Thursday, October 27, 2011

Review: Fall Concert "Centennials"

Last Saturday night (Oct. 22) the Concord Band performed the first concert of its 2011/2012 season. The band has now developed a strong following, especially for their winter pops concerts and their very popular summer concerts at the Fruitlands Museum in Harvard. For those who haven’t heard the band in concert at the 51 Walden Street Performing Arts Center, I would strongly encourage you to check out their calendar and pick up some tickets. Concert band performances are very enjoyable by listeners of all ages and musical interests. Even the more serious pieces of contemporary band music tend to be accessible to the casual listener. Band works tend to be shorter than orchestral music, and generally very rhythmic and exciting. Saturday night’s performance was no exception.

The concert opened with “American Overture for Band” by Joseph Jenkins under the baton of James O’Dell. This stirring piece opened with a solid and dramatic fanfare very well played by the French horns. The piece continued with a pleasing melodic interchange punctuated with staccato elements cleanly articulated, especially in the brass sections. Louanne MacKenzie’s oboe “folk tune” solo was especially nice.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

2011 Fall Concert


Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Concord Band

James O’Dell, Music Director
Steven Barbas, Assistant Conductor
Keith Brion, Guest Conductor


James O’Dell conducting
American Overture for BandJoseph Willcox Jenkins (b. 1928)
Hymn to YerevanAlan Hovhaness (1911-2000)
Second Suite for Military Band in FMajor Gustav Holst (1874-1934)
  1. March
  2. Song Without Words “I’ll Love My Love”
  3. Song of the Blacksmith
  4. Fantasia on the “Dargason”
ContinuumRobert Buckley (b. 1946)


Keith Brion conducting
Dwellers of the Western WorldJohn Philip Sousa (1854-1932)
  1. The Red Man
  2. The White Man
  3. The Black Man
The Boy Scouts of AmericaJohn Philip Sousa (1854-1932)
James O’Dell conducting
The GuideNoah D. Taylor (b.1982)
Keith Brion conducting
The National GameJohn Philip Sousa (1854-1932)

Read all notes for this program...

American Overture for Band

Joseph W. Jenkins (b. 1928)

This overture was written for the U.S. Army Field Band and dedicated to its conductor at the time, Chester E. Whiting. The piece is written in neo-modal style being strongly flavored with both Lydian and Mixolydian modes. Its architecture is a free adaptation of sonata form. The music material borders on the folk tune idiom, although there are no direct quotes from any folk tunes (Source: Band Music Notes, Norman Smith and Albert Stoutamire).

One of the most popular works of American composer Jenkins, the Overture is known for the virtuoso playing required of the French horn players. (Source: JRO)

Hymn to Yerevan

Alan Hovhaness (1911–2000)

Born in Somerville, Mass., Alan Hovhaness graduated from Arlington High School and The New England Conservatory, and taught at The Boston Conservatory. His compositional output spans hundreds of compositions for all ensembles and instruments (Source: JRO).

The ancient city of Yerevan, at the foot of majestic, towering Mount Ararat, is the home of Armenians who found refuge there from many massacres. The music, composed in the ancient fifth mode (“kimtza”) of the Armenian Church, is in Sharagan or Armenian Hymn style. A solemn contrapuntal motet expresses sorrow, strength and spiritual resurrection. A middle section, in free rhythmless chaos of bells and roaring trombones, celebrates a dauntless defiance of tragedy. The solemn contrapuntal hymn returns, heroic and triumphal. (Source: Alan Hovhaness)

Second Suite in F Major

Gustav Holst (1874–1934)

The Second Suite in F was written in 1911 and is considered one of the cornerstones of the concert band literature. Composed for “Military Band” (which is the English designation for full band instrumentation as opposed to a British Brass Band), the four-movement suite presents a variety of English folk songs and other dance tunes. The first movement begins with a “Morris Dance” with roots from the Renaissance, followed by the folk song “Swansea Town,” and then “Claudy Banks”. The second movement is a slow, lyrical love song “I’ll Love my Love.” The third movement, “The Song of the Blacksmith,” is a clever rhythmic display that includes the blacksmith’s punctuating anvil, and the fourth movement is a country dance and folk song titled “The Dargason.” (Source: JRO)


Robert Buckley (b. 1946)

This exciting, innovative new work from Robert Buckley was commissioned by the Troy University Symphony Band in honor of the 37th annual Southeastern United States Concert Band Clinic in Alabama 2011. Using a recurring two-measure loop, this uniquely constructed piece is built up around various musical building blocks that are constantly evolving and transforming. The music is dramatic and dynamic, with full-blown ensemble passages suddenly dropping to quiet, powerful moments without ever losing the music’s continuous drive. Following an exotic, bluesy middle section, the piece builds, accelerating to a thrilling, rhythmic, percussive finish. (Source: published score)

Dwellers of the Western World

John Philip Sousa (1854–1932)

This three-movement suite depicts the three major races who occupied the Western World: first, American Indians; then, white settlers from Western Europe; and finally, the great energy of the African population who followed. Each are represented by music that would have been thought to be characteristic in 1910. "The White Man" music depicts the settling and building of America. It is crowned with a grand symphonic setting of Sousa's religious anthem “Oh thou American, Messiah of Nations.” The suite was composed in anticipation of Sousa's celebrated year-long 1911 round-the-world tour, and was well received in each country where the band visited. (Source: Keith Brion)

The Boy Scouts of America

John Philip Sousa (1854–1932)

This march, written in 1916, is a lighthearted, upbeat depiction of scouting, even including a whistling section. Sousa said the march “absolutely breathes the boy; it visualizes the supple step of the boy marching, and not the heavy tread of the man.” The Boy Scouts of America celebrated their 100th year anniversary this past year. (Source: Keith Brion)

The Guide

Noah Taylor (b.1982)

The Guide was written as a commission for the Metropolitan Wind Symphony after Taylor was named winner of the 2005 North American Student Composer Competition held by the group. The Guide was premiered in May of 2007 by the Metropolitan Wind Symphony at the National Heritage Museum in Lexington, Massachusetts. The work is dedicated to the idea of those individuals that provide direction and leadership to others. (Source: published score)

The National Game

John Philip Sousa (1854–1932)

Composed at the request of Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, major league baseball’s first high commissioner, Sousa’s setting featured four baseball bat solos and is a great musical tribute to “America's Pastime” (Source: Keith Brion). A true gem, The National Game captures all of the excitement of being at the ball park with the “boys of summer”. (Source: JRO)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Guest Conductor Spotlight: Keith Brion

Keith Brion
Guest Conductor
Keith Brion has led his popular Sousa at the Symphony performances with nearly all of America's major and regional orchestras and in countless repeat performances. In addition, he has led numerous general pops programs. He also tours nationally with his own New Sousa Band. The authentic Sousa programs are a fulfillment of his longstanding ambition to take a fresh look at America's musical traditions. These modern recreations have proved to be as alive today as they were over a century ago. Building on Sousa’s own considerable background as a violinist and orchestral composer, they are the result of research in libraries, newspapers, museums, interviews with former Sousa band members, and the study of old recordings. He is a past pops conductor of the Harrisburg Symphony and of Palo Alto’s Summer Symphony series. He has made numerous recordings. Mr. Brion is a former director of the Yale University Band, which he led at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Review: Winter Concert "New and Blue"

On March 5, 2011 I had the pleasure of attending the Concord Band Winter Concert, “New and Blue.” The Concord Band played a variety of lush and dramatic music, loosely tied together with a “blue” theme, under the direction of James O’Dell and Steven Barbas. The sound was polished and the audience seemed riveted with the selections, from the blue notes in “Three Jazz Moods” and Porgy and Bess to the Blue Seas in Vaughan Williams’ “Sea Songs.”

Fruitlands Overture premiered last summer for the 25th anniversary of the Band’s summer performances at Fruitlands Museums, and it opened this program. Composer Bill McManus was Music Director of the Concord Band for fifteen of those years. In his spirited overture, he pays homage to the diversity of music performed there. He includes a samba rhythm, a swing section, jazz harmonies and blue notes, as well as trumpet and saxophone solos, often featured with the band. The tempo at the end of the overture accelerates, and anyone who has been to a Fruitlands concert can tell you why: the mosquitoes! As the sun goes down, there is a mad dash to grab your instrument or picnic blanket, and retreat to your car’s safety!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Assistant Conductor Steven Barbas

Steven Barbas
Assistant Conductor
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 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 has conducted and played in countless pit orchestras and has appeared onstage in several community theatre productions. He has served as a cantor in several parishes in the Boston area and has written and arranged a number of compositions for liturgical use. Mr. Barbas has been a member of the Concord Band since 2004, and is very excited to be working with the Band as Assistant Conductor.

2011 Winter Concert

New and Blue

Saturday, March 5, 2011 

The Concord Band 

James O’Dell, Music Director 
Steven Barbas, Assistant Conductor


Steven Barbas conducting
Fruitlands OvertureDr. William G. McManus
James O’Dell Conducting
Selections from Porgy and BessGeorge Gershwin; arr. Bennett
Twilight of the GodsAndrew Boysen, Jr.
Massachusetts première, commissioned by a consortium
organized by the Western and Northwestern Divisions of
the College Band Directors National Association, including the Concord Band


Firework!Jan Van der Roost
Sea SongsRalph Vaughan Williams
Three Jazz MoodsJohn Lewis; arr. Phillips
ColoursRoger Cichy
  1. Amber
  2. Dark Jade
  3. Blue Sapphire
  4. Mauve
  5. Dark Ivy

Read all notes for this program...

Selections from Porgy and Bess

George Gershwin’s folk opera Porgy and Bess was first performed by the Theater Guild in Boston and New York in 1935 and its revival in 1942 enjoyed the longest run of any revival in Broadway musical history at that time. Selections from Porgy and Bess for Concert Band was arranged by master musical theater arranger and American composer Robert Russell Bennett. Bennett is credited with creating the “Broadway sound” recognized throughout the world, orchestrating over 200 Broadway shows spanning three decades. (Source: JRO)

Fruitlands Overture

Fruitlands Overture by Dr. William G. McManus (Concord Band Music Director Emeritus) was written for the Concord Band in celebration of its 25th anniversary season of summer concerts at Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, Massachusetts. Opening with an exciting fanfare and including a variety of different styles from symphonic band music to jazz, this lively mixed-meter overture captures the festive outdoor flavor of the Concord Band’s long-standing summer series at the Museum. The repeating descending ostinato in the slow middle section depicts the setting sun which occurs during each Fruitlands concert. The overture was premiered on June 30, 2010, at the Silver Anniversary concert at Fruitlands, with Dr. McManus conducting. (Source: JRO)

Twilight of the Gods

Twilight of the Gods is a programmatic work depicting the story of Ragnarok from Scandinavian mythology. The 2010 commission consortium, with 26 university and community bands, was organized by the Western and Northwestern divisions of the College Band Directors National Association. University of New Hampshire professor and composer Andrew Boysen Jr. created this exciting and dynamic piece for symphonic band. The story starts with a relentless winter leading to a series of civil wars across the earth, and concluding with a great battle between the gods and their adversaries, resulting in their deaths and the destruction of the earth. The earth then rises once more, new gods take control of the heavens, and the human race is born again through two survivors. (Source: JRO)


Jan Van der Roost is internationally known as a seasoned, prolific Dutch composer of contemporary concert band works. His vast compositional output encompasses a wide variety of musical genres and styles. This short and exciting fanfare reflects the power and virtuosity of the modern concert band. Opening with woodwind and brass sections alternating introductory material, the work quickly launches into a short, joyful theme and resulting harmonic conversations. The beautiful bass drum punctuates the ending of this work. (Source: JRO)

Sea Songs

Sea Songs is one of the simpler works by Ralph Vaughan Williams, and was written for British military band in 1924. The composer loved the folk song heritage of his native land. He also knew the English sailing songs and he used three in Sea Songs: “Princess Royal,” “Admiral Benbow,” and “Portsmouth.” The form is ABCA, and the scoring is direct. (Source: Band Music Notes, Norman Smith and Albert Stoutamire)


Colours by Roger Cichy was commissioned by the Kansas State University Bands, written in 1997, and premiered on May 10 of that year, with the composer conducting at KSU. Each of the six movements (Amber, Dark Jade, Blue Sapphire, Mauve, Dark Ivy, and Burgundy Red) go beyond the color itself, deeply delving into the symbolic meaning and “musical” pigment of each color. Each movement creates an impression of the color itself. Several movements employ jazz style, inflection, and harmony. Roger Cichy was guest conductor and commissioned composer for the 50th anniversary Concord Band celebration in 2009, conducting his outstanding commission Flowing Pens from Concord. (Source: JRO)

Three Jazz Moods

Three Jazz Moods is based on Three Little Feelings by Modern Jazz Quartet music director and pianist John Lewis. Notable composer and conductor Gunther Schuller served as president of the New England Conservatory of Music from 1967-1977, and in the late 1950’s coined the term “Third Stream Music” to describe the fusion or synthesis of classical and jazz music. This work reflects the colors, sonorities, and feel of the music of composer/pianist Gil Evans and his musical collaborations with Miles Davis and “Birth of the Cool” sessions in the mid 1950’s. (Source: JRO)