Monday, January 1, 2018

What Music Would You Listen To on a 100 Mile Run?

Adena running at Fort McDowell State Park, outside Phoenix, at about mile 30, well before the blue hour.
(Photo by Howie Stern, race photographer)
—by Adena Schutzberg

I’ve observed a connection between my running and the music we play in the Concord Band. You could even say that my running is what brought me to The Concord Band. When I started running seriously, I found myself in a quandary. My running club, The Somerville Roadrunners, held track practice on the Tuesday nights. That was the same night the Woburn City Band held its rehearsals! It was on a rare Tuesday night that I didn’t have track practice, that I visited with my bandmates and learned that the Concord Band needed a clarinet or two for an upcoming concert. I was invited to rehearse, on Monday nights, and perform in the concert.

I was honored to be invited to join the band officially after the Holiday Pops concerts in 2005. Our Winter Concert featured The Gum-Suckers March by Percy Aldridge Grainger. It was the first time I’d played it and it was quite challenging. I’d rehearse one passage of about ten measures over and over. In February 2006, I traveled to Martha’s Vineyard to run a 20 mile race. The race was very cold and long. And what was the soundtrack in my head? Those ten measures of The Gum-Suckers March! I recall mentioning the experience to then Music Director Bill McManus who was not sure what to make of it, but was pleased I was practicing!

More recently I’ve begun to consciously select Concord Band music to listen to while running. For each new concert members receive a “Practice CD,” with performances of each piece. It’s been valuable for me to get more familiar with the music, to follow along on my own part, and sometimes to “play along.” I like to move the music to my iPod and listen to it a few times during training runs.

I listen to audio while doing training runs, but I rarely listen to anything when racing. Some races do not allow earbuds for safety reasons bit I just prefer to focus on a new location and my fellow runners. That said, I changed my practice, just a little, after this year’s Winter Concert titled Shades of Blue. While I loved all the pieces, I could not get John Mackey’s 2010 Hymn to a Blue Hour out of my head.

The blue hour refers to the time of day after twilight but before total darkness. I read about the piece online and was excited to learn that Mr. Mackey accepted our invitation to attend our concert. After chatting with the composer at the reception after the concert, I came up with an idea. I was training for a 100 mile race a few weeks after our concert. I decided to put a recording of the piece on my iPod and carry it with me. I’d wait until just the right moment and try to experience The Hymn to a Blue Hour at the blue hour.

A few weeks later I was running in Raleigh, North Carolina in a lovely forested park on smooth, wide dirt roads. I looked forward to the blue hour from the 6 am start and finally pushed play at about 5:30 pm. I remember listening and looking up at the sky through the trees. At one point, after I’d put away the iPod, I caught up with a runner who’d passed me during that time. She said, “I’m not sure what you were listening to when I went by but you had a huge grin on your face.” After that experience, I decided, if at all possible, I’d play Hymn to a Blue Hour during every 100 mile run.

As we played through our music for our Fall Concert (Songs and Dances), I noted a piece called Cantus: Song of the Night. When we played it, we all got the Hymn to a Blue Hour vibe, even though this piece was written two years earlier (2008) by Austrian composer, Thomas Doss. Cantus is performed with an accompaniment of ocean and seabird sounds. I grew to really like that night piece, too, and was ecstatic about how well we performed it at the concert, the week before my next 100 mile race, scheduled for Phoenix. I added it to my playlist.

This race was in a desert park on trails with loose rocks, some soft sand and cactus that sometimes got uncomfortably close. Again, I looked forward to the right moment to press play, this time listening to Cantus before Hymn to a Blue Hour. Again, I had a very enjoyable transition into night.

Now that I’ve added this little bit of music to my 100 mile runs, I’m beginning to understand why I enjoy it so much. First off, it’s simply something special to look forward to during a run that will typically take me more than 24 hours. Second, it’s always fun to listen to music you like. Third, the music, this music, helps calmly introduce the night. Running at night can be especially stressful. Runners don headlamps to light the way and often slow down to prevent getting lost or falling. Somehow, I feel more ready to take on the night with night music in my head. I plan to continue this tradition of playing appropriate “night music” during the blue hour.

Adena Schutzberg has been a member of the Concord Band clarinet section for 12 years. This year she completed the Umstead 100 Endurance Run in April and the Javelina Jundred (Hundred) in October of 2017.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Baton of Death

—by Julie Ann Giroux

I collect antique conducting batons. Some are purely decorative, ceremonial or commemorative. Occasionally I find one that actually may be usable. I bought this particular baton hoping to use it. Good length, 13", didn't look to be a bad baton in general. Truth be told, this silver handled and tipped weapon of mass destruction turned out to have been sired by Satan himself. Never has there been a piece of wood more cursed or feared.

The Baton of Death
It is very slick and offers no point or area for secure grasp. I dropped it twice just getting it from my briefcase to the podium. The rehearsal room was hot, like 90 degrees hot, thermostat set for real winter cold but instead frying its participants in their own globally warmed juices. An hour into rehearsal, the baton took flight on a vigorous up beat, successfully destroying an expensive overhead stage light with a red lens cover. The area behind me was showered with red crystals, bringing to mind the High School Gym Scene from the movie Carrie. (‘They are all gonna laugh at you!’ Why yes, yes they did.) I continued to use it...

It is black and hard to see, only giving slight whispers of leadership from its tiny, unpolished solid silver tip. My beat became more implied than factual; a rarity, in today's climate, an alternative fact. Beat patterns were in step with Big Foot as he walked across the film footage; questionable as to its authenticity. It slipped beneath the waters of precision like the Loch Ness Monster, forcing many to question whether they had actually seen something or not. Reports of clear beat patterns became as rare as UFO sightings but less reliable. Cues were almost mythical. I stubbornly continued to use it...

The weight of the baton is extremely heavy for its size. If it were made of petrified wood it would be lighter than this. The solid silver tip and handle add weight, yes, but not that much. An over exuberant beat 3 of a 4 beat pattern sent the black missile off stage right with tremendous velocity and strength, successfully launching out of the sweaty, greasy, menopausal, perpetually hot flashed hand (mine), striking a lectern microphone out of its cradle which loudly bounced on, then off, the lectern, striking the floor with huge thud, then rolling off the end of the stage, meeting its demise on the cold, concrete floor with a sad clink. (Talk about ‘drop the mic…’) Damn it! I paid a fortune for this civil war period baton and I'm going to use it.

Concert—8:00. Formal Dress—The Black Baton with the Solid Silver Tip— Fear, Apprehension and Cause for Alarm —Final piece on the Program—hell of my own creation—VI. ‘Hakone Pass’, Book marks from Japan, 200+ Odd Meters at Tempi Di TearAss.

Seventy plus measures in, Satan's Stick launched on its final mission into space straight at a percussionist holding a chime mallet. Quick to react, he leaned backwards, knocking over a suspended cymbal as the Baton whizzed by him. Like the slow motion scene with Keanu Reeves in The Matrix, I watched with horror as it narrowly missed the percussionist and hit the gong dead nipple center, creating a resounding gong crash. Thanks to the speed of the piece, both the Suspended Cymbal falling to the ground and the gong crash fell on musical pulses and neither stood out as unusual occurrences. I was forced to finish out the finale using my index finger as a baton, though had the band chosen, it would have been my middle finger because we did just fine without the baton. Up yours, Silver-Tipped Weapon of Mass Destruction.

The Civil War era Black Baton with the solid silver handle and tip now permanently resides with the other ‘unusable’ Batons in my collection and like a battle returned veteran has a respected spot up front. I give it wide berth as I pass it. I am certain that place in my house is cooler than it should be. I feel eyes on my back when I leave the room as The Black Baton with the Silver Tip & Handle whispers ‘Petrificus Totalus’. This is what happens when you mistake a Wand for a Baton.

Julie Giroux, one of the finest and most prolific composers of music for wind ensemble, was born in Massachusetts, but by the time she graduated from high school, she was already a southerner, and studied music at LSU. Concord Band audiences have heard a number of her works, including Boston Liberties, commissioned by the Concord Band in 2009 and performed again last season. This brief story exposes a humorous facet of Julie that audiences may not get to see. It originally appeared as a Facebook posting earlier this year. Reprinted with permission.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Holiday Pops!

2017 Holiday Pops Concert Poster
Join The Concord Band for one of two "Holiday Pops" Concerts, as its celebrates the holiday season with traditional tunes and contemporary concert band music.
For Pops reservations:
  • On line: Visit, click on the “Select Performance” button and select the date that you want. Note that there is no surcharge for purchasing your tickets online, so we are encouraging you to take advantage of this service.
  • Send email to Concord Band Reservations. Be sure to specify how many tickets and which night, and include your name, email address and phone number for confirmation.
  • Leave a voice message at 978-897-9969. Be sure to specify how many tickets and which night, and leave your name and phone number for confirmation.
  • Send a check in the amount of $25 per ticket ($15 for children under 12), made out to “The Concord Band”, to Holiday Pops, Box 302, Concord, MA 01742. Be sure to specify which night, include your phone number for confirmation, and enclose an SASE if you would like the tickets mailed to you rather than picking them up at the concert.
If you place your reservations by phone or email, you MUST still mail a check in order to hold the seats. You may also include an SASE in order to receive your tickets before the night of the concert. Any unpaid tickets will be subject to re-sale at the door on the night of the concert.

Note: If this concert is snowed out, it will be rescheduled for 2:00 pm on Sunday afternoon, December 10.

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