RIC Wind Ensemble, guests to present “Felix and Friends,” April 27

Otis Murphy (Photo: Indiana University)
The RIC Wind Ensemble will present the world premiere of “Felix and Friends,” composed by James Bohn, adjunct professor of music at Rhode Island College, on Friday, April 27, at 8 p.m. in the Nazarian Center’s Sapinsley Hall.

Award-winning saxophonist Otis Murphy will serve as guest soloist with the RIC Wind Ensemble, and the Duxbury High School Wind Ensemble (Mass.) will also perform. Robert Franzblau, RIC professor and director of bands, will conduct.

Bohn was recently commissioned by the Wind Ensemble to write new music for “Felix Dines and Pines,” a seven-minute silent cartoon from 1926 that can be seen here. The cartoon will be projected above the Ensemble as they perform the music to go along with Bohn’s new score.

“Orchestras around the world are finding new audiences by performing silent film scores along with the film at their concerts, and some, like us, are commissioning brand new works for old films,” said Franzblau.

“I grew up listening to music on the radio, on records and in concerts, but some of the music that grabbed me the strongest was what I heard on Saturday morning cartoons – particularly those classic Looney Tunes shorts by Warner Brothers,” Franzblau said. “It amazed me the way these masterful composers like Carl Stalling and Milt Franklyn created such varied moods within a steady tempo; this was a revelation of rhythm I carry with me to this day.

“It was because of this love of cartoon scores that I got so excited about Jim Bohn’s idea for Felix the Cat for wind ensemble,” he added. “To say his music is rhythmically challenging is an understatement. It’s every bit as hard as those Carl Stalling scores, and will be just as fun for the audience.”

Bohn has taken advantage of the precise timing that is available in cartoons by creating a click track for Franzblau to wear in an earpiece during the show.

RIC Wind Ensemble
A click track – a series of audio cues used to synchronize sound recordings to a moving image – originated in early sound movies when physical marks were made on film to indicate exact timing for musical accompaniment. Though the audience won’t be able to hear the click track, Franzblau will use it to conduct the Wind Ensemble so they can play in sync with the silent film.

“It will be a challenge for us to stay perfectly in time, but that's what studio orchestras in Hollywood have to do when recording music for movies or cartoons,” said Franzblau.

Last year, Bohn wrote a similar new score to Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent film “Metropolis” for the RIC Chorus. Funding for Bohn’s assignment was provided by the RIC Performing and Fine Arts Commission.

The Ensemble will also perform Yo Goto’s arrangement of the famous Italian tune, “Funiculi, Funicula.”

Murphy, associate professor of music at Indiana University, will perform Claude Smith’s “Fantasia for Alto Saxophone and Band.” He has won several awards for his music, including first prize in the Heida Hermanns International Woodwind Competition, and has released four solo albums.

Prior to the evening concert, Murphy will serve as clinician at RIC’s Saxophone Day, a free event for high school and college saxophone players that will begin at 3 p.m. Clinic participants will perform in the concert as part of a saxophone choir.

Duxbury Wind Ensemble (Mass.) (Photo: Duxbury High School)
The Duxbury High School Wind Ensemble, led by conductors Ric Madru and Jill Norenberg, will open the concert.

The Duxbury Wind Ensemble is an advanced music performance course open to band students by audition. Students in the ensemble are required to maintain a high level of skill and take weekly private lessons.

“They [are] one of the best high school instrumental music programs in New England, and quite possibly in the United States” said Franzblau. “We’re thrilled to have them here.”

Tickets for the concert are $10, with discounts for seniors and non-RIC students; free for RIC faculty, alumni, students and staff. For your convenience, tickets can be purchased as follows: in advance via Visa, MasterCard or Discover by calling (401) 456-8144 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays; or in person at the Nazarian Center Box Office in Roberts Hall. The Box Office is also open for sales two hours prior to performance start time in the appropriate show venue.

For more information, contact Robert Franzblau at (401) 456-9514 or rfranzblau@ric.edu