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."
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.