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Professor Gives Italian Lectures onFamed Ponchielli

Licia Sirch, Henry Howey and Emilia Bricchi Piccioni
Dr. Licia Sirch (left) and Dr. Emilia Bricchi Piccioni (right) were both instrumental in Dr. Henry Howey's (center) recent visit to Italy to lecture.

Henry Howey recently introduced Ponchielli to the city of Ponchielli.

Howey, professor of low brass at the Sam Houston State University School of Music, returned from a March trip to Cremona, Italy, the home of the late composer Amilcare Ponchielli. Ironically, this Texas scholar was the one to enlighten the individuals of the town on the famed musician.

Amilcare Ponchielli was a romantic Italian opera composer during the latter part of the 1800s. Ponchielli was an organist in Cremona and his first opera, 'I promessi sposi,' was introduced there in 1856. He composed several more operas throughout his career, with 'La Gioconda' becoming the most successful and enjoying worldwide acclaim.
Amilcare Ponchielli
Amilcare Ponchielli, 1834-1886.

Ponchielli was intended to be Verdi's successor as the great composer of Italian opera in the 1880s.

"I've been working on Ponchielli's band music for ten years," said Howey. "Last May, I collected 4000+ pages of music to complete my collection."

Howey was invited to speak about the composer by Emilia Bricchi Piccioni, the director of the Biblioteca Statale, a library. The invitation was extended after an Italian colleague, Licia Sirch, learned of Howey's interest in Ponchielli.

"Dr. Sirch was surprised at my speed in learning Italian and my obvious interest in the music," said Howey. After this, an invitation was extended to speak, and Howey found himself Italy-bound.

Utilizing a computer presentation, Howey was able to present digitally produced music and critically edited scores to the citizens of Cremona. Howey presented three public lectures in Italian over a two-day period.

"What I spoke of is quite unknown there," said Howey.

The citizens welcomed Howey with open arms, but recognized the irony of him speaking on a subject so much a part of the town. One local newspaper commented that Howey was "extremely pleasant and helpful, and...lacked[ed] the patina of snobbery invariably found among musicologists of the old world."

Howey is not finished with his work on Ponchielli.

"I believe the possibility of creating a critical edition of the original works for band as well as a book on this music will be very helpful," said Howey. "I hope to include my students and the university bands in my work as well. This is a wonderful body of music which deserves to be returned to the band repertoire."

Howey feels his work will not only be good for him but for the university as well. "That this repertoire is associated with Sam Houston will help to spread the name of the university."

Howey has performed with The United States Army Band and has been an extra with the Houston Symphony and the Grand Opera. He is also founder of the Sam Houston Brass Quintet, where he plays trombone and euphonium.

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SHSU Media Contact: Audrey Wick
April 8, 2002
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