Karel Husa’s Smetana Fanfare


The Northshore Concert Band opens its 2017-2018 season with some star works of the  wind band world including Karel Husa’s dedicatory Smetana Fanfare, in memoriam of the great composer’s recent passing.

Karel Husa was born in Prague on August 7, 1921 and immigrated to the United States in 1954. He became an American citizen in 1959 and taught composition and conducting at Cornell University for 38 years until his retirement in 1992. Mr. Husa won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1969 and the Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition in 1993.  He died at the age of 95 on December 14, 2016 at his home in Apex, North Carolina.

Dr. Mallory Thompson, now in her 12th year as full-time Artistic Director of the Northshore Concert Band, is director of bands, professor of music, coordinator of the conducting program, and holds the John W. Beattie Chair of Music at Northwestern University. Dr. Thompson had this to say about Karel Husa:

“My friendship with Karel Husa began in 1984 and is one that I’ve valued ever since. His Concerto for Wind Ensemble was the subject of my doctoral dissertation and I had the pleasure of interviewing him in person, having him attend a rehearsal with me conducting the Eastman Wind Ensemble, and his attendance at our performance. Karel was a gentle, generous, inexhaustibly positive human being. Through the end of his life, he would send handwritten letters of thanks to anyone who performed his music, which is unbelievable considering his fame and accomplishments. The Northshore Concert Band honored Karel with the Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his singular contributions to the profession.”

Karel Husa was a longtime friend to the Northshore Concert Band.  The following appeared in the program notes of NCB’s November 9, 2008 concert at Pick-Staiger concert hall in Evanston, Illinois.

“In 1970..Mr. Husa was a visiting professor at Northwestern University for the summer session.  The Husa family arrived in Evanston to find that they were unable to get their assigned housing for several days. John and Marietta Paynter invited the Husas to be their guests. This was the start of a lasting friendship.  In fact, Karel Husa often referred to John Paynter as his “Cornish brother”.

In 1996, the Midwest Clinic commissioned Karel Husa to write a composition in honor of its 50th Anniversary Celebration. The Northshore Concert Band was selected to present the premier performance of the work Midwest Celebration, with Mr. Husa as guest conductor.

Mallory Thompson is also a lifelong friend of Husa.  In 2005 the Northshore Concert Band performed at the Midwest Clinic.  After the concert, at Dr. Thompson’s invitation, Mr. Husa attended the Northshore Concert Band’s post-concert party where he met Debbie Durham, principal NCB clarinet…and she asked if he would correspond with her high school theory students.”

Answering the students’ questions, Mr. Husa explained

“Composing is like learning new language. In addition, music writing goes through an interpreter (pianist, quartet, band, orchestra, chorus). This process is not needed in painting, poetry or novel. The painter shows his work, you read a poem or a novel from the writer’s pen.  As a boy I liked painting, poetry and also was learning how to play violin and piano.  I also played tennis, soccer, hockey and other sports! My parents however thought I would be an engineer, building bridges, etc. I enrolled in Prague University {in} 1939 but two months later they were closed due to protests over the killing of one of the students by Nazis. (Czechoslovakia was occupied at the time.) I was {then} lucky to get into the conservatory studio there until 1946.  Certainly my music is influenced by today’s life. We are part of it, and as Jean-Paul Sartre said, ‘We cannot escape.’ I think my music is part of what I have lived through.”

Bedřich_Smetana_monument in formt of the Bedrich Smetana Museum in Prague

Statue of Bedřich Smetana outside of the Bedřich Smetana Museum in Prague

Karel Husa’s Smetana Fanfare for Wind Ensemble was commissioned by the San Diego State University for a 1984 Festival of Music honoring Czech composer Bedřich Smetana. It was premiered by the SDSU Wind Ensemble on April 3, 1984 in San Diego,  The work uses two excerpts from Smetana’s symphonic poem the Wallenstein’s Camp, completed during his exile from Prague in 1859 in Gotenberg, Sweden.



featuring Smetana Fanfare by Karel Husa

November 5, 2017 at 3:00 pm

Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, Evanston, IL.



Tickets available online at http://www.northshoreband.org or call 847-432-2263