Band History: Week 10, Final Concert

For our final concert, we debuted a commissioned musical piece that reintroduced a theme and variations composed by our founding director George Colburn, arranged for our band by local composer and band member Eric Heukeshoven.

Mr. Colburn’s Miracle Concert Introduction

Good evening. My name is Eric Heukeshoven and I have a confession to make: The euphonium section (where I sit) has the only shade during our evening rehearsals … and I’m not moving!

It has been my honor and privilege to be commissioned to create a new work for the Centennial celebration of this wonderful group. Those of you who know me, know I like to tell stories. And I think the story of how this new music came into existence is one worth sharing. (I’ll try to keep it brief!)

After last year’s final concert, our director, Myron Haug, cornered me at the band potluck and said, “Next year is the 100th anniversary of the band and I want you to write a piece.” Naturally, I was thrilled with the prospect. In February of this year, the Centennial committee officially asked me to compose a new work. An offer I eagerly accepted. The contract called for a single movement piece – about 6 to 8 minutes long.

I planned to start working on the music the week after graduation at Saint Mary’s University. That same week, I received news that a box containing music composed by the band’s first director, George Colburn, would be arriving in time for the Antony and Cleopatra performance that many of us attended. The afternoon before that performance, a group of us unpacked a treasure box of Mr. Colburn’s music. My eyes widened as we looked through over 40 works by Colburn.

At the very bottom of the box was an undated manuscript – a theme and variations for piano. Dr. Jim Doering, who performed Colburn’s Antony and Cleopatra, sat down and played from this manuscript. My gears started to turn! I knew then that I wanted to incorporate something of Mr. Colburn’s music into my piece as way to literally connect past and present.

It took a few days, but as often happens, my inspiration came in the shower. Why not use Colburn’s theme and variations to highlight each section of the band with a narrator to tell you a little bit about each group of musicians!?  “An Audience Guide to the Municipal Band.” After all, the concept worked pretty well for Benjamin Britten!

After reviewing Colburn’s manuscript and deciding which of the variations would work for each section, I wrote the narration that Dr. Barr will read in a few of minutes. It was then that I realized I had a major problem. In our contract, the committee and I had agreed on a 6 to 8 minute piece. I estimated that with narration, Mr. Colburn’s Miracle would take about 14 minutes to perform. So I emailed our new conductor, Levi Lundak, and explained the concept. His reply was simple – “I love it!” The score was finished in mid-June and the players have had the unusual advantage of seeing their parts a few weeks in advance.

In addition to this being the 100th year for the Winona Municipal Band, it is the 30th anniversary of my wife Janet and I playing here in the band shell. Our son Hans, is also back there in the percussion section.

After tonight’s premiere, I plan to write a slightly more generic narration. Once that’s complete, we will be marketing Mr. Colburn’s Miracle to community bands across the country. I’ve already heard from several directors who want to program the piece. And all proceeds from future sales will go directly back to the band.

So many people to thank … The Centennial Committee for this amazing year, the City of Winona for 100 years of support, Levi, all the musicians, Mr. Colburn’s granddaughter Stephanie and her husband Bill for making not one, but two trips to Winona this summer, to my family for the love and support, and most importantly to all of you. Without an audience we’re just rehearsing.

It is a rare and amazing opportunity for any composer to be able to write music for people he knows. I hope you enjoy hearing Mr. Colburn’s Miracle as much as I did writing it.

Thank you.

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Background photo courtesy of Joy Davis Ripley

Special thanks to the City of Winona, Minnesota

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Copyright © Winona Municipal Band Centennial Committee 2016