Monday, October 31, 2016

Concord Band Performs to Nearly Full House

Review by Grant Anderson

To a nearly full house on October 22, the Concord Band gave a very musical and unusual concert at 51 Walden in Concord center. Musical because of the skill of the band’s Music Director Jim O’Dell and the band’s many skilled musicians. Unusual because the marches were both embedded within larger compositions: the Third Suite of Robert Jager and the Suite on Celtic Folk Songs of Tomohiro Tatebe. I missed Sousa, but these two movements tapped my feet and tickled my ears—including the unmistakable bagpipe sounds in the Celtic march.

The concert started with Boston Liberties, a band commission from 2002. Many band members were featured here by composer Julie Giroux—especially Ken Troup on orchestra bells, Carol Messina on trumpet, David Southard on alto sax, and Dave Purinton on clarinet. The entire brass section really bounced in the final movement, "A Penny a Ton."

David Purinton
clarinet
Being a clarinet player myself, von Weber’s Clarinet Concertino was my favorite of the program. That’s biased, isn’t it? Dave Purinton bravely attacked and performed this difficult solo piece. I admire him for that. Bravo, Dave: lyrical and musical playing throughout.

Dan Diamond
percussion
The night’s second soloist was Dan Diamond, on snare drum in Ravel’s Boléro. Ravel once said that his Boléro theme has an “insistent quality,” and Dan’s snare drum emphasized that insistence. Dan’s forty-seven years in the band have not reduced his percussion stamina, that’s for sure. Bravo, Dan. In addition to Dan’s overarching snare, the whole composition was beautifully played by the full band, especially the solo licks that start it out and the rousing full-band conclusion.

La Fiesta Mexicana of H. Owen Reed was another audience favorite. The entire percussion section played with full confidence to start the composition’s "Prelude and Aztec Dance." The joint solo by bass and contra-bass clarinets had a chilling and throaty blend to it. Cam Owen performed well on French horn in the "Mass" section, while the "Carnival" section was bouncy, syncopated and fun.

The Third Suite of Robert E. Jager contains several extended rhythmic patterns of five beats per measure, grouped “3 plus 2”—like Paul Desmond’s jazz classic, Take Five. Such musical meters are highly unusual for bands. Jim O’Dell and the Concord Band played them with assurance and accuracy. Bravo. Can the band’s eventual recording of this suite match the sales of the 1959 Dave Brubeck recording of Take Five, the biggest-selling jazz single ever? Just kidding, but I’m already looking forward to the band’s recording.

Some other highlights: Wonderful trumpet playing by Rich Given in Bernstein’s Danzon and in the "Rondo of the Jager Suite, great snare drumming by Dan Diamond, nice clarinet-section dynamics in the "March" movement, majestic percussion and tuba playing in Vaughan Williams’s arrangement of Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, and spritely piccolo playing by Laura Finkelstein in the second movement of the Tatebe Suite and the "Rondo" of the Jager Suite. Laura’s piccolo is always a joy to hear.

In all, Jim O’Dell’s conducting was clear and effective. And his musicians clearly enjoyed tackling and performing this difficult concert. Please watch for the Concord-Carlisle TV broadcast of this entire concert.

Grant Anderson has been principal clarinet of the Concord Orchestra since 1971—although originally a bandsman from third grade through college.

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