Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Holiday Pops with the Concord Band

Featuring Guest Artist John Ferrillo
Principal Oboe with the BSO

December 11 & 12, 2015
Review by Vanessa Rene

The Concord Band has proven once again that music makes the holidays brighter with their annual Holiday Pops program this past weekend. Normally, we don’t write reviews of Pops programs because, after all, they’re Pops programs, right?  This one was completely different, though, through the addition of solo performances by John Ferrillo, Principal Oboist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.  His inspired performances left the audience transfixed, including this reviewer and several of her friends in the audience who are, after all, students of the oboe as well.

The Concord Band is a gem, and the Greater Boston community is very fortunate to have this group as a cornerstone of the community.  They performed several well-known favorites, such as Overture to a Winter Festival by James Curnow (commissioned by the Concord Band in 1995), Chanukah is Here by Calvin Custer, Swingin’ Santa, arranged by William McManus and Auld Lang Syne, a stirring and emotional arrangement of the traditional theme by the late William Toland, founding director of the Concord Band and long-time educator in the Bedford School System.  These winter favorites were played cleanly and crisply, as is to be expected of this high-caliber performing group.

The Band also performed some pieces that were featured in their Autumn Concert:   Old Churches, by Michael Colgrass, Carmina Burana, mvts. 12 and 13, by Carl Orff (band arrangement by J. Krance), and Incantation and Dance, by John Barnes Chance—all intense and compelling pieces.

A new piece, Minor Alterations by David Lovrien, consists of many old favorite Christmas melodies set in a minor mode.  Conducted by Assistant Director Steve Barbas, it is a bit like “Mary Poppins” meets “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” and was thoroughly delightful.

Photo: Marco Borggreve
John Ferrillo, oboe
Boston Symphony Orchestra Principal Oboe
The real gem of the night, however, was the solo work of John Ferrillo.  Mr. Ferrillo began his musical career in the Bedford Schools as a student of William Toland, who showed him that the sky was the limit.  He is an accomplished and prolific performer, with tremendous technical facility on one of the more cantankerous instruments in the orchestra.  He has a luxurious and brilliant tonal quality, and his performance is inspired and mesmerizing.

Autumn Soliloquy by James Barnes is a plaintive and haunting melody, performed masterfully by Mr. Ferrillo.  The Variations on a Theme of Glinka by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov has bright, flashing moments of color and virtuosity, coupled with the adventurous melodies characteristic of Mikhail Glinka.  Gabriel’s Oboe by Ennio Morricone, a theme from the movie “The Mission” (1986), is exquisite in its simplicity, grace and soaring melodic line.

These pieces were performed to perfection by Mr. Ferrillo, who is not only the consummate performer, but a wonderfully down-to-earth and delightful individual who arrived in his Celtics jacket with a smile on his face and the warmest words for the Band and Music Director James O’Dell.  It was my pleasure and delight to speak with him about the ins and outs of the instrument, and I have nothing but the highest admiration for this man who has devoted his life to the enrichment and entertainment of his followers.  This concert was a dream-come-true, and from the response of the rest of the audience, the sentiment was shared across the board.

Bravo once again, Concord Band, for an excellent evening of entertainment!

Vanessa Rene has been an oboist for most of her life, and was a member of the Concord Band from 1989 until 2008.  She lives in Lowell MA with her husband, Larry and her dog, Bob.  When she is not working, she plays the oboe with the Chelmsford Community Band and sings with the Carlisle Community Chorus.

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