The Williams Symphonic Winds and the Opus Zero Band - the highly flexible chamber ensemble extension of the Symphonic Winds - are committed to presenting innovative and provocative performances featuring the most significant music written today. Now in his eleventh year as Music Director, Steven Dennis Bodner has developed the ensembles’ identity as the leading proponents of the performance of new music on the Williams campus and throughout the Berkshires. These ensembles have commissioned and/or premiered works by numerous composers including Eve Beglarian, Steven Bryant, Lukas Foss, Kyle Gann, Judd Greenstein ‘01, Jonathan Newman, Michael Torke, Klas Torstensson, Jay Wadley, Michael Weinstein, Dana Wilson, Williams department chair David Kechley, and numerous Williams students and alumni, including Doug Boyce ‘92, Brian Coughlin ‘95, Andrea Mazzariello ‘00, Andres Carrizo ‘04, Benjamin Wood ‘08, Brian Simalchik ‘10, Alex Creighton ‘10, and Jacob Walls ‘11.
Most notably, the ensembles have been committed to presenting numerous performances (and American premieres) of the music of the Dutch composer Louis Andriessen. In February 2008, the ensembles presented the collegiate premiere (and only second North American performance) of his masterpiece, the opera De Materie. Critic Barton McLean described this performance as “heroic” and “astounding,” while Andriessen himself remarked, “I am very impressed by the level of performance and [the] first class playing and singing. The playing is amazingly good…. I was really moved by what I would like to call the great enthusiasm, power and energy of the musicians.” The ensemble has also presented biennial performances of Andriessen’s Workers Union, several performances of his works for Volharding (Hymne to Milhaud; Passeggiata; and M is for Man, Music, Mozart), and most recently several stunning performances of De Staat.
Recognized as among the premier wind ensembles in New England, the Symphonic Winds performed at the 2006 College Band Directors National Association Eastern Division Conference in New Jersey, while the Opus Zero Band performed at the 2010 CBDNA conference at West Chester University in March 2010. The ensemble has received the praise of numerous composers including most recently: Kyle Gann (“I was delighted with the quality of the performance… it sounds so much more like the piece did in my mind”) Roberto Sierra (who described a performance of his Cuentos as “beautiful” and “wonderful”), David Maslanka (who praised the ensemble’s “energized and enthusiastic performance” of Golden Light) and Nancy Galbraith (who wrote, “Your ensemble is quite wonderful, and your performance of Danza de los Duendes was excellent!”). Recent highlights include collaborating with composer Steven Bryant on the creation of his Ecstatic Moments (2009); presenting the American premiers of Klas Torsentsson’s Self-portrait with percussion, Michel van der Aa’s Preposition Trilogy, and Kyle Gann’s Sunken City; collaborating with Williams student composers and choreographers on the show “Overexposed,” which featured a semi-staged performance of Stravinsky’s L’histoire du soldat; and performing throughout Argentina in January 2009. The Opus Zero Band has also collaborated three times with the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, creating an evening-length, electro-acoustic, multi-media performance (“Passages”) in the galleries this past winter, as well as presenting the premieres of feedforward (2007) by choreographer David Neumann and composer Eve Beglarian and also Philip Miller’s opera Hottentot Venus (2009).
In recent years, the Symphonic Winds and Opus Zero Band have been noted for their adventurous and creative programming, reflected in numerous thematic concerts that seek to present traditional and contemporary works in provocative juxtapositions. The recent performance repertoire of the Symphonic Winds ranges from the Baroque to the present and includes original music of Henry Purcell, W. A. Mozart, Felix Mendelssohn, Reynaldo Hahn, Darius Milhaud, Silvestre Revueltas, Kurt Weill, Astor Piazzolla, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Toru Takemitsu, Olivier Messiaen, Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, and Warren Benson; as well as music of today’s leading composers, such as Louis Andriessen, John Adams, John Corigliano, Michael Colgrass, Richard Danielpour, Michael Gandolfi, Kyle Gann, Osvaldo Golijov, Michael Gordon, Karel Husa, Giya Kancheli, David Lang, Ingram Marshall, David Maslanka, Einojuhani Rautavaara, Steve Reich, Terry Riley, and Joseph Schwantner. The Symphonic Winds has also served as the pit band for several recent music theater productions, including concert performances of West Side Story (2006) and Threepenny Opera (2007) and staged performances of Sweeney Todd in 2008.
The ensemble is open to all college woodwind, brass, string, piano, and percussion players and rehearsals begin in September in preparation for several public concerts held in Chapin Hall.