In Bands, Events

BYU School of Music directors Don Peterson and Kirt Saville say their goodbyes with strong lineup of classic repertoire

They attended high school together, then moved on to study music at BYU. Each one served as best man at the other’s wedding. Now, revered BYU band directors Don Peterson and Kirt Saville are both retiring this spring — the final chapter in a decades-long story of friendship and musical mettle.

Their retirement will be marked by one final concert for each director, infused throughout with notes of nostalgia.

Although each ensemble will perform its own program, both will play a new work titled “Brothers, We Must Part,” an arrangement of a folk song by the same name. The piece was written by Chris Nelson, a former student of both directors who played with the Symphonic Band and Wind Symphony during his years at BYU. 

The piece ends with a two-bar clarinet solo (for Saville), then a two-bar trumpet solo (for Peterson).

“I’m really honored that he would write this for us,” Saville said. “It’s a beautiful tribute.”

Peterson agrees. He shared an email he received from Nelson introducing the piece: 

“Attached is a full score and sound file for ‘Brothers, We Must Part’ for wind band. Parts will arrive in the next hour. I hope you spot the subtle nod to the lonely clarinet solo and trumpet solo at the close of the work. I know you two are not lonely, and that you still have many good days together ahead, but you’ve both done so much for all those who have called BYU home —  it will, for a time, seem a little lonely to us,” Nelson wrote.

The Symphonic Band concert, directed by Saville, bears the title “Notes Between Friends.” 

“Because it is my last concert here at BYU, I chose pieces that I love. I wanted to have a last chance at performing them with the group. Every piece has a personal connection,” said Saville. “I’m very excited to conduct these pieces again. They have a certain lustre and impact both on my heart and on the audience.”

The program opens with “Whirr, Whirr, Whirr!!!” by Ralph Hultgren. “It’s an exciting number full of swirling woodwinds and brass,” Saville said. “Four Scottish Dances” by Malcolm Arnold will be followed by George Gershwin’s “Second Prelude.”

“The prelude is a beautiful, slow piece,” Saville said. “I love it because it brings that element of jazz that’s so easily accessible for audiences and performers alike.”

Percy Grainger’s “Gumsucker’s March” is another of Saville’s favorites. “I can’t imagine doing a concert without Percy Grainger,” he said.

The band will also perform a medley from “Mass” by Leonard Berstein, accompanied by the BYU faculty quintet Brassworks, featuring Jason Bergman and Seretta Hart on trumpet, Lawrence Lowe on French horn, Dan Bryce on tuba and Will Kimball on trombone.

The concert concludes on a quiet note with “Honor March” by Henry Fillmore.

Peterson has also chosen some of his favorite pieces for the Wind Symphony concert “One More Time.”

The program includes “Rocky Point Holiday” by Ron Nelson, “Armenian Dances” by Alfred Reed and two works by English composer Percy Grainger: “Irish Tune from County Derry” and “Lincolnshire Posy,” the longtime staple of the wind ensemble world. 

“Grainger was so in love with the instrumentation of the wind band,” Peterson said. “He worked with his friends and fellow composers Edvard Grieg and Béla Bartók to preserve the folk music tradition.”

The Wind Symphony will also perform “Concerto for Clarinet” by Artie Shaw, with Caleb Hodson as clarinet soloist.

Peterson credits the students and the music for making his years at BYU so special. 

“It is hard to believe that Kirt and I sat on the same stage 50 years ago this semester for our first concert as members of the BYU Wind Symphony,” Peterson said. “It truly is like a ‘circle of life’ as we leave the stage 50 years later. We have both loved our work with literally thousands of students in our combined 45 years of teaching.”

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