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Press Release

For Immediate Release

Review: Concord Band Concert — Saturday Evening, March 3

Saturday, March 3, at 51 Walden Street, the Concord Band performed their Winter Concert. The program consisted almost entirely of contemporary concert band music. If you are one who attends concerts of contemporary works with some trepidation and brings to mind an evening filled with confusing, discordant, and otherwise unpleasant cacophony — it is definitely the wrong mental image. In fact the program was filled with delightful accessible works, which, although you would likely never have heard them, would have left you wanting to hear them again.

The program started with three distinctly different pieces by Clifton Williams. The first, Strategic Air Command, was written for that branch of the USAF. This is a rousing concert opener with clashing cymbals, bass drum "sonic booms" and a lovely chorale section in the lower brass complimented by the contrasting high piccolo trills musically played by Laura Finkelstein. The appropriately stirring work was performed with conviction under the direction of the band's Assistant Conductor, Paul Berler. Generally accurate playing throughout the ensemble and attentiveness to the conductor's cues and dynamics resulted in a satisfying performance.

Next came a symphonic dance, titled Fiesta with a distinctly Latin flavor. This work contained some difficult rhythmic passages and subtle inter-passage transitions. The band gave a crisp, tight performance and the dynamics were nuanced, contrasting the moods from dynamic Spanish dance tempo in 5/4 rhythm to a slower melodic dance tune in the woodwinds. Jennifer Garcia's melodic trumpet solo was a most pleasing compliment. Me gusta mucho!

The band's Music Director, William McManus, conducted the final work by Williams titled Caccia and Chorale. Caccia begins with a series of rapid arpeggios that are transferred throughout the woodwinds. These were generally negotiated quite well. The slower Chorale presented its own difficulties by exposing any lack of proper intonation. This can be an especially difficult problem in wind ensembles as large as the Concord Band. Consistent intonation problems can distress listeners even if they are unaware of the cause. Throughout the concert the band maintained the performance nicely "on pitch."

Kaddish, by W. Francis McBeth, often called the Godfather of symphonic band music, is a musical interpretation of the Jewish prayer for the dead. Before the band performed the piece, a recording of McBeth's voice was played for the audience where he describes his personal thoughts on composing the work as a memorial to his teacher, Clifton Williams. The work is characterized by a strong rhythmic "heartbeat" in the percussion section, which runs throughout the piece. This piece required focus and concentration to perform well. The band was again up to the task. Attacks were crisp, intonation was good, and dynamics were strong, with dramatic results.

Composer Elena Roussanova Lucas was in the audience and well received for her exciting work, Tatarian Dances, a work in four movements, "Spring Dance," "Sarman River," "Harvest Dance," and "Wedding Dance". One would expect from the title and the ethnicity of the composer that this would be a piece with decidedly Russian influences. In fact the work has a very contemporary American flavor. "Spring Dance" contains a fast catchy tune alternating with a slower section. Due to a requirement of a large percussion section, David Tweed, who doubles on keyboard when he is not playing in the trombone section, convincingly performed the lively xylophone part on a synthesizer. In "Sarman River" the clarinets weave an undulating rolling river line behind a slow brass melody. The score calls for a Tenor Recorder solo — an instrument not usually heard in band music. This haunting solo was well executed by Laura Finkelstein, the band's piccolo player, on an instrument that requires some rather complicated fingerings to preserve proper intonation and maximize projection. "Harvest Dance" started with a nicely played horn sectional solo which was passed to the trumpets and along to the clarinets. The festive dance flavor was maintained through the movement, which ended with a flourishing alto saxophone solo by Gerald Kriedberg. The final "Wedding Dance" movement was rousing and joyful. Of particular note were some very good low brass executions and an exciting accelerando ending. Elena Lucas has lived in the United States for six years and is presently arranging Tatarian Dances for orchestra. The Concord Band performance was the first time she had heard the entire piece performed in live concert.

Don Lucas, the band's featured soloist, is currently Trombone Professor and Chair of Woodwinds, Brass and Percussion at Boston University. He is also President-Elect of The International Trombone Association. Mr. Lucas performed Colloquy for Solo Trombone and Symphonic Band by William Goldstein. This piece not only requires a virtuoso trombonist, it is very difficult for the band as well. The work is very jazz-oriented. Consequently it is rather difficult to maintain the sort of free flowing jazz feeling while maintaining the disciplined playing necessary to preserve order with a large ensemble backup. One would have to say that Lucas and the Concord Band teamed up to deliver an exceptional performance. Lucas played with the power, precision, and full golden tone expected of an exceptional classical artist. However, he also tore into certain passages with the risk-taking abandon that characterizes the best jazz artists. This was really great trombone playing and if you weren't there Saturday night, you missed it.

The Concord Band continues to offer quality performances of works for large wind ensemble in the arts center at 51 Walden Street in Concord. The band may be composed of folks who have day jobs outside the field of music but under the guidance of an exceptional music director, William McManus, they come together to "over-achieve" on the stage. Can you differentiate them from a professional ensemble? Certainly. Will you notice the difference during a performance? Not very often. More importantly they are ambassadors of music to the local community bringing quality live performances with an absolute minimum of cost. Music is of the greatest benefit when it is experienced live. A Concord Band concert is one excellent choice to get that experience.

The next concert on the band's schedule at 51 Walden is Spring Pops April 13 & 14 featuring vocalist Amanda Carr.

Reviewer: Richard Chick 3-5-07


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