Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Legacy of William M. Toland

William M. Toland
Here is the full text of a feature article, written by band member Ken Troup, on William M. Toland, Music Director Laureate of the Concord Band, submitted for the fall 2012 edition of Mass Music News, published by the Massachusetts Music Educators Association (MMEA).

If you are a band director, there’s a good chance that you have performed Satiric Dances by Norman Dello Joio. The three-movement band piece was commissioned in 1975 for the bi-centennial of the battles of Lexington and Concord by William M. Toland and the Concord Band. The piece is most associated with Toland as it was the first in a long line of works for band that he and his successors commissioned.

Bill Toland, 80, died on January 25, 2012. He was Music Director of the Concord and from 1962 to 1995, and also had a distinguished career as band director and assistant director of music at Bedford High School from 1957 through 1984. For his work in Bedford, he received the DeMolay Award for Exemplary Teaching and the Lowell Mason Award for Outstanding Leadership in Music Education from the Massachusetts Music Educators Association. Active in the MMEA Northeast District, Toland hosted the Northeast District Music Festival in 1961 with the Bedford football field literally filled with uniformed band players from the various marching bands. He was Northeast band manager frequently and in later years conducted District bands.

The Concord Band will pay tribute to Bill Toland and his contributions to band music with a special concert of Saturday October 27, 2012 at 8:00 pm at the Bedford High School Auditorium. The concert will afford an opportunity for current and former band members of the Concord Band and Bedford High School Band, audience members and friends from the Concord-Bedford area, and former music education colleague to honor him and hear some of the music most associated with Bill Toland.

Toland took the reins of the Concord Band as its first Music Director when the band was primarily a marching unit for the Patriots’ Day parade. Under his guidance, the band became a concert ensemble and grew in its proficiency and the breadth of music it played. In addition to establishing the tradition of commissioning new works, Toland started a summer series of concerts at the North Bridge Visitors’ Center in Concord. When the band finally outgrew the venue, Bill was instrumental in finding a new home at the Fruitlands Museums in Harvard, Mass where the band has just completed its 27th season. 

As part of his composing and arranging pieces for the band, Toland wrote a new fanfare each year to play as an opening for each Fruitlands’ concert. He also composed several pieces that the band has performed, including Concord 350 March that he wrote in 1985 as a 350th birthday gift for the town of Concord; the band’s favorite Pennyghael, Reflections of Scotland that Toland wrote in 1987 after returning from a trip to Scotland that had been given to him by the band in honor of his 25th year as Music Director; the three-movement Suite for Woodwinds that he wrote for local wind soloist Silvestro D’Urbano who premiered the work with the band in 1990; Go Down, Moses that was arranged in 1993 for contralto Vanessa Yvonne, and two additional pieces he wrote for his final concert in 1995 Short Fanfare for a Happy Occasion and Solstice, the latter again featured Ms. Yvonne. In recognition of his contributions to the Concord Band and concert band literature, Bill Toland received a Citation of Excellence from the National Band Associations, as well as awards from the Association of Concert Bands and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

At the time of his retirement from the Concord Band, Bill Toland told the Concord Journal that “the most significant thing we’ve done in all this time is commissioning new works.” Indeed, since 1967 the Band has either commissioned or has had written for it more than 70 new works for symphonic wind ensemble—possibly more than any other community band in the world. 

In addition to Satiric Dances, at least two other Concord Band commissions have become staples in the band literature including James Curnow’s Five Concord Diversions for brass quintet and band, commissioned by Toland and the band for his 25th anniversary as Music Director, and Overture to a Winter Festival commissioned in honor of Toland at the time of his retirement. Among the many noteworthy commissions was a surprise gift to Bill Toland at his 25th anniversary, Peter Hazzard’s Toland’s March. One of Toland’s most innovative ventures was a concert to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Concord Band, in which all of the pieces played were new commissions (or in one case his own transcription of an existing work) written especially for that concert.

In addition to being an excellent conductor, Bill Toland was a professional percussionist. In 1978, he performed the Milhaud Concerto for Percussion with the Concord Band—with a recently-broken arm. Toland had been injured by pyrotechnics during rehearsal of his Bedford High School musical earlier in the week of the concert, but was still able to conduct the concert and play the Concerto. The Concord Band was fortunate to enlist Bill’s services in the percussion section when guest conductors such as Frederick Fennell and James Curnow took the podium.

William Toland received a Bachelor of Music degree from Boston University in 1953, a Master of Music from BU in 1960, and a Master of Music Education from the University of Massachusetts Lowell. After his retirement from the Concord Band, he lived in Michigan and Maine and experimented with electronic music and made occasional guest conducting appearances, most recently at the Concord Band’s 50 th Anniversary concert.

More information on the October 27 William Toland tribute concert will be forthcoming in the news media and at the Concord Band’s website