Thursday, November 1, 2007

Review: Concord Band Impresses Audience Again

The Concord Band played a very exciting concert last Saturday, for a decent crowd of escapees from the third game of the World Series. Music Director Bill McManus has honed a very good band into a super one, over his twelve years on the band's podium. He and his Assistant Conductor, Paul Berler, inspired the band through some very challenging music in this concert.

Wham!! on the bass drum to start Roger Cichy's Fanfare for a Festive Day. That set the mood, didn't it? Fanfares served in the past to announce the beginning of the concert—to quiet the audience down. Now-a-days, fanfares rouse us to the spirit of the concert—as did this one. I especially enjoyed the march, the fugue and the horn section throughout this short burst of sound.

After thanking us for attending, Bill McManus and the band played Daniel Lutz's Dichotomy... Impressions of Kerouac—a Concord Band commission with support of the Lowell Cultural Council. Kerouac was a "beat" French Catholic, and this music echoed that. It mixed together jazz, Frere Jacque and mixed meter of 7/8, 7/4 and 7/2 (the seven sacraments)—all into a challenging composition for the band. Bill had no trouble conducting this tricky mixed meter. And the band had no trouble following Bill—listening, listening, listening to each other. At one point, Kerouac's life floated along a river of bubbles, created when the upper-wind players noodled along, each at their own tempo. I enjoyed the ethereal percussion, flute and oboe, the jazzy brass, and the tympani flourish at the end. One particular highlight: Judy Piermarini wailed on a tenor-sax solo (brava, Judy).

Monday, October 1, 2007

Meet the Clarinet Section

The clarinet family:
Contrabass (BB♭), Bass (B♭), Alto (E♭), B♭, E♭

The Instruments

The origins of the modern clarinet, according to the Instrument Encyclopedia, can be traced back to the 14th century. By the late 17th century, this single-reed instrument was an established component of ensembles of many kinds. The clarinet reed, like that of the saxophone, is referred to as a "beating" reed that vibrates against the instrument's mouthpiece, as is distinguished from the double or "free" reed employed on the oboe and bassoon.

The clarinet continued to evolve until the late 1840s, when it was revolutionized through the application of a fingering system that had originally been developed by Theobald Boehm for the modern flute. The Boehm system made the clarinet easier to play, improved its tone quality and expanded the range of each member of the clarinet family (see graphic). Today's set of clarinets, as used in symphonic wind ensembles such as the Concord Band, consists of the five instruments shown, and a few others (e.g., instruments in A and C), more commonly called for in orchestral music, the ranges of which extend above and below that of the most common B♭ clarinet. Before the introduction of the Boehm system, frequent changing of instruments was often a necessity during the course of performing a single piece.

Of the five instruments shown in the graphic at the right, the upper (smaller) four are used in virtually every piece the Concord Band plays. The Band owns a contrabass instrument for those situations in which it is required. The B♭ instrument is without doubt the workhorse of the family. The Band's instrumentation usually consists of one E♭, one alto, two or three basses and as many as 15 B♭ clarinets. Clearly the clarinet section is the most populous in the Concord Band, representing nearly one third of our players.

The success of the clarinet as an instrument is attributable to several factors: the ability of its sound to blend well with that of every other instrument and its flexibility and comfortable fit with every kind of music from folk and jazz to concert music that ranges in time from the pre-Baroque to the most arcane of contemporary works.
The Concord Band clarinet section, gathered at a rehearsal for one of the Band's concerts during the summer of 2007. Left to right, front row: David Purinton, Yvonne Dailey, Claire Napoleon, Karen Whitehead, Adena Schutzberg, Len Schatz and Bob Tyler. Second row: Paul DeWolfe, Paul Silver, Judy Piermarini, Charlie Learoyd, Jeff Leiserson and Elliot Finkelstein. Not present for photo: Lorraine Chase, Gina DePaoli, Anne Kandra, Alvin Lipsky, Linda Menkis, Louis Sinoff and Ann Wirtanen.

Lifetime Service Award to be Given Posthumously to Barbara Cataldo

Barbara Cataldo
In 2002, the Concord Band Board of Trustees introduced the Lifetime Service Award to honor individuals whose participation, over a significant span of time, has made a fundamental difference to the Concord Band.  On October 27, 2007, the Concord Band Lifetime Service Award will be given posthumously to Barbara Cataldo.

Her Award plaque, the first the Band will have given to honor a woman, will read as follows:
Until her death in a December, 1996, auto accident, Barbara Cataldo served the Concord Band for over 32 years. With terms as secretary and principal flutist during the Band's celebratory US Bicentennial events, she played in the 1964 Sixth Winter Concert and every concert through October 26, 1996. Band was a family affair—Barbara's husband, oboist Ralph, as Band secretary, signed the Band's Declaration of Trust in 1968. The Band dedicated its first CD, A Winter Festival, to Barbara and Ralph. From appearances at Emerson Jr. High School, the Buttrick Mansion at Minuteman National Park, Lake Kiamesha, NY, and the Concord Library lawn to 51 Walden, Faneuil Hall and Fruitlands Museum, Barbara described her time in the Band as a "long, happy, fantastic, musical trip." Indeed, she helped make it so.
An Honor Roll is displayed prominently in the 51 Walden lobby.

Past Award recipients have been Bill Burdine and William Toland (2002), CarlGetz and Robert Turkington (2003), GeneParish and William R. Phelan (2004), EdRichter and Bill Siebert (2005), and Jerry Welts (2006).

Monday, March 5, 2007

Review: Concord Band Winter Concert

Review by Richard Chick

Winter 2007 Poster
Saturday, March 3, at 51 Walden Street, the Concord Band performed their Winter Concert. The program consisted almost entirely of contemporary concert band music. If you are one who attends concerts of contemporary works with some trepidation and brings to mind an evening filled with confusing, discordant, and otherwise unpleasant cacophony — it is definitely the wrong mental image. In fact the program was filled with delightful accessible works, which, although you would likely never have heard them, would have left you wanting to hear them again.

The program started with three distinctly different pieces by Clifton Williams. The first, Strategic Air Command, was written for that branch of the USAF. This is a rousing concert opener with clashing cymbals, bass drum "sonic booms" and a lovely chorale section in the lower brass complimented by the contrasting high piccolo trills musically played by Laura Finkelstein. The appropriately stirring work was performed with conviction under the direction of the band's Assistant Conductor, Paul Berler. Generally accurate playing throughout the ensemble and attentiveness to the conductor's cues and dynamics resulted in a satisfying performance.