Ellis releases CD in tribute to composer J. Clifton Williams
PLATTEVILLE, Wis. – Dr. Barry Ellis, UW-Platteville music professor and director of bands, has released his new musical collection, “The Music and Art of J. Clifton Williams: Classics and Newly Discovered Gems,” which includes previously unpublished works he discovered through a cooperative project with Michelle Williams-Hanzlik, one of four of J. Clifton Williams’ daughters. The recording, which is the capstone of Ellis’ sabbatical work, is available through Mark Records, Amazon and iTunes, and features the UW-Platteville Rountree Wind Symphony and Singing Pioneers.
Mark Morette of Mark Records recorded the CD in the Richard and Helen Brodbeck Concert Hall in UW-Platteville’s Center for the Arts. Five works are included in the collection: “Dramatic Essay,” “Pandean Fable,” the five movements of “Symphonic Dances,” “Strategic Air Command March” and “The Sinfonians.”
“Dramatic Essay” features trumpet soloist Dr. David Cooper, associate music professor and chair of the UW-Platteville Department of Performing and Visual Arts; and “Pandean Fable” features flute soloist Margaret Cornils Luke, who previously taught at UW-Platteville and now tours as a professional musician.
“It has exceeded all of my expectations,” said Ellis of the collection. “It’s something that I wanted to do for a long time. I’d heard many recordings by other colleagues and other directors that I had admired over the years, and I thought I wanted to do something like that. After hearing the final product it’s just, for me, amazing. I couldn’t be more happy with it.”
Williams, an American composer and musician who taught at the University of Texas at Austin for 17 years and chaired the Department of Theory and Composition at the University of Miami until his death in 1976, is credited with opening the door to contemporary symphonic band music.
Ellis said he first heard Williams’ work while attending a band concert that his father, Dan Ellis, Furman University’s band director for 37 years, was conducting.
“One of them was ‘The Sinfonians’ and the other was ‘Symphonic Dance No. 3,’” said Barry of what caught his ear. “That was the defining moment. Maybe middle school or high school or so, I finally got a chance to play some of his music. But that’s how I got started. I wouldn’t have ever known anything about his music if it wasn’t for my father.”
Ellis added that Williams-Hanzlik, who so graciously opened her home to him and generously shared her father’s works, many of them original manuscripts that had never been recorded or played, is the person who made the CD possible.
“I have to say a lot of this would have never happened without Michelle,” Ellis said. “She is really something. She’s a very special person and holds a very dear place in my heart.”
Williams-Hanzlik even made a special trip from Stafford, Va., to attend the recording at UW-Platteville, her first one.
“All of the musicians and vocalists were so talented and so welcoming,” she said. “It’s been a long time since I was in the presence of such talented people. All of them were such genuine humans, and I just fell in love. They did a magnificent job of capturing the essence of how people influenced Daddy and how he influenced them.”
Ellis, who dedicated the collection to his father and his brother, Keith, who both passed away during the course of its creation, said he’s considering a second CD of Williams’ work. “There’s really great music that has not been recorded very much, if at all, and people need to hear it and know that his music is available and can be performed, and that it needs to be,” he said.
The UW-Platteville Sabbatical Program, and grants from the UW-Platteville Scholarly Activity Improvement Fund, National Band Association and Clifton Williams Publishers Inc. helped support the research and recording of this CD.
Contact: Dr. Barry Ellis, professor and director of bands, UW-Platteville Department of Performing and Visual Arts, (608) 342-1017, firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by: Barbara Weinbrenner, communications specialist, UW-Platteville College of Liberal Arts and Education, (608) 342-6191, email@example.com