Reviews

From Broadcasters, the Newspapers and the Net

"Bob Wendel's electrifying tone poem "The Ride of the Headless Horseman" is back by popular demand."

STEVE LARSEN, Music Director
"Rockford Symphony Brochure," October, 2014

"My personal favorite was Robert Wendel's "Merry Christmas Overture" (from his 1990 "Classical Christmas Suite"), which wraps a wreath of traditional carols around the overture to Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro." Witty stuff it was, and nicely performed (by the St. Louis Symphony)."

CHUCK LAVAZZI
"KDHX-FM," December, 2013

"Best of all these head puzzles was Robert Wendel's "Classical Christmas Suite", which craftily blended some well-known pieces from the symphonic repertoire with various seasonal favourites, all the while showing such good understanding of the original music. Who knew that Mendelssohn had only finished with "Joy to the World" what Mozart had begun so well in his overture to "The Marriage of Figaro?" It was all very clever fun, which could be enjoyed at many levels."

MURRAY CHARTERS
"Brantford Expositor," December 10, 2012

"Although not one of the more serious pieces on the program, Robert Wendel's "Stephen Foster Overture", based on well-known tunes by the man known as the "father of American music," was one of the strengths of the program. It was both cohesive and emotive.

LYNN GREEN
"The Columbus Dispatch," June 30, 2012

"(Steven) Reineke brought us something really different in Robert Wendel's variation on a classic theme- "Little Bolero Boy." Combining Ravel with the Katherine K. Davis classic had me looking at something fresh in the familiar music, though I did feel a little naughty as the inevitable build happened. There's no other word but WOW!

SHERRI RASE
"Swingin' Christmas" with NY Pops, "Q onStage," December, 2011

This brilliantly clever composition, (you'd swear you were listening to Bolero, although it was clearly The Little Drummer Boy), was a thrilling toe tapper — possessing the same relentlessly hypnotic pulsations as the original piece.

STEWART SCHULMAN
Theaterscene.net January 1, 2012

"Two fusion works by the orchestra fully displayed its strengths. The first was "Overture to a Merry Christmas," combining the overture to "The Marriage of Figaro" with "Hark the Herald Angels Sing." The second, "Little Bolero Boy," substitutes the popular "Little Drummer Boy" for the repetitive theme in Ravel's "Bolero." Both arrangements, by Robert Wendel, were clever and well-composed."

CHRISTOPHER HYDE
The Portland Press Herald, December 10, 2011

Grand Rapids Symphony's Picnic Pops - Review
"Robert Wendel's 'The Tall Ships' proved a cinematic extravaganza, the soundtrack for tall ships sailed by old salts."

JEFFREY KACZMARCZYK
The GR Press July 29, 2011

Outstanding among all those smart arrangers was the work of Connecticut born Robert Wendel. Responsible for two other highlights ("In The Manger" and "We Need A Little Christmas"), his fiendishly clever marriages of well-known classical pieces with various carols in his "Classical Christmas Suite" early in the program was an absolute delight. Wendel nailed the essence of Mozart, Schubert and Ravel, while guiding their sounds into stimulating settings of five tunes from Joy to the World through Little Town of Bethlehem, We Three Kings, and Star of Wonder to a perfectly selected Little Drummer Boy to replace the repetitious melody of Bolero.

By MURRAY CHARTERS
The Brantford "Expositor"
December 7, 2010

Not that there weren't fun surprises among the Christmas fare, too: A percussive bounce permeated "Caribbean Sleigh Ride" by Robert Wendel as island-flavored snippets of carols such as "Jingle Bells" bubbled over the beat.

By MATT PALM
The Orlando "Sentinel"
November 27, 2010

Then -- Robert Wendel's medley, "From Sea to Shining Sea." It always is a challenge for me to remain in my seat after I detect the first phrase of "New York, New York" -- and I don't know how anyone else can keep from dancing in the aisles. But when the introductory notes of "Deep in the Heart of Texas" reached our row, I said goodbye to self-restraint. Imagine being deep in the heart of the Midwest and hearing one's home state's national anthem!
(From a concert at the Ravinia Music Festival, Chicago)

By MARILYN KRACHMER
Iowa "Press-Citizen"

...still more Americana with a Wendel arrangement of "From Sea to Shining Sea," that took the audience on a virtual tour of the nation from "San Francisco" to "New York, New York." The latter song sent a shiver through this native New Yorker as I thought of the city's triumph through this past year of greatest challenge.

By DAVID DOW BENTLEY III
"The People's Critic" (Conroe COURIER 7.7.02 Woodlands VILLAGER 07.11.02)

Robert Wendel's "Chanukah Overture" was a nice combination of recognizable and new melodies from that tradition... The second half of the concert began with Robert Wendel's "Overture to a Merry Christmas". The opening bars sounded so much like Marriage of Figaro that I did a double take and then chuckled as I realized this was the equivalent of "What if Mozart wrote Joy to the World."

As an encore, the orchestra performed "Little Bolero Boy". Never heard of that one, you say? Take the melody to Little Drummer Boy, and now orchestrate it with the intensity and buildup of Ravel's Bolero, and you've got it. This drummer boy does much more than pa-rum-pa-pum-pum.

Irene Labombarde
The Hippo, New Hampshire
December 2005

I enjoyed a medley titled "Christmas a la Valse" an arrangement by Robert Wendel of familiar holiday tunes... all in three quarter time. An uncommon medley of tunes titled "A Chanukah Overture" included a swing tune that you'd expect Sammy Davis Jr. to stroll out and sing.

Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk
The Grand Rapids Press
December 3, 2005

This past weekend the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra got the jump on its musical competition, presenting not one but two performances designed to kick off the holiday season... Composer/arranger Robert Wendel dominated the 90-minute program with his pastiches of familiar seasonal songs. "Overture to a Merry Christmas," which opened the evening, contained at least a half-dozen of them, as did "Christmas a La Valse."

Michael Muckian
The Capital Times
November 29, 2004

I believe the hit of the evening was the performance of Ervin Rouse's well-known fiddle tune the "Orange Blossom Special," featuring the country music style of the "fiddle section" of the orchestra. The arrangement included not only the title tune but also the "Flight of the Bumble Bee," "Chattanooga Choo Choo," and "I've Been Working on the Railroad."

Victor Weidensee
Rapid City Journal

"The orchestra opened its performance with Robert Wendel's "Overture to a Merry Christmas", which included "Joy to the World" and "O Little Town of Bethlehem." The strings got quite a work out during the "Joy to the World" selection, making an outstanding piece even more impressive."

Winkie Lee
Goldsboro News
November 24, 2004

...the stand out was his arrangement of the beautiful "Coventry Carol," which was full bodied and richly scented with Vaughan Williams-like harmonies."

Sarasota Herald-Tribune
December 13, 2004

The program included a superb arrangement of Foster songs by Robert Wendel, who was in the audience. His "Stephen Foster Overture" included some of that composer's most popular works, including "Oh! Susanna," My Old Kentucky Home," "Swannee River," "Beautiful Dreamer," and "Camptown Races," if not Old Dog Tray." It was not only clever, but also entertaining and exciting, something that cannot be said for most arrangements. "Camptown Races," for example, led off with Lone Ranger music (Rossini's "Willim Tell" Overture) and segued into the Foster tune seamlessly. "Beautiful Dreamer" was a paddlewheel steamer fantasy, and the settings of the others were equally imaginative. Wendel was heard from again later in the program, with "Surf's Up," a Beach Boys medley that did the most it could with material that was inferior to Foster's, and "From Sea to Shining Sea," a suite of music about American places, that ended strongly with a rythmical "New York, New York." The arranger threw everything but the kitchen sink into something called "Saint Bailey's Rag," which combined "When the Saints Go Marching In" and "Bill Bailey Won't You Please Come Home," with a Sousa piccolo obligato and various other odds and ends. It was beautifully played and great fun.

Christopher Hyde
Portland Press Herald
July 4, 2003

Their Blossom appearance over the weekend was as exuberant as ever, especially with the superb collaboration of the Soldiers' Chorus of the U.S. Army Field Band...marked Labor Day with a smashing medley of tunes under the title "Workin' Hard". Robert Wendel's witty arrangement weaves together more than a dozen tunes...Kunzel and the orchestra were alert, crisp accompanists to the chorus, and they went it alone vividly in two penetrating short works by Wendel, "Commemoration" and "Fanfare for Freedom".

D. Rosenberg
The Cleveland Plain Dealer
September 2, 2002

From the Mailbox

I just put the parts of "The Wolf Was Framed" into the mail and wanted to tell you that it was a terrific hit with both the players and the audience last Sunday. We played to a standing room only house that laughed all the way through. Thanks for writing this.

Lee Thorson,
The Cherokee Symphony.

This piece (Viva Puccini) was the hit of our "That's Amore" program. At both concerts, it received a standing ovation!

Karen Peters,
Orlando Philharmonic Librarian.

Dayton Phil had a gig Saturday (9/11/10), a joint concert with Wright-Patterson AFB's Air Force Band of Flight... "Towers Of Light" is beautiful 8' piece inspired by the spotlights-into-the-sky memorial thing at the World Trade Center site. Quite straightforward to put together and VERY effective.

Neal Gittleman

Hi Bob,
Just performed "From Sea to Shining Sea" with the Florida Orchestra as a part of a musical tribute to America. I've programmed this piece before on several occasions (Dallas Symphony, Pacific Symphony), and I want to thank you for creating such a fantastic arrangement. The audiences loved hearing it, and several orchestra members commented on how much they enjoyed playing it. It was definitely a highlight of the concerts.
As you know, I am a huge fan of your library and the extraordinary and varied music that is availableÉ and your website is without a doubt, one of the best there is. And so, from one conductor to another, thank you for helping to make my job not only easier, but extremely enjoyable.
Very best wishes,

Richard Kaufman
Principal Pops Conductor: Dallas Symphony, Florida Orchestra; Pacific Symphony

Bob Wendel's "St. Bailey's Rag" was the hit of the show!

Larry Fried
General Manager, The Bellevue Philharmonic

Dear Robert,
Many thanks for your contribution to our Katrina benefit concert...your arrangement [Saint Bailey's Rag] was a perfect way to end the show.

Karen Peters
The Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra

...we had a very enjoyable time with your arrangement, "Rocky Horror Picture Show." Audience members recognized and loved it... and the orchestra members (not known to be wil about pops concerts in general), wanted to "encore" it! So I guess you were a hit. Thanks for your help, and we'll look forward equally to performing your "Little Bolero Boy" on our Holiday Pops.
All the best.

Dennis Loftin
Quad City Symphony Orchestra - Davenport, IA

We performed our first ever of its theme, "Things That Go Bump in the Night" this past weekend to packed houses. We received so much praise on "The Ride Of The Headless Horseman" from Robert Wendel Music! Thanks so much for your fabulous arrangements. We just sent in our order for our upcoming Christmas concert which includes 5 rentals from Robert Wendel Music!
Thanks again,

Karla Fields
Kingwood Pops Orchestra

By the way, we performed three numbers from R. W. Music last month - We Need a Little Christmas, The Best Christmas of All, and Little Bolero Boy. Bolero Boy was received so well that I plan to do it again next December. Thanks for some really delightful holiday music.

Richard Wink
Choral Director, Renaissance Performing Arts - Mansfield, OH

The pieces were great. Evergreen Christmas and Best Christmas of All. Your parts are always so well organized and clear. Helped make our concert a great success. Thank you very much...and Happy New Year!

Allan Carter
Librarian, The Long Beach Symphony

Our concert was a success thanks in large part to your wonderful music. Thank you so much.

Sandy Cardin
Kona Music Society

A note to tell you that the performance of "Commemoration" was a big success - both with the audience and, perhaps more telling, with the orchestra members themselves. Our trumpet players felt the workout but rose to the occasion. I opened the 2nd half of our concert with it, an all-American music half. You were right in there with Copland and Herbert! Congratulations!

Richard Chiarappa
Music Director, The West Hartford Symphony Orchestra

Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed performing two of your arrangements for the first time last weekend with the Florida West Coast Symphony. "When TV Was Young" was super, you could hear the crowd "buzz" as each new theme began - it was a huge hit! Likewise, "Back to the Fifties" was a blast. Really tasteful settings of each tune... Thanks for making such a significant contribution to our concerts. Looking forward to the next opportunity to do these and other titles from your fabulous catalog!

Christopher Confessore
Assoc Cond - FL West Coast Sym,
Mus Dir/Prin Cond - Brevard Sym Orch (FL)

I just wanted to take this opportunity, having seen your post on Orchestralist, to thank you for your arrangements and compositions. I have performed many of your pieces with the Illinois Symphony Orchestra, and a few with the University Symphony Orchestra, the top orchestra at the University of Michigan. Your pieces bear several stamps: They are always imaginative, well orchestrated, clean and clear in score and parts, and are always enjoyed by the orchestra and the audience. I have come to trust you. If it has your name on it, I can depend on the excellence of the work.

Kenneth Kiesler
Professor of Conducting and Director of Orchestras, University of Michigan
Music Director Illinois Symphony Orchestra, Illinois Chamber Orchestra

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