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An exploration of 3 man-made structures from 3 contrasting cultures and continents in the Northern Hemisphere.  Original music by Mr. Robert Burns.

I. The Great Wall of China

The opener of our show depicts the Great Wall of China.  The pre-show is a representation of the beginning of “Flute and Drum at Sunset,” one of the greatest pieces of ancient Chinese music.  The author is unknown, but the music echoes the poem “Spring, River and Flowers on a Moonlit Night” (c.600-720).

After a brief majestic introduction from the ensemble, an original solo written for hulusi, a Chinese free reed instrument seen below.  Its reeds, attached to pipes, are encased in the chamber of a hollow gourd.  There are two drone pipes with fixed pitch and one melody pipe.  The hulusi is performed by Kyle Moran.

After the Hulusi solo, the full ensemble enters with a theme derived from “Flute and Drum at Sunset.” 

Japanese Daiko drums in the front ensemble and the battery section on the field introduce the center section of music, a “battle” at the wall.  Themes in this section were inspired by a Mongolian folk tune written for erhu, a two-stringed spike fiddle.  As the Daiko retreat from battle, a victorious superimposition of the theme from “Flute and Drum at Sunset” and themes from the battle sequence sound.

The movement ends with a return of both the original hulusi theme performed on trombone by Andy Henthorn and phrases from the “Flute and Drum at Sunset’ theme performed on piccolo by Samantha Forrey.

II. Notre Dame Cathedral

The middle movement depicts the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris.  The opening theme, presented by a woodwind choir and later picked-up by a brass choir, is derived from an 8th Century Gregorian Chant “Ave Maria.”  The woodwind harmonies are based on parallel movement, a common device used in early harmonizing of chant, with a contemporary chordal structure.  The brass section incorporates Renaissance stylistic elements.  The “Amen” at the conclusion of the chant is interrupted by the percussion, who once again, incorporate an elements of conflict in a faster section.

The conflict in this faster section parallels that of the Protestant Reformation.  The high brass and woodwinds perform strains of a “Gloria,” and “Sanctus,” parts of the Roman Catholic Liturgy, while the low brass perform “Old Hundredth,” a hymn from the Geneva Psalter, attributed to Reformationist French composer, Loys Burgeois (c.1510-c.1560).  

The tempo slows as a reflective “Alleluia” chant is sung by the members of the ensemble.  In the backfield, trumpet players Kyle Niksa and Michael Ashbrook perform echoed strains of a Post-Reformation French Catholic hymn, “O Vierge, Marie” in different keys.  The effect, meant to be simultaneously soothing and troubling, leads to a transition that is based on a the verse of a 20th Century Catholic Hymn, one of my childhood favorites, "To Jesus Christ, Our Sovereign King.”  This transition develops into an organ prelude inspired performance of the vicorious chorus of this hymn and brief coda.

III. Golden Gate Bridge

The closing movement of the show incorporates compositional elements of minimalism, common in the music of San Francisco based composer John Adams.  Overlapping simple rhythmic patterns create complex cross-rhythms echoed in the visual lines of the bridge.  The grandeur of the bridge is heard in polytonal block chords, similar as in the composition “George Washington Bridge,” by William Schuman.  (Seniors may remember we performed Schuman’s “Chester” four years ago in concert band).   The movement of traffic on the bridge is reflected in the relentless momentum of the front ensemble.  Toward the end, a slower section represents a moment of peaceful reflection, for me, calling to mind the 11 men who died in the bridge’s construction.



Music arranged by Shane Kelbley; Percussion arranged by William Etling and Brian Bennett; Drill Design by Douglas Logston; Directed by Angelo Kortyka; Guard Choreography by Scott Zolkowski. 

Musical selection include:     

     THE CROW by DJ Food

     NESSUN DORMA by Giacomo Puccini

     CANTUS: SONG OF THE SPIRIT by Karl Jenkins


Art by Hassan Sayed



Music by Shane Kelbley; Percussion arranged by William Etling and Brian Bennett; Drill Design by Douglas Logston; Directed by Aaron Draime. Separated into four movements, "Spirit of the Eagle" explores the many meanings, both physical and conceptual, behind our school's pride by using the mascot as a metaphor.

Movement 1:  ASCENT represents the beginning of the amazing journey as a student at St. Edward High School.

Movement 2:  BIRD OF PREY is a tribute to the intensity and the rigor of our award-winning academic, athletic, and arts programs.

Movement 3:  SOARING, GLIDING… reminds us to see the beauty in all things.  Specifically, this is a reference to our fine and performing arts.

Movement 4:  ICON OF FREEDOM touches on the  metaphysical -- patriotism, pride and faith.



With a number of his students expressing interest in music therapy as a profession, Mr. Burns began doing some inquiry of his own into how music effects us, physically, mentally and emotionally.  After watching the documentary above, Mr. Burns was inspired to write a “musical essay” to describe the “journey” of our collective human amygdala.  The amygdala is an almond-shaped region of the brain.  It plays a significant part in the processing of emotions, especially fear and pleasure.  In his vision, the journey traverses both time and space.  It represents a mental and physiological trip through the experience of human culture.  The resulting music contains elements of “world” music, as well as a variety of compositional techniques.  

I. Stimulus: Fear/Response: Flight

The first movement of “Journey of the Amygdala” begins with “Curious Wonderment,”  representing the brain’s pleasure with discovery.  A flute solo draws attention toward a “mysterious enticement” during which a “demented sort of irregular tango” lures us into danger.  The percussion section is featured as fear builds - until it finally becomes too much - fleeing - chased - finally escaping to arrive at a place of sanctuary and comfort.

II. Response: Flight

After a brief “contemplation,” which contrasts a Native American flute solo performed by Abbey Vogel with our battery percussionists performing on African djembe and djun djun drums, the Amygdala begins to summon the courage to face its fear.  Confidence builds as the African drums and brass call it to action.  With a calm, measured resolve, the Amygdala encourages action leading to a confrontation.  The movements ends with a theme of victorious achievement.  



A substantial amount of time went into searching for a theme for this year’s marching band show.  There were many suggestions from students, but none seemed quite right.  Some were too “dark,” others too similar to previous year’s shows, and yet others too cliche or overdone.   It was on my mind for a few weeks.  Then one morning... I opened my copy of the “Book of Psalms” from the St. John’s Bible. 

I purchased the book after spending a week attending a vocal workshop at St. John’s University and Abbey in Minnesota.  On display at the University was a modern hand-lettered manuscript illumination of the Bible.   Copied entirely by hand in calligraphy with hand-drawn illustrations - it was as if I had gone back in time to BG (before Gutenberg) - a time when scribe’s lives were dedicated to copying the Word of God in elaborately lettered and decorated books .   Because of the close relationship between music and the Psalms, I decided to purchase a half-sized replica of that portion of the Bible as a “souvenir.”

As I picked-up that book that morning I was startled by the similarity between the design and color of the frontispiece and our flag uniforms.  It was at that moment that I made a connection - why not write a marching band show reflecting the variety of genres reflected in the psalms?  Certainly Psalm 150 is such an invitation!  And thus an idea was born...

Psalm I - Praise

The first movement of our show is a Psalm of Praise. It is based on a musical motive derived from the Old German Hymn “Lobe Den Herren” (Praise to the Lord).  This Christian Hymn, which paraphrases Psalms 103, 148 and 150, dates back to 1665.   It was used by J. S. Bach (as a basis for his Canatas BWV 57 and 137) as well as countless other composers over the ages.  


At the beginning of our show, each section of the band proclaims a repeated melodic fragment in counterpoint.  Eventually these sections come together for the first “hit.”  While all these melodic fragments are derived from a contemporary treatment of the hymn, it is best “hinted at” in the first low brass entrance.  

Recorded voices proclaim the text of several Praise Psalms, including Psalm 148 and 150, providing an ethereal background to a trumpet solo by Eric Faler.  Finally, after more than 2 minutes of “teasing” the audience with variations and hints of the hymn, it is proclaimed in cascading harmony while the band “pushes” toward the audience. 

Psalm II - Lament/Repentance

The second movement reflects the Lament Psalms.  More than 60 of the 150 Psalms express grief or sorrow coming from our human experience.  More than complaints, they are expressions of hope, imploring a powerful God to intervene.  The act of expressing grief leads to a proclamation of sorrow and repentance for human actions which contribute to our conditions.  


As “Psalms II” opens a “disaster” theme is sounded.  The flutes and pit provide a “searching for answers” background as recorded voices proclaim words from Psalms 13 and 38.  The clarinets (and the entire sax section who switch to clarinet) state a sorrowful lament accompanied by haunting harmonies in the front ensemble.  The brass answer with a chorale as a solo clarinet (Andrew Muller) provides a repentant counterpoint in “klezmer” style which eventually opens-up into a soulful cadenza.  


“Psalms II” ends with an energetic ethnic “dance” theme.  Based on scales common in Yiddish music, the theme simultaneously celebrate the intervention of God and the purification of the soul.

Without pause the music transitions to Psalms III.

Psalm III - Salvation/Thanksgiving

The final movement opens with a fanfare proclaiming salvation.  This four note motive appears several times throughout the movement.  During a subsequent “esoteric” section recorded words from Psalm 27 and 62 are heard.  A shofar (Erin Folk) sounds a call echoed by trumpet (Eric Faler).   An heroic theme which draws its inspiration from the call of the shofar heralds God’s greatness followed by a song of thanksgiving which closes the show.



“Mask”  was conceived by director Robert W. Burns.  The music and drill was written by Robert W. Burns, with percussion by William Etling and Brian Bennett.  Guard work by José Ayala.

Our masks represent those traits we wish to find within ourselves.  Rather than hiding behind a mask, we wear a mask to become that which we wish to become. 

Part One - "Ritual Transformation"

An ancient ritual begins.  It has been repeated countless times by countless tribes the world over.  A call to gather and the community assembles. The elders don masks - they embody the presence of gods, nature, and the spirits of their ancestors.  Through dance they become one with those forces and the world beyond.  Life’s most treasured moments are celebrated - birth, coming of age, marriage, and death - in ritual song and dance.    

Part Two - “Thespis and Harlequin”

According to tradition, Thespis of Icaria (6th Century BC) is the earliest person to appear on stage as an actor - someone other than himself -  changing masks to portray different characters in ancient Greek tragedies.  The ghost of Thespis is often blamed when things go wrong in theatrical productions.

Harlequin (the English name for Arlecchino)  is a popular comedic character in the traditional Italian Commedia Dell’Arte.   Harlequin is a forerunner to the whiteface clown known today.

Part Three - "Carnaval"

Carnaval is a popular South American celebration that occurs during the four days preceding lent.  It includes begins on a Saturday, and continues through Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras).  It is a New World blending of European customs with African and Native American elements.  The celebration is filled with grand pageant - masquerade, music and dance.



“One Planet”  was conceived by director Robert W. Burns, with all music and drill written by him especially for the 2008 marching eagles.  Percussion was written by Chris Hall and guard work by José Ayala.  

Part One - "Ancient Earth"

The sounds of nature are heard: water flows, birds chirp and insects hum.  The voice of the creator is represented by a Native American flute (performed by Kevin Vogel).  A didjeridoo (Native Australian instrument, linked to their creation stories) sounds as man awakens and discovers the glorious earth.  Tribes form as a trumpet solo (performed by Brandon Boychuk) is answered by mellophone (performed by Louis Rispoli).  The tribes come together as drums announce mankind as the caretaker of this beautiful planet.  They spread to the corners of the earth, adapting to the bounty of different landscapes.  Great plains, resplendent with beautiful creatures are visited.  Night falls, announced by a trombone solo (performed by Mark Homyak), as a desert celebration unfolds.  Ethnic percussion instruments represent the “organic” nature of man’s earliest relation to his planet.


Part Two - "Civilization"

Trumpets announce the formation of great cities.  Armies of great empires spread to the corners of the planet.  Knowledge increases, industry develops, and metropolises rise.  Our own Catholic tradition is represented by strains of the “Dies Irae” which forewarns of a last judgment and eerily foreshadows the future.  The sound of nature are replaced with manufactured sounds.  No longer caretaker of a great planet, mankind flourishes, using the planet’s resources to transform all within his domain to serve his needs.  Balance shifts and disaster strikes.

Part Three - "As One"
Native American flute (representing the voice of the Creator) and a contemplative trumpet solo reawaken the planet and its inhabitants from near destruction.  Answering the call, rebuilding begins.  There is a heightened awareness of the interrelationship between the planet and its inhabitants.  As the planet flourishes, so does its inhabitants.  As one, they celebrate their rise to mutually dependent  greatness.

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