MUSIC REVIEW: CONCERT AND SYMPHONIC BANDS
Concert offers stomping march usually reserved for outdoor enjoyment
November 15, 2012
Maestros Jeffrey Gershman and Eric Smedley each included a bonus rare for the indoor season of their Indiana University Concert and Symphonic Bands: a good old, plain old, tempt-your-feet-to-stomp march, this on their shared Tuesday night program in the Musical Arts Center.
Amidst the more serious compositions performed were a couple of pieces usually reserved for summer outdoor enjoyment. They were a delight to hear, the delight added to by the snappy and classy way they were played.
The Concert Band, which took the stage for the first half of the evening, turned to “The Purple Pageant” by Karl King, whose “Viking March” is so popular here, featuring as it does IU’s stand-up anthem of allegiance. “The Purple Pageant” honors Northwestern University and, more particularly, its long-time director of bands, Glenn Bainum, whose band maneuvers this writer enjoyed often during student and faculty years at that institution. Gershman and the Symphonic Band chose John Philip Sousa’s “Easter Monday on the White House Lawn,” a not-so-well-known item that, nevertheless, has all the typical ears-tempting Sousa touches.
There was, of course, more to appreciate.
Smedley led his ensemble in Alfred Reed’s “Russian Christmas Music,” a 1944 journey through melodies and developments suggestive of Russian choral traditions, music somber, sonorous, and appropriately performed that way, and then the 2006 Ron Nelson composition, “Autumn Rune: Pastorale,” a work mysterious in essence and meant to reflect the nature of epic poetry told by the Finns of long ago; Smedley built that composition’s climaxes sumptuously. Master’s Degree in Wind Conducting candidate Trae Blanco directed the Concert Band skillfully in a dazzling exercise called “New Century Dawn,” written in 1999 by David Gillingham to mark the start of a new millenium. The music did sound like dawn breaking and sunlight emerging and hope springing forth. Gershman and the Symphonic Band added a flavorful variety of pieces, including two items requiring smaller numbers. For Joseph Schwantner’s 1996 “In evening’s stillness,” the stage was reconfigured to seat a chamber group of woodwind players on one side, an equal-sized brass group on the other, with a Steinway between. Benjamin Watkins sat at and conquered the Steinway along with a goodly portion of the score, which portrayed the commanding yet calming silences and winds of nature.
David Maslanka’s “Coming Home,” part of a 2005 concerto for clarinet and wind ensemble called “Desert Roads,” gave soloist Lilly Haley a wealth of opportunities to show what she can do, which seemed to be quite a lot. Haley and her colleagues, guided by Gershman, treated the lovely, song-like music with tender care.
Another master’s-in-conducting candidate, Paul DeCinque, selected Aaron Copland’s “Variations on a Shaker Melody” for his moments with the Symphonic Band. He did not waste them. The noble reading of that sweet and simple tune, as arranged and transfigured by the variations, was the obvious result of thoughtful preparation. Gershman took to the podium to end the concert spiritedly with William Schuman’s expansive adaptation of the William Billings anthem from American revolutionary time, “Chester.”
Copyright: HeraldTimesOnline.com 2012