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"Daron Hagen’s Bandanna was commissioned by the College Band

Director’s National Association (CBDNA) as part of their effort to raise

the profile of band music in American musical life. The boldness of the

commission (Bandanna is an opera whose accompanying ensemble is a

 wind and percussion orchestra) is evidence of the Association’s

  seriousness. It is a shrewd move, as well if a sizable fraction of the

   institutions participating in the commissioning consortium (they are

    listed in the sumptuous booklet accompanying this release) mount the

      work, it will gain a wide hearing and help raise band music’s profile.


         Bandanna is a kind of 'headline opera' in that its events are surrounded by a theme of contemporary             interest immigration. The story (by Paul Muldoon, who also wrote the libretto) has the elements                  that traditionally make for compelling opera””violence, secrets, treachery, and infidelity or claims               of infidelity, in the setting of a Texas border town in 1968. Muldoon’s libretto is poetic when                        dealing with feelings and direct when describing action. The stage directions are vivid for a                          reader, though they may be a bit constricting for a director.


                 Daron Hagen is an experienced and accomplished composer, for winds as well as other media.                     His melodies are singable and memorable without being cloying. His text setting is                                      outstanding, and as Sequenza 21 readers know well, English is a difficult language to set. The                     rhythms, in both vocal and instrumental parts, are supple when appropriate, and driving or                          incisive when that is called for. Harmonically, the music is tonal, sometimes venturing into                          pop/Broadway territory with more astringent harmonies at dramatic moments.


                         I want to single out the orchestration. I think one of the reasons wind music has had some                             difficulty holding a place in the mainstream of concert music life is that so much of it                                  sounds alike. Massed flutes and/or clarinets carry the melody, with occasional help from                               the trumpets, horns for majesty, trombones for gravity, the lower instruments grinding                                   away in accompaniment, and banging percussion. This, combined with sheer volume,                                  makes many band concerts exercises in aural fatigue. Hagen’s music in Bandanna                                         offers a way out of the fatigue syndrome, with its use of thinner textures and a more                                      flexible use of instruments.[1] Hagen’s judicious and creative use of percussion is a                                     highlight of the music, and all of the instrumental writing is idiomatic and makes the                                    band sound work.


                                     The performance is excellent, and we are assured by the composer that it is what                                            he meant. The student singers from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Lesley                                           DeGroot, James Demler, Paul Kreider, Mark Thomsen, and Darynn Zimmer are                                            well-trained and more than up to the task. The UNLV Opera Theater Chorus and                                           Wind Orchestra acquit themselves with style and poise, as well.


                                            Bandanna is accessible to small opera companies as well as college opera                                                      companies, both of which often struggle to find new works to stage. It should                                               have a long life."  - Sequenza 21, posted by Steve Hicken in CD Review

June 2015

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