Friday, January 4, 2019

Remembering Alfred Reed

Dr. William G. McManus
Music Director Emeritus
By Dr. William G. McManus

Bill McManus was the second Music Director of the Concord Band, serving in that position from 1995 to 2009. Upon his retirement from the Band, he was named Music Director Emeritus. Dr. McManus has been an extremely successful and much revered musician and music educator.

Alfred Reed’s music has been a part of The Concord Band’s long legacy of performing outstanding classics of the concert band repertoire. It will be my honor to conduct Alfred Reed’s A Festival Prelude at The Concord Band’s Winter Concert on March 2, 2019, in celebration of the band’s 60th Anniversary Season. Dr. Alfred Reed is generally recognized as one of the most important composers of music for concert band and wind ensemble of the 20th Century. He published more than 250 compositions for band, orchestra, chorus, and chamber groups and is perhaps best know for composing many works that have become classics of the concert band repertoire. His compositions have been performed throughout the world.

Over the years, The Concord Band has performed many of Alfred Reed’s original compositions for concert band, including such classics as A Jubilant Overture (performed in 1970), A Festival Prelude (1984), A Symphonic Prelude (1984), Second Symphony (1979), Armenian Dances, Part 1 (1995), Russian Christmas Music (1995), El Camino Real (1997), and Hounds of Spring (2004). The Concord Band has also performed many of Reed’s great arrangements, including The Music Man (1974), Greensleeves (1978), Radetzky March (1998), and Finiculi, Finicula (1998). Alto saxophonists from The Concord Band, including the late Dr. Gerald Kriedberg, were frequently featured performing Reed’s great arrangement of Harlem Nocturne. One of Reed’s very last compositions for concert band was Music in the Air, which was played by The Concord Band at the 2006 Winter Concert in Alfred Reed’s memory.

Alfred Reed
composer
I first met Alfred Reed in 1987 when he came to Boston to present a clinic of his music at a conference of the Eastern Division of the Music Educators National Conference (MENC). The College of New Jersey Wind Ensemble was participating in the clinic with Dr. Reed and would be performing a number of Reed’s compositions in the clinic. Prior to the conference, Dr. William Silvester, the Director of The College of New Jersey Wind Ensemble, contacted me and asked me if his wind ensemble could use the Belmont High School auditorium for a rehearsal with Dr. Reed the day before the conference in order to prepare for the clinic. I was delighted to accommodate this request and was able to have all of my Belmont High Band members excused from classes for the morning so that they could attend the rehearsal and meet Alfred Reed. This was especially timely since my band was currently learning one of Alfred’s pieces—Armenian Dances. What an experience this was for my students! Especially since Armenian Dances was one of the pieces that Alfred Reed was featuring in his clinic at the conference in Boston. My students were able to watch Alfred rehearse this piece with this wonderful wind ensemble.

Armenian Dances is an extremely challenging and exciting piece for concert band and one of my all-time favorite pieces for symphonic band. I rehearsed this piece with The Concord Band as part of my audition for the directorship of the band and then included Armenian Dances in my very first concert with The Concord Band at 51 Walden in the fall of 1995.

While it was an honor for me to meet Alfred Reed, it was also an honor for me to meet Dr. William Silvester, the conductor of The College of New Jersey Wind Ensemble. This music group was one of the premiere college wind ensembles in the country. Dr. Silvester was also the conductor of The Eastern Wind Symphony, an adult symphonic band based in Trenton, New Jersey. Dr. Silvester and I became great friends and colleagues. We were honored to have Dr. Silvester as guest conductor of the Concord Band at the 2003 Winter Concert. I knew that Dr. Bill Silvester and Alfred Reed were very close friends, and in 2004 I asked Bill if he thought Alfred might consider a commission by The Concord Band. He suggested that I ask him myself and told me that Alfred would be visiting New Jersey to attend a recording session of his music by The Eastern Wind Symphony. I traveled to New Jersey and was able to enjoy a wonderful evening with Alfred and Bill. It was over dinner that Alfred leaned over to me and said, “I hear that you want me to compose a piece for The Concord Band.” He told me he would love to compose an original composition for the Band and we began a correspondence regarding the commission. Unfortunately, Alfred died in 2005 without having completed the composition. The day after his death I received the following email from his family:
Alfred Reed passed away yesterday afternoon, 17 September. His gift to the world is a body of music that will continue to thrill, charm and delight audiences in virtually every country of the world, as it has done for the last fifty years. His gift to those of us blessed to have known him was a kind and generous spirit that is all too rare.

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