By Pamela J. Marshall
Submitted to the Concord Journal
The piece has six short movements, each named after a color with a suggestive mood, such as mauve, dark ivy, amber. At the opening, a fast fanfare motive was passed among the sections — trumpets, horns, woodwinds — and everyone executed these technical passages with panache. The second movement included a bluesy introduction of parallel chords and a modal melody with lovely ornaments, played with expression by the piccolo and saxophone. The third movement was strongly reminiscent of Bernstein's West Side Story and there was crisp playing from the percussion section. The big band feeling got stronger in the fifth movement with a sax solo that could have been in a James Bond movie; the performer appropriately over-dramatized it with lots of vibrato, making me smile. The last movement was up-tempo, full of irregular rhythms and rich, dark harmonies and the brass really wailed at the climax.
Triumphant Entrance by Warren Barker, which opened the concert, was a little rough at the beginning but the music gained its footing as the texture got fuller. The middle section started simply with an expressive oboe solo, reminiscent of a show tune, joined by a horn, then all the woodwinds. The trumpets hit their stride in the fanfare before the march returned, and the euphoniums deliver a spirited countermelody. A final march section was both spirited and majestic. This piece was a 1991 commission by the band.
Assistant conductor Paul Berler led the First Suite in E♭ by British composer Gustav Holst. This staple is at the core of the band's serious repertoire, equivalent to the orchestra's 19th century symphonic repertoire. All three movements are thematically tied together by using variants of the Chaconne theme of the first movement. The Chaconne builds grandly as the theme repeats over and over again, played each time by different instruments, with variations in the rest of the ensemble. The second movement, Intermezzo, jogged along with a sleigh-ride-like accompaniment. The thinner, more transparent texture showed off the different colors of the various solo phrases throughout the ensemble. The final March was clean and crisp with exciting filigree decorating the exciting Chaconne-derived tune. Conductor Berler gave solo bows to the oboe, flute, first clarinet and trumpet.
Clarinet soloist Ethan Sloane, professor at Boston University, played the Weber Concertino in a beautifully adapted transcription for band. The music demanded agile and graceful playing and Mr. Sloane delivered brilliant runs in the fast final section.
Other music on the program included the delightful From Every Horizon by Norman Dello Joio, a depiction of New York, originally for a film shown at the New York World's Fair in 1964-65.
Crown Imperial March got off to a rocky start, but in the second section the tricky interlocking rhythms were well done, and the brass sounded majestic in the return to the march theme. In the trio section, intonation problems were fixed and the melody, played by saxophone with other low woodwinds, was smooth and elegant.
Welsh Variants is another band commission from 1988 and, I was told, is a players' favorite. The crisp snare and tambourine stood out and brilliant double-tonguing in the fast section made a lively end to the program. But it wasn't quite the end. The band had a encore ready, Washington Post March. The audience clapped along and shouted their approval at the end.
There were a few ensemble and intonation problems, particularly at the start of several pieces, but the playing got better and better in each piece as it went along. The concert was full of challenging music, and the hard work of the band members really paid off in Colours by Roger Cichy. Based on the rich musical textures of Colours, this reviewer looks forward to the new commissioned work next year.