Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Review: Concord Band Winter Concert 2016

Review by Bruce Pasha

This was my first Concord Band concert in a long time and, based on last Saturday night’s offering, it won’t be the last. The true gem of the evening was marimba Guest Artist, Dr. Wei-Chen Lin.

The concert opened with The Redwoods by Rossano Galante. It was created to evoke the power and majesty of the redwood forests and indeed it did. Some of the music sounded like the score to a documentary film, and on the whole, it was pleasant to hear and enjoy memories of walking through the redwood forests of California.

Next up was a transcription of Tales from the Vienna Woods by Johann Strauss. Although it was very well played, this piece didn’t work for me as band music. It lacked the lightness and lilt of a string orchestra and sounded heavy and plodding instead of dancing at times.

The third piece was a wonderful collection of six English melodies arranged by Percy Grainger called Lincolnshire Posy. From the bouncy sea faring sounds of "Lisbon" to the energetic dance feel of "The Lost Lady Found," each movement told it’s story in a thoroughly enjoyable way.

The first half of the concert ended with a delightful arrangement of four songs from the Broadway show and movie, Into the Woods. It very nicely captured the feel of the show while bringing out new dimensions in the music.

After the intermission, the band played Variations on a Korean Folk Song. It opened with a statement of the pentatonic theme, a traditional melody. The band then launched into six variations, each of which was entertaining and unique. I especially enjoyed the percussion work in the last variation.

Dr Wei-Chen Lin
marimba
The real highlight of the evening was provided by Wei-Chen Lin, the marimba soloist. The concert marimba is physically a huge instrument stretching about eight feet in length. Dr. Lin played three pieces in which he showed both his technical and artistic mastery of the marimba. The first piece, Concerto for Marimba and Wind Ensemble is a true tour de force for Dr. Lin. As a percussionist, myself, I know how challenging it is to both cover the instrument and create a beautiful musical sound. Dr. Lin did both. His musicality compelled the audience to applaud after each movement. Unfortunately, in parts of the piece, the band overplayed and made it difficult to hear the soloist, but, on the whole, it was an incredible performance.

He spoke briefly and described the instrument and the playing techniques involved. His encore was a Fantasia from La Traviata that he adapted for solo marimba. Again, Dr. Lin’s mastery created a phenomenal performance which brought the audience to its feet. The final piece was a fun romp called Serenade for a Picket Fence, originally scored for xylophone. Wei-Chen Lin is an artist that we will hear more form in the future, and for that, I will be delighted.

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