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Ping, Pang, Pong


“Puckett should be a household word.”

Parterre Box
Live performance from The President’s Own Marine Band with Jason Fettig conducting.
Live performance from The University of Michigan Symphony Band with Michael Haithcock conducting

wind ensemble
12 minutes

for the University of Michigan Symphony Band and Michael Haithcock


Flute I-II-III
Oboe I-II
B-flat Clarinets I-II-III [2 on a part]
Bass Clarinet
Bassoon I-II
Alto Saxophone I-II
Tenor Saxophone
Baritone Saxophone

Trumpet in B-flat I-II-III-IV
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II
Bass Trombone

Percussion 4 players
Double Bass


Puccini, celebrated perhaps only less than Verdi in the grand history of Italian opera, composed dramas that have held particular sentimental significance to listeners throughout the past century due to gripping (often tragic) Romantic tales underscored by lush, extravagant harmonies and orchestrations. These operas, from La Boheme to Tosca have inspired countless musicians as well since their first performances, including young composer Joel Puckett, who first experienced them in a quite unique way:

“I’ve always loved opera overtures. My first experience with these actually came via my father’s LPs from the 1950’s of the University of Michigan Symphony Band under the baton of Revelli. Revelli was fond of performing these overtures in arrangements for his large wind symphony. I remember many a time when my father would comment on how much better the overtures were ‘without all those darn strings!’”

In celebrating Puccini and Revelli, Puckett essentially recreates his childhood listening experience through composing an entirely new piece. Scored entirely for winds and percussion (with double bass and piano), Ping, Pang, Pong reflects that tradition of the Michigan Symphony Band while acting as a pseudo-replacement overture for Puccini’s last opera, Turandot. As most opera overtures are composed by collecting the themes from the entire opera into one continuous work, Puckett likewise creates a tone poem that “summarizes” the operatic plot into a cohesive piece. The story of Turandot, set in China, follows that any suitor who wishes the hand of the Princess Turandot must answer her three riddles or be put to death. Turandot’s cold nature toward the idea of love has left her listless and vicious to any men – that is, until a young prince manages to answer the riddles. The prince offers a riddle of his own to Turandot: if she can guess his name by sunrise, he will forfeit his right to marriage and be executed. Turandot orders that no person in the kingdom shall sleep until the name of the prince is found, at which point the prince sings undoubtedly the most famous aria from the opera, “Nessun dorma.” The twist apparent in Puckctt’s work is the perspective – the work takes the point of view of the three minor but well-meaning heroes: Ping, Pang and Pong, ministers to the Princess Turandot who attempt desperately to keep the young prince from being executed at her icy command. In Ping, Pang, Pong, each of the ministers is introduced with their own section at the work’s opening followed by scenes of their involvement within the plot. A Lament follows, snidely subtitled “Mrs. Turandot” followed by an Aria and Puckett’s own “Nessun dorma,” translated into English as “No One Sleeps.” The final section of Ping, Pang, Pong reflects the opera’s finale and, so as not to spoil the ending of Puccini, ends brashly leaving the audience wondering whether the prince’s story ends happily or in tragedy.
—Program note by Jake Wallace