Band director makes debut with traditional Americana program
- Published: October 3, 2013
The Lakeland College band offered a traditional Americana program last Wednesday, Oct. 2 at the annual Fall Band Concert.
Under the new direction of director Christopher Werner, the program included John Philip Sousa's "Hands Across the Sea" march, William Schuman's "Chester" Overture, "October" by Eric Whitacre, Rover Jager's "Esprit de Corps" and the Lakeland College alma mater and fight song.
Werner said he wanted to bring together themes from his background and that each piece represented something significant.
Sousa, one of the early directors of the U.S. Marine Band, is known throughout America as "The March King," and his march, "Hands Across the Sea," is a not-often-heard gem in the band repertoire.
"This piece was in scripted with the subtitle: ‘A sudden thought strikes me; let us swear eternal friendship,' and from this I take a smile and acknowledgement of the new friends I've made here and their helpfulness in my transition to Lakeland," Werner said.
William Schuman's "Chester" is a full overture based on the Revolutionary War hymn by William Billings of the same name. Originally conceived for orchestra as a three-movement suite, the final movement, "Chester", got a band makeover in Wednesday night's version, which was a stable of the band repertoire.
Werner also had direct ties to Whitacre's "October." It was written for a group of high schools and universities in Nebraska just before he arrived there to work on his doctorate. Headed by Brian Anderson, the band director at Freemont High School, the work has become an instant classic in the world of concert band.
"To me, this piece tied in the entire program…friendship, education, time, sentiment," Werner said. "The title works chronologically, the themes work musically, it fit for homecoming and our band played the heck out of it."
Prior to coming to Lakeland, Werner spent eight years as instrumental music teacher and music department chair at la Crosse Central High School He was conductor of the Central Wind Ensemble, pep band, Grand Central Station Show Band, instructor of music theory, and he team-taught the Red Raider Marching Band.
He is president for the National Band Association-Wisconsin Chapter. He has twice been awarded the "Citation of Excellence" by the National Band Association-Wisconsin Chapter.
Werner holds a Doctor of Musical Arts in Wind Conducting from the University of Nebraska. He has the distinction of being the first University of Nebraska DMA recipient of the Wind Conduction degree and also the first Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts F. Pace Woods Scholar in Music. He also holds a bachelor's degree in music education from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and a master of music degree in wind conduction from UW-Milwaukee.
Werner was active in commissioning new works for wind band. His Central bands participated in or organized consortiums with new music by several contemporary composers, and ensembles under his direction appeared at numerous state conventions in Wisconsin and Nebraska.
He is an accomplished clarinetist, serving as assistant principal clarinet for the La Crosse Concert Band, principal/assistant principal clarinet with UW-La Crosse Choral Union and substitute assistant principal clarinet with the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra.