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.

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