Monday, October 29, 2018

The Concord Band Celebrates Their Heritage

By Peter Broggi

On Saturday, October 20, I had the privilege of hearing the Concord Band perform their Fall Concert. The theme for the first concert in their 60th anniversary year, was “Celebrating Our Heritage.” The band celebrated this evening by performing several Concord Band commissions, as well as other band favorites. If you have not heard this band, I encourage you to attend their next concert and hear what a concert band is supposed to sound like.

The concert began with an apt title, Proud Heritage by William Latham. The band, led by Music Director James O’Dell, should be proud of their performance, which was exceptionally clean in timing, rhythm, balance, and intonation. They followed this with a Samuel Hazo piece, Diamond Fanfare. This piece started with a percussion trio of timpani, bass drum, and tom-tom, which unfortunately sounded a bit on balance and out of time with each other. Things quickly recovered as the rest of the band made their way in. The band’s next selection, a performance of R. Mark Rogers’ transcription of Verdi’s Overture to La Forza del Destino, showed off again the band’s proficiency with strong, clean articulation, as well as the welcome addition of harpist Lethicia Caravello.

Gustav Holst’s First Suite in E♭ is probably a favorite of anyone who’s ever played it, and the players in the Concord Band made it sound as if that was the case for them. The low brass section might just be the gem in this band, their opening phrase and eighth notes shortly thereafter were so smoothly and accurately executed. The first half ended with Concord, by Clare Grundman, aptly conducted by Assistant Conductor Steven Barbas, which started with an impressive introduction and again showcased the band’s great balance, blend, and energy. A ‘fife and drum’ section demonstrated excellent balance between the snare drum and piccolo.  A 7/8 section in the piece showed that the band is fluent with less common meters, although they did stumble slightly getting out of that section.

The second half opened with the Stephen Bulla composition North Bridge Portrait which was commissioned by the Concord Band in 1999.  This piece had a featured moment of planned cacophony, which the band entered and exited smoothly. There was a little timing trouble in parts, but the excellent solo playing more than made up for this. Triumphant Entrance by Warren Barker once again demonstrated the agility of the band’s low winds and excellent control of dynamics.  The baritone saxophone Kangyi Liu showed how much fun this piece was to play as he was spotted dancing in his seat as he played. 

The last two pieces of the concert were as professional sounding as the previous ones. On a Hymnsong of Philip Bliss by David R. Holsinger was beautifully played, with delicately performed triangle, flute, and horn as the most noteworthy (pun intended!) Folk Dances by Dimitri Shostakovich wrapped up the concert as the band’s final demonstration of their agility and command of tone and time.

I came away from this concert full of appreciation for what a truly extraordinary asset this band is to this community. I hope that I have inspired the reader to attend one of the Concord Band’s upcoming performances. The major focus of their 60th anniversary year will be their Winter concert on March 2, 2019, at which they will play two new commissions conducted by their composers. Like the Fall Concert, admission is free, but the Band does appreciate contributions made at the concert in lieu thereof. Because of the expected demand for seats, free tickets must be requested in advance from www.ticketstage.com/concordband.

Peter Broggi is a music teacher in the Acton-Boxborough Regional School District and performs as a freelance percussionist. He earned a Bachelor of Music Education at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a Master of Music from University of Hartford.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Fall Concert 2018

Celebrating Our Heritage
Saturday, October 20, 2018 • 8:00 PM
The Concord Band
 James O’Dell, Music Director
Steven Barbas, Assistant Conductor

Program

James O’Dell conducting
Proud HeritageWilliam Latham
Diamond FanfareSamuel Hazo
Overture to La Forza del DestinoGiuseppe Verdi, trans. Rogers
First Suite in E♭ for Military BandGustav Holst, ed. Fennell
  1. Chaconne
  2. Intermezzo
  3. March
ConcordClare Grundman
Steven Barbas conducting

Intermission

North Bridge PortraitStephen Bulla
Concord Band commission (1999)
Triumphant EntranceWarren Barker
Concord Band commission (1991)
On A Hymnsong of Philip BlissDavid R. Holsinger
Steven Barbas conducting
Folk DancesDmitri Shostakovich, ed. Reynolds

Proud Heritage

Proud Heritage by American composer William Latham continues to be one of the composer’s most popular works. Considered a processional or concert march, it makes use of the legato of the reeds and baritones in their low range. The French horns also share the spotlight, and climaxes are powerful and brilliant using the brass choir alone for several measures that precede an interesting tone color change. (Source: Band Music Notes, Norman Smith and Albert Stoutamire)

Diamond Fanfare

Diamond Fanfare by contemporary composer Samuel Hazo begins with a percussion trio (timpani, bass drum, and tom tom), which soon climaxes and brings forth a majestic brass and woodwind fanfare followed by a melodic and lyrical chorale. Hazo skillfully brings all symphonic forces to bear in a uniquely formatted and blossoming work. (Source: JRO) 

La Forza del Destino Overture

Giuseppe Verdi (1813–1901) was to Italian opera what Beethoven was to the symphony. The transcription by R. Mark Rogers of La Forza del Destino Overture for concert band reflects the original symphonic setting. After six unison chords from the brasses, the Overture opens with a musical idea symbolizing the relentless force that carries forward the tragic events of the opera. The final statement of the “fate” motive is accompanied with a delicate obligato in the upper woodwinds, and the entire piece is pulled together in a stirring finale. (Source: Ridgewood Concert Band, Marcie Phelan)

First Suite in E♭

First Suite in E♭ (1909) by English composer Gustav Holst (1874– 1934) has left an indelible mark on band musicians and audiences around the world. Its appeal is in its simplicity and its artistry. While there are difficult passages and exposed solo work in many instruments, it places few extreme demands on the players, and it uses a straightforward and easily identifiable theme throughout its three movements. Yet this theme is turned and pulled into many different forms, and put on an emotional roller-coaster of doubts, sweet reveries, ecstatic joy, and triumph. (Source: Wind Band Literature by Andy Pease)

Concord

Concord by Clare Grundman was commissioned by “The President’s Own” Marine Band in 1987, and presents material from three folk tunes attributed to the American War of Independence. “The White Cockade” was a popular fife and drum tune. “America” was composed by William Billings, one of America’s first choral composers who supported the Revolution with his music. Now adopted as a patriotic American song, “Yankee Doodle” is thought to have been first sung by British military officers to mock the colonists they served alongside in the French and Indian War. (Source: Webnotes, US Marine Band)

North Bridge Portrait

North Bridge Portrait by Stephen Bulla was commissioned by the Concord Band in 1999 and is based on authentic musical themes of the American Revolutionary period. “A slow and ominously quiet introductory section leads to a brisk sea chantey-like tune, depicting the busy lifestyle of the Colonists. The music then slows and an expressive setting of William Billings’ song ‘America’ is developed and incorporated into the musical tapestry as a tribute to the New England composer’s work. The music concludes with a dramatic recreation of the famous first shot that led the country to war (this time fired by the percussion section), along with a rousing setting of ‘Washington’s March’, a popular song of that day.” (Source: Stephen Bulla)

Triumphant Entrance

Triumphant Entrance by prolific composer Warren Barker was commissioned by the Concord Band in 1991 and is a symphonic march in the style of a fanfare/processional which bookends a lush and beautiful interlude. (Source: JRO)

On A Hymnsong of Philip Bliss

On A Hymnsong of Philip Bliss by David R. Holsinger is a restful, gentle, and reflective composition based on the 1876 Philip Bliss/ Horatio Spafford hymn, “It is Well with my Soul.” Written to honor the retiring Principal of Shady Grove Christian Academy, this piece was presented as a gift from the SGCA Concert Band to Rev. Steve Edel in May of 1989. (Source: published score)

Folk Dances

Folk Dances by Dimitri Shostakovich is a standard repertoire piece for wind bands, but Shostakovich may never have heard it played by a band. Shostakovich’s original was the third movement of his 1942 suite of incidental orchestral music for a musical revue called The Motherland. The suite, written during the bleakest days of World War II, was often somber. The source material of Folk Dances was the “Dance of Youth,” a purely instrumental movement intended, it seems, to lighten the suite. It includes several Russian folk melodies strung together one after the other as it accelerates to a big finish. (Source: Wind Band Literature by Andy Pease)

Music Director James O'Dell

Music Director James O'Dell
James O'Dell became the third Music Director of the Concord Band in March, 2009, after the 50th Anniversary concert. He has been professionally active in instrumental music and music education for the past forty years. Mr. O'Dell holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Education from Southern Oregon University and a Master of Music degree in Tuba, Euphonium, and Bass Trombone Performance from the University of Oregon. His graduate work also included residency at Arizona State University in the DMA program.

Mr. O'Dell is currently the Associate Dean for Academic Operations of the Conservatory at The Boston Conservatory. Previous appointments during a 25-year tenure at the Conservatory include serving as Interim Dean and Director of the Music Division. He is the Associate and Principal Guest Conductor of the Metropolitan Wind Symphony and past Music Director of the Middlesex Concert Band and Southeastern MA Community Concert Band. Mr. O'Dell has served as Director of Bands at Boston University and Mansfield University (PA). He is founder of the New England Collegiate Jazz Festival, Boston Tuba Christmas, and cofounder of the Boston Tuba Quartet and The Brass Consortium.

Assistant Conductor Steven Barbas

Assistant Conductor Steven Barbas
Steven Barbas is a Music Specialist at Waltham High School, where he conducts the Wind Ensemble, Orchestra, Jazz Ensemble, and Pep Band. He also teaches Music Theory and Technology, Sound Recording, and directs the Middle School Honor Band. He received the Master of Music degree in conducting from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, where he studied with Mallory Thompson. He previously earned the Bachelor of Music degree summa cum laude in Music Education and Clarinet Performance from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.

Prior to working in Waltham, Mr. Barbas was director of bands in Bedford, MA. Under his direction, the Bedford High School Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band consistently received Superior and Excellent ratings at festivals. He is director of the Belmont Parent/Teacher Band, is active as a freelance conductor and clarinetist, has appeared onstage in several community theatre productions, and sings in his church choir. Mr. Barbas has been a member of the Concord Band since 2004, and has been Assistant Conductor since 2011.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Concord Band to Celebrate Its Heritage

Music Director James O'Dell
Submitted to The Concord Journal

The Concord Band will kick off its 60th anniversary season at 8 p.m. Oct. 20 with a concert at the Performing Arts Center at 51 Walden in Concord.

The band will be “Celebrating Our Heritage.” Music Director James O’Dell and Assistant Conductor Steven Barbas will conduct.

O’Dell, who celebrates his 10th year with the Concord Band, has chosen concert band classics as well as two Concord Band commissions for the program, Triumphant Entrance by the late Warren Barker and North Bridge Portrait by Stephen Bulla. Proud Heritage by William Latham will be on the program along with Frederick Fennell’s edition of Gustav Holst’s First Suite in Eb for Military Band and a new transcription of Verdi’s “Overture to La Forza del Destino.”

The Holst was one of the first original compositions for the modern concert band, completed in 1909 and premiered in 1920. In his arrangement, Fennell, who was a guest conductor with the Concord Band in 1983, incorporated all of his own corrections, interpretations and notes into the score.
Concord by Clare Grundman was commissioned and premiered by the U.S. Marine Band in Boston and includes a mixed-meter setting of “Yankee Doodle.” Barbas will conduct both the Grundman and On a Hymnsong of Philip Bliss, by David Holsinger.

The Concord Band was originally formed in 1959 as a marching band to participate in patriotic celebrations in the Town of Concord, and has been performing as a year-round symphonic concert band since 1970.

The concert is free; donations are appreciated. To donate: Go Fund Me.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Celebrating Our Heritage

James O'Dell
Music Director
By James O’Dell, Music Director

Saturday, October 20 at 8 PM
51 Walden, Concord MA

Ten years ago when I became aware that the Concord Band was searching for a new Music Director and Conductor, I eagerly prepared my letter of interest and professional materials for the application. After successfully advancing to the “short list” of four candidates I was invited to conduct a rehearsal.  I was honored to be offered the position, and began preparing the Concord Band for its 50th Anniversary concert in March, 2009—at which time I would succeed Dr. William McManus and his 14-year tenure as Music Director. During the interview process and rehearsal, I was struck by the commitment of the members to the Band and their love of lifelong music making. And I was just as impressed with the historically strong organization of the Concord Band Association Board and its substantial and ongoing support of this gem of a community ensemble.

Now, nine years since assuming the podium, we embark on a year-long season celebrating the 60th Anniversary milestone of the Concord Band and its distinguished and rich history.  Over the past nine years we have performed more than 126 concerts that presented 684 pieces of music and featured a variety of soloists from the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Boston Conservatory and Berklee College of Music, the Metropolitan Wind Symphony, professional jazz musicians, the Concord Players, and our own Concord Band members.  One of the highlights of the past decade was our becoming the first community band in New England to receive the prestigious Sudler Silver Scroll Award.

Our 60th Anniversary Season begins with a bang on October 20th, featuring works commissioned by the Concord Band, concert band masterpieces, chosen gems, new works and beloved transcriptions. Triumphant Entrance by composer Warren Barker, commissioned by the Band in 1991, is a symphonic march in the style of a fanfare/processional which bookend a lush and beautiful interlude. Concord by Clare Grundman was commissioned by “The President’s Own” Marine Band in 1987, and presents material from three folk tunes attributed to the American War of Independence—“The White Cockade,” “America,” and “Yankee Doodle.”  On A Hymnsong of Philip Bliss is based on a moving and solemn 1867 work by hymn writer Philip Paul Bliss, arranged by David R. Holsinger.  La Forza del Destino (The Force of Destiny) Overture by Giuseppe Verdi was first performed by the Concord Band at the 25th Anniversary concert in 1984. The fall concert will feature a new transcription by R. Mark Rogers that more authentically captures this magnificent opera overture.

Contemporary composer Samuel Hazo’s new work Diamond Fanfare brings all symphonic forces to bear in this uniquely formatted and blossoming fanfare. Folk Dances by Dimitri Shostakovich ,superbly transcribed by H. Robert Reynolds, draws source material from the “Dance of Youth,” and includes several Russian folk melodies strung together one after the other as it accelerates to a big finish. It was first performed by the Song and Dance Ensemble of the NKVD, the Soviet Union’s feared secret police that became the KGB. [Source: Conductor and Music Educator Andy Pease]

North Bridge Portrait was commissioned by the Concord Band in 1999 and was described by composer Stephen Bulla as “a descriptive fantasia for band that seeks to portray an historical picture through music of this important locale, where the first shot of the American Revolution rang out in 1775”. First Suite in E-flat by English composer Gustav Holst is considered to be among the very first cornerstone masterworks for band, setting the stage for countless original compositions for concert band to this day. Proud Heritage by American William Latham is listed as one of the 100 most popular mid-20th century marches.

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