's Symphony No. 4, based on two scenes about the death of Lincoln from Carl Sandberg's book Abraham Lincoln. We had just gone to war in Iraq, so our encore was the National Anthem."
Tony Tedeschi, a New York City music critic wrote the following story which appeared in the San Luis Obispo Tribune on April 5, 2003
"This concert was personal. Shortly after the second plane hit the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, one of my daughters, who is in law enforcement, was dispatched as a part of a detail securing the perimeter of the attack site, two blocks north. She barely escaped the collapse of the first tower. For weeks afterward, she had to wash the ash from the fires from her body each night. I live 30 miles west. The acrid-smelling air from the burning buildings wafted through my community on the morning of the third day following. For weeks and weeks, local community buried their dead. So when I was asked to review the concert of the Cal Poly Wind Orchestra and Carnegie Hall on Thursday evening, in 'A Musical Tribute to Fallen Heroes and Survivors,' I wasn't quite sure where it would take me."
"Adding to the potential drama of the evening would be the words of Abraham Lincoln, delivered by firefighter Kevin Shea, the sole survivor of Ladder Co. 35, before an audience of New York City firefighters... The opening piece, Without Warning, by Stephen Melillo, hit you like a slap upside the dead, a storm that blasts off with a level of intensity that climbs from there to a splitting blare, until you are intimidated by its destructiveness. The music peters down in a cascade of notes and, just when you are settling into some measure of comfort, the storm hits you with its greatest force."
"The terrifying analogy with 9/11 was inescapable."
"While the blast that ends "Without Warning," leaves you a bit stunned, the soft tones that open Aaron Copland's Lincoln Portrait, provide a sense of calm that, while fraught with sorrow, nonetheless precedes a process of reconstruction."
"Narrator Shea's voice and delivery are clear and strong, but his New York-inflected diction also served as part of this bicoastal connection, symbolic of that wonderful, arm- spread-wide sense of breadth in America."
"As he closed with the final words of the narrative, his hands cupped at his side in a stance of military attention, the last words of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address served as a rallying call for the post-9/11 period, "this nation shall not perish from the earth."
"Conductor Bill Johnson's explanation of David Maslanka's Symphony No. 4, depicting the death of Lincoln ands the period of uncertainty that followed, was poignant. The music he introduced shifted in melodic lines from the soft, sorrowful, lugubrious to the chaos of instruments seemingly going off in many directions."
"The standing ovations from the appreciative audience induced the orchestra to close with a rousing rendition of the national anthem, a fitting coda."
"The healing process is still in its early stages. The period of uncertainty continues. As the orchestra played on, American troops were fighting the battle for Baghdad, and from the outset of the war in Iraq, New Yorkers once again have felt ourselves particularly vulnerable, every time we gather in crowds: at airports, train stations, in the lobbies of office buildings...at high profile concert halls..."
"For me the creative arts have always been personal. Someone performs. It strikes a sympathetic chord. Someone reacts. You reached me, Cal Poly Wind Orchestra and I thank you for it."