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Press Release

For Immediate Release

Review: Concord Band Concert — Saturday Evening, March 4

It's not difficult to understand why the hall in the Performing Arts Center at 51 Walden Street in Concord was nearly filled to capacity on March 4. The Concord Band presented a thoroughly enjoyable concert to an audience that ranged in age from nine to ninety-nine. The program included a variety of appealing works for wind ensemble under three different conductors and featured internationally renowned trumpet soloist, Terry Everson. All in all this was a program to hold the attention of every audience member throughout the evening. It is obvious the Concord Band enjoys playing music and sharing it with an audience.

Music Director William McManus kicked off the evening with "The Mad Major" March by "British March King" Kenneth Alford, a challenging piece crisply performed with tight ensemble playing and excellent dynamics. Buck Grace, percussionist, provided visual entertainment with the crashing, flying cymbals, and put everyone in a "let's hear more!" mood.

Along with the concert being dedicated to the memory of two past band members, Carl Getz and Ed Richter, the second selection was dedicated to composer Alfred Reed who passed away last year. Reed's "Music in the Air" is a lyrical piece with a number of exposed solo passages. Vanessa Rene opened and closed the piece with a sweet, melodic oboe solo. Throughout the piece there was a very pleasing underlying sound-effect played on the electric vibraphone. Throughout, the soloists performed quite well with generally good phrasing, dynamics, and intonation.

The baton was then turned over to Paul Berler, the Band's Assistant Conductor, for a performance of "Chelmsford Common" by New England composer, Michael Annicchiarico. Annicchiarico teaches at UNH and was in attendance for this performance. The work is a sinfonietta composed of four movements in an interesting contemporary interpretation of people and places in Chelmsford during the period just after the American Revolution. The work is both rhythmically and melodically complex and presented a considerable challenge to both the ensemble and conductor. Although occasionally somewhat tentative, the band was able to give a convincing performance with cohesive ensemble playing throughout some rather difficult passages. Plaudits go out to Cameron Owen's horn solos and Laura Finkelstein's piccolo solos representing Chelmsford's 18th century fifer, Barzillai Lew.

Steven Barbas, band clarinetist and third conductor for the evening, will be pursuing a degree in Conducting at Northwestern next year. He was invited to conduct a rhapsodic crowd-pleaser, "Shirim" by Piet Swerts. The audience, as well as the band members, felt the urge to move to the Jewish folk tunes and the beautiful Arab-sounding effects in the complicated rhythms and harmonies of this stirring work that accelerates continually to a climatic end. It was obvious that the band enjoyed performing this piece.

Bill McManus returned to the podium to conduct the remainder of the concert. Terry Everson performed "Essays" by Gary Ziek. Performing without music, Everson was better able to connect with audience. At times he would move his body and bell to "focus" on a different area of the hall, delivering fiery bursts of double-tonguing phrases, powerful forte passages, and delicate pianissimos with equal apparent ease. The work requires a virtuoso player and Everson was more than equal to the task. Following the fireworks of the "Fanfare" and "Gallop" movements, the "Ballad" was performed on the flugelhorn with its beautiful darker sound. The band's solo flute and bassoon (an instrument rarely heard above the instrumentation of a concert band) had a lovely duet, complimenting the trumpet. The piece concluded with the jazzy "Dance" movement leading to a flashy final upward arpeggio. Throughout the piece, the band, especially the percussion section, provided excellent support for the soloist, who appeared to be thoroughly at ease. As a reward for the enthusiastic audience response, Everson delivered a beautiful performance of "Danny Boy." This time he chose the cornet as solo, unaccompanied instrument allowing the audience an interesting opportunity to compare the more open and powerful sound of the trumpet with the compact and sweet sound of the cornet.

The second half of the program was devoted to works by Percy Grainger. "The Gum Sucker's" march, the fourth movement from Grainger's "In a Nutshell Suite" is a delightful somewhat wacky tune that Grainger felt typical of his native Australia. The band enjoyed playing this piece, which featured an up-front trio of well-played mallet-percussion instruments.

"Ye Banks and Braes O' Bonnie Doon" is a piece written by Grainger to be "enthusiastically and somewhat inaccurately performed" by amateur musicians. It was difficult to tell whether the band was delivering the requisite amount of "inaccuracy" but the performance was pleasing nonetheless.

The final piece on the program was Grainger's concert band masterpiece in six movements, "Lincolnshire Posy." The work was written at the turn of the 20th century and contains melodies from several British folk songs. Grainger had a keen interest in the use of folksong and once wrote "... in the folk-song there is to be found the complete history of a people, recorded by the race itself ..." In Grainger's preface to the score of "Lincolnshire Posy" he dedicates the work "to the old folksingers, who sang so sweetly to me." Although a fairly difficult work to perform well, musicians approach it with enthusiasm and the results are almost always satisfying to the audience. Under McManus's baton, the Concord Band performed the work with sensitivity and strong musical expression. Guest conductor, Paul Berler, who also performed in the percussion trio in "The Gum-Sucker's March", played the colorful soprano saxophone solos.

The Concord Band is fortunate to have a wonderful musician and educator, Dr. William McManus, as their leader. Clearly, he is a man who possesses the very finest professional qualities of musical and personal integrity as well as his distinguished reputation as a gifted educator, community leader, and music conductor. The environment that Bill McManus has created is very special, one where members want to play quality literature, and attempt to play it well. That only happens when the person at the top demands those types of standards. The programming for this mid-winter concert was superb and it was a pleasure to see the group continue to grow and set new standards and expectations for itself.

Reviewer, Richard Chick

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