Friday, October 30, 2015

Review: "Mystical Moments"

2015 Fall Concert Poster
Review by Patti Lake

It is a wonderful experience to be treated to an evening of music where one is merely a listener and not a performer. The Concord Band Fall Concert, “Mystical Moments,” did not disappoint. After a little bit of a slow start, the Concord Band picked up momentum as the evening progressed and did not fail to impress with their renditions and execution of a very challenging program.

The band opened with Prelude and Dance of the Mystic Flames arranged by W. Rhoades from original material by Alexander Scriabin. The good dynamic contrasts created levels of excitement throughout the piece and a few minor intonation issues—perhaps due to the chilly concert hall—were quickly corrected as the instruments warmed. As the pitch came into focus and the rhythms tightened, the band appeared to collectively relax and focus on the wonderful sound they are so capable of creating.

The band’s second selection, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Paul Dukas, was a delightful band arrangement of this classic piece. The woodwinds are to be commended for executing the transcribed string lines with relative ease, indicative of many practice hours well spent. As expected, this selection was quite the crowd pleaser as evidence by the many smiles, foot tapping and head nodding. One could actually imagine dancing brooms and rushing water throughout the concert hall!

Concord Band Clarinetist, Jerry Vabulas’s arrangement of “Chernomor’s March” was a pleasant little piece that ushered the listener right into Glinka’s operatic story of Ruslan and Lyudmilla. Vabulas effectively passed a lovely little repetitive line amongst the instrumentalist in this simple, yet effective arrangement.

Incantation and Dance by John Barnes-Chance is an old favorite and was exciting to hear. The haunting opening was beautifully executed as the low flutes played perfectly in synch. The initial entrance of the low reeds was a bit muddy, but became much clearer in subsequent entrances. The rhythmic line laid down by the low reeds was very enjoyable and the formidable wall of low brass was enormous and solid. The percussion entrances were spot on and the piece in its entirety was very, very well done.

As expected, the Concord Band played a fabulous rendition of John Phillip Sousa’s Nobles of the Mystic Shrine march. The Concord band seems to really excel and enjoy playing marches as evidenced by the strong melody lines and great dynamic contrasts. It is also both interesting and enjoyable to watch James O’Dell as the band seemed to not even need him to conduct at times. It was intriguing to hear this Sousa march due to the unusual key in the introduction and first strain (Bb minor) and the addition of harp, triangle and tambourine. Not being a big fan of Sousa marches—my fellow horn players understand why—this was a pleasant and appealing selection.

Old Churches by Michael Colgrass gave the listener a true sense of Gregorian chant through the dark, lush and haunting chords used throughout the piece. O’Dell’s sense of humor added a delightful charm as he interacted with and connected to audience members. His explanation of the unique instruments required in the piece—especially the “bowls” and how they were acquired—was quite enjoyable. The Concord Band created a setting where one could truly have a sense of the sounds of monks chanting interrupted by the hushed conversations of visitors.

What could possibly be said about Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana arranged by John Krance? This epic rendition began with the tremendous sound of a wall of brass and the Concord Band successfully brought the audience to believe they were actually hearing the sound of a chorus of hundreds of voices. From driving pulses and tight rhythms to the peaceful, serene and grounding moments, the music teased at the emotions of the audience. The well-executed solos and soli throughout the eight movements to the return to the grand “Oh Fortuna“ made everything about Carmina Burana simply fabulous. Met with a standing ovation, this was indeed a grand opening to the Concord Band’s concert season—a season you won’t want to miss.

Patricia Lake is the owner of “The Joyful Noise Project”, specializing in early childhood music and movement, children’s theatre and private lessons. Additionally, she is the Director of Children’s Ministries at Faith Baptist Church in Auburn, MA. Patricia lives in Shrewsbury with her husband Brian (also a brass player) and maintains an active private French horn studio. She is a member of the Concord Orchestra and works as a freelance horn player in the greater Central MA area.

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