Monday, March 10, 2014

Concord Band Soars in “Flights of Fancy”

On March 8th at 8 PM the Concord Band presented their Winter Concert, dubbed “Flights of Fancy,” to resounding appreciation by the audience.  Music Director Jim O’Dell and the trumpet soloist, Lewis Buckley, along with all of the band members have robbed me of the opportunity to criticize any aspects of this event, because this was as close to a flawless performance as I have ever witnessed.  The band played as a tight ensemble with impeccable intonation and magnificent dynamic control.  It was truly a delightful experience!  I am going to note these selections out of order, focusing on the aesthetic impact rather than the chronological.

Beyond the Horizon by Rossano Galante is a lush representation of the earth’s far-away bounds, and it features soaring melodic lines and majestically blended brass.  People who live in Glass Houses by John Philip Sousa, with movements titled The Champaignes, The Rhine Wines, The Whiskies and The Convention of the Cordials may seem to be a bit of an odd inclusion in a program about flight, but as Jim O’Dell pointed out in his opening comments, “You can get selections, called “flights”, of beers in a tavern, and these individuals are all capable of getting us a little high”!  The movements also take the listener to various countries around the world, on a potable voyage of the senses.  The band performed this whimsical number with facility and great good humor, a very satisfying piece indeed.

Aerial Fantasy by Michael Mogensen is filled with rich imagery, from roaring takeoff to aerial acrobatics.  Solo passages by Louanne Mackenzie on oboe and David Purinton on Clarinet were sweet and moving.  Wings Across America by Roger Cichy is a spirited piece with sudden changes in style, rhythm and mood.  The band played this elegant piece, which contains a tremendous variation of the U.S. Air Force song “Off We Go into the Wild Blue Yonder,” with grace and style.

Apollo by John Pennington, was penned in 1968, during the time of the Apollo space exploration missions.  This aleatoric piece depends on the musicians creating their own musical interpretation at timed intervals.  It is un-scored but for the time markings, dynamic suggestions and a flute solo.  The band created a marvelous vision of takeoff and flight, as seen from the Apollo capsule, and created a very stirring rendition of what it might be like to soar beyond the stratosphere.

Lewis Buckley is both a talented composer and a virtuoso of the trumpet, although you will not hear this from his own lips.  He is a delightful, self-effacing gentleman who brings style and virtuosity to The Yellow Rose of Texas Variations a piece he penned from the traditional melody, and Tribute to Doc (formerly “Bell-Flight”), in honor of trumpeter Doc Severinsen.  These pieces were originally written for soloists in the Coast Guard Band, but Buckley brought them to life with his own inimitable style on Saturday night.  His performance was clean and precise, and he cautioned the front row of the audience that they might be sorry they sat there.  At the end of Tribute he apologized to the woman in front of him.  I found this very amusing, but he did hit notes that were “out of this world.”  Bravo, Lew!  Fantastic job!!

One final note on this program, and I feel it needs to stand alone.  Dusk by Steven Bryant is a thinly-scored piece (instrumentals are exposed and must be spot-on accurate in intonation and style) which is evocative of the end of the day, the colors and sounds of impending night.  From the meditative horn solo at the beginning to the final burst of glorious sunlight just before the day slips away, this magnificent performance brought me to tears, and I was not alone in this.  This was the best performance of Dusk that I have heard to date, and I have heard many.  Bravo to the band!  Bravo to Lew Buckley!  And, Bravo to Jim O’Dell, who has brought this band so far!  Magnificent!

Vanessa René, formerly a member of the Band, began playing oboe at age 13. She has been principal oboe of the Chelmsford Community Band since 1978 and has performed with the Yankee Winds, the Wellesley Symphony Orchestra, the Quincy Symphony, the Laite Concert Winds, and the Bedford Chorale. Vanessa has also played in pit orchestras for several Exit Stage Right Company productions. Vanessa lives in Lowell with her husband Larry and their children.

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