September 27, 2013

As coordinator of music at WPI, Professor Douglas Weeks gets to wear a lot of hats. In addition to serving as associate head of the Department of Humanities and Arts, he directs the WPI Concert Band, Orchestra, and Brass Ensemble, as well as the Worcester Brass and Worcester Trombone consorts.

Two of his chapeaux will be on display on the podium at this year’s Fall Concert as Weeks directs the Orchestra and the Concert Band. The annual concert is a major event on the school’s concert schedule, one that also showcases the talents of the WPI Stage Band, under the direction of Professor Richard Falco, who opens the program.

Both directors emphasize the importance for young musicians to perform in front of live audiences and they routinely schedule such opportunities.

“All concerts are designed to give students the opportunity to perform quality music at a high level,” Weeks says. “In order to fully study music it is important to become intimately engaged with a piece of music from studying and then have the opportunity to share that experience with an audience. One may think of this approach as a laboratory rather than purely classroom experience.”

WPI Concert Band, Orchestra, and Jazz Band, Douglas Weeks and Richard Falco, directors. Fall Concert, Alden Memorial, Sunday, Sept. 29, 3pm. Presented by the Department of Humanities and Arts.

In the performance of Gustav Holst’s St. Paul’s Suite, Weeks will give his first downbeat of the show to the WPI Orchestra. The group will then play Johann Sebastian Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor with violinists Briana Huie ’16 and Mariella Creaghan ’16.

“The Bach Double was really fun to put together with the orchestra in rehearsals,” Huie says. “Mariella and I are ‘flat-mates,’ so we got to practice and listen to recordings together during the day.”

The orchestra completes its segment with the Academic Festival Overture by Johannes Brahms. Next up, Weeks dons his WPI Concert Band lid for a presentation of the Symphonic Suite from Star Trek. The composition is an impressive setting for the concert stage. Note that the original TV theme is reworked into the piece for more than few good measures.

This is truly an outstanding year with many new, talented students,” says Weeks.

The Concert Band continues with a composition by Joseph Green, Xylophonia,featuring Ethan Barrieau on xylophone. The band also performs Variations on Scarborough Fair by Calvin Custer, and Blue Shades by Frank Ticheli.

Asked what goes into the coordination of the different ensembles, Weeks explains, “Programming and planning begins as much as a year or two in advance.” For many of these young musicians it means the fundamental practice, practice, practice.

“For this first concert,” Weeks says, “Ethan Barrieau ’16, a percussionist, practiced all summer to prepare for his solo on Xylophonia.”

Coordinating more than 100 players at a time presents a daunting task but, come showtime, Weeks and all of the musicians appear to be ready for the challenge. Asked how the ensembles are shaping up, Weeks says, “The groups right now are perhaps better than they have ever been. This is truly an outstanding year with many new, talented students.”

Violinist Huie agrees. “The orchestra is sounding particularly rich and full this year with our balance of instruments,” she says. “It’s impressive—particularly for a school where all the students are inundated with work for their engineering classes—how quickly and well we are able to learn our repertoire. We learn to coordinate our time really well. I’m really excited for us to take on the entire, great repertoire we have planned for this year.”

—Chet Williamson.     Images by Louis Despres