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Professor records rare compositions

UW-P's Barry Ellis will showcase the works of James Clifton Williams in a concert and on a CD.

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Posted: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 12:00 am

The recording of one man's all-but-forgotten music is the capstone of a Platteville music professor's years of work.

Barry Ellis, professor of music and director of bands at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, spent time on sabbatical a few years ago recording the music of the late James Clifton Williams.

The CD, "The Music and Art of J. Clifton Williams," recently was released at the Wisconsin State Music Conference in Madison. It is available at Kephart's Music Center in Dubuque, as well as www.amazon.com and www.classicsonline.com.

"Band aficionados worldwide owe a great deal of thanks to Dr. Barry Ellis and the Rountree Wind Symphony for their unparalleled tribute to James Clifton Williams," a reviewer, Ira Novoselsky, wrote for Bandworld.com. "James Clifton Williams was a giant among the legendary composers for bands and was the very first winner of the American Bandmaster's Association Sousa/Ostwald Award for composition in 1956."

Williams, who died in 1976, is considered one of the first composers of serious music for the concert wind band. He was a professor of composition at the University of Texas and chairman of the music theory and composition departments at the University of Miami.

Among his students was William Francis McBeth, a contemporary band composer and a friend of Ellis' father.

Through McBeth, Ellis met Michelle Williams-Hanzlik, Williams' daughter, and was invited to study his published and unpublished work. Ellis realized that two of Williams' five "Symphonic Dances" had not been transcribed for band. Williams wrote the piece for the San Antonio Symphony. It was originally performed in 1965.

McBeth agreed to transcribe one of the Dances and Michael Brown, an arranger for the U.S. Army Band, agreed to transcribe the other.

In June 2009, Ellis assembled a group of musicians from UW-P music faculty, including the Rountree Wind Symphony, students, alumni and area professional musicians. The musicians spent three days rehearsing and recording the music at Brodbeck Concert Hall in the UW-P Center for the Arts.

The group included Margaret Cornils, flute; Heather Huckleberry, oboe; John Marco, clarinet; Alan Cordingly, alto saxophone; David Cooper, trumpet; Matthew Gregg, horn; Mike Forbes, tuba; and Joe Caploe, percussion. Robert Demaree, UW-P director of choral activities, organized and sang with the chorus.

Mark Morette, of Mark Custom Recording, Clarence, N.Y., engineered the recording, which was produced by John Tuinstra, of UW-Whitewater, assisted by Dan Fairchild.

The CD, the first commercially produced recording of "Symphonic Dances," also includes "Dramatic Essay," for solo trumpet and band, "Pandean Fable," with bass flute solo, and "The Sinfonians" and "The Strategic Air Command" with male chorus. Ellis and Williams-Hanzlik wrote the program notes for the CD.

The project was made possible by the UW-P Sabbatical Program, the UWP Scholarly Activity Improvement Fund, the National Band Association and Clifton Williams Publishers Inc.

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