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Wind Ensemble honors Pittsburg composer during “Sneak Peak” concert

The Pittsburg State Wind Ensemble honored recently deceased composer Barbara York during their concert entitled “Sneak Peak.” 

The PSU Wind Ensemble broadcast their second concert of the fall semester, Thursday, Nov. 19 at 7:30 p.m. The concert was recorded in the Linda and Lee Scott Performance Hall at the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts. Performers were subject to current regulations related to musical performances during the COVID-19 pandemic. These regulations included slotted face masks, social distance, and instrument covers so that students can both play their instruments safely and mitigate the further spread of aerosol particles and COVID-19. The concert featured works by German composer Paul Hindemith, American composers James Barnes and John Mackey, Australian composer Percy Grainger, and recently deceased Pittsburg resident Barbara York, known for her work in musical theatre and brass music as well as her work as an accompanist and music director for both Pittsburg State University and Pittsburg Community Theatre. 

“The contemporary music world and the Pittsburg community lost a brilliant voice this month,” said Andrew Chybowski, director of the wind ensemble and professor of music. “… This piece is dedicated to Barbara and the family and friends whose lives she impacted.” 

York’s last piece “River of Stars” was performed posthumously at the concert. York had a long and distinguished career as both a pianist and composer, accompanying a multitude of senior recitals and ensemble performances. She regularly conducted chamber orchestras for the PSU Opera Studio’s productions and assisted with Pittsburg Community Theatre on several productions throughout the years.  

“This piece is about vastness, movement through space, rotation, awe, and even at times the calm in the middle of the storm,” York wrote of the piece. “I used photos of the Milky Way and even Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’ as my inspiration. We are past thinking that space and stars are sweet, twinkly, calm, and always beneficent. This is a more contemporary view of our understanding of what we see when we look up at night.” 

Chybowski pointed out the importance of the performance in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We’ve had a lot of… fun is maybe not the right word putting this concert together,” Chybowski said. “It’s been more important to us than just fun. It’s been really difficult. There’s been a lot of difficulties. There’s been a lot of challenges to be overcome just to get to this point and to be on stage to present this to you. I’ve just got to express my pride and my admiration for these young musicians… Visually, you can see some of the things we’re doing to keep each other safe… All of this in order to make music.” 

Chybowski also thanked the staff at the Bicknell Center for their assistance in putting together the broadcast version of the concert. The Bicknell Center staff have also produced the other concerts out of the music department this semester. 

“I’d like to thank the people you do not see here tonight,” Chybowski said. “I want to thank the workers and the staff of the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts. Throughout the semester, we would not have had a semester without the work that they have done behind the scenes to make all this happen… I want to express my gratitude to them and to everyone involved…” 

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