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Press Release

For Immediate Release

The Concord Band's 50th Anniversary Concert - A Review

by Richard and Kathy Chick

The Concord Band's 50th Anniversary Concert, performed on March 14th, was truly a unique and outstanding community event. The spirit of the ensemble and its continuing tradition over the past half century of presenting enjoyable works for wind ensemble, well performed by local musicians, was very effectively summarized in a single evening. Not often do you have the opportunity to hear an ensemble under four different batons in the same concert, but the Band chose this occasion to use all of its past and present music directors to provide a brief glimpse of its past. They symbolically continued into the future by having composer Roger Cichy conduct his own work commissioned for this occasion.

Normally the Concord Band performs at 51 Walden in Concord, but for this 50th anniversary event the Band needed to find a larger concert hall. It was fortunate that they did so because the Acton-Boxborough Regional High School auditorium was filled nearly to capacity. The stage at ABRHS is much wider than what the band normally uses so the entire lower brass section was visible to the audience and presented a sparkling array of shining brass. The side view of the trombone section was particularly impressive when their slides moved in unison.

A concert with a widely varied program of musical styles, multiple conductors, soloists, and a commissioned piece was expected due to the excellent publicity of this event. However, an added treat was the presentation of some distinguished awards: William Toland, who conducted the band for more than 30 years, was named the first Music Director Laureat of the Concord Band. Dr. William McManus, who is retiring after 14 years of conducting the band, was awarded Music Director Emeritus of the Concord Band. On behalf of the Band, Charles Learoyd, the Band's president, also presented McManus with an envelope "to help finance his next trip to Italy." The Band has been most fortunate to have these two outstanding conductors and educators leading and encouraging them for the past 50 years. Bill McManus told the audience in all sincerity, "This is the best collection of people I've ever worked with. It's been an honor and a joy." Andrew Nichols was recognized for his 46 years as a Concord Band member and the Lifetime Service Award was bestowed on Dan Diamond, who has played with the band since 1970 and has been the driving force behind many of the band's inner workings (including instituting the Lifetime Service Awards!)

The concert began with Henry Filmore's His Honor under the baton of Bill Toland. This spirited march, composed by the most prolific band composer of the 19th century was an excellent way to start the evening's journey. When this piece was composed, symphonic bands were one of the most popular forms of musical entertainment. The Concord Band's performance under Toland was crisp and snappy throughout with nice attention to dynamics. The clarinets in particular had a lot of notes which they negotiated very cleanly. The ensemble's intonation was solid and at times the five euphoniums sounded like one big instrument. The euphonium is a small version of a tuba and derives its name from euphonos meaning "having a pleasing sound."

The second piece on the program, Satiric Dances for a Comedy by Aristophanes by Norman Dello Joio, was the first of the Band's many commissioned works. Dello Joio, a 1957 Pulitzer Prize winner, might be the most prestigious composer who has written for the band, and this piece has become a staple of concert band repertoire and is performed throughout the world. This piece, also conducted by Toland, presented the Band with a significantly greater challenge. It is something that you may not hear every day but it has become a standard in the wind ensemble literature for good reason. The piece starts with an allegro pesante containing a number of exposed entrances and an abrupt tempo change near the end. After a somewhat tentative start, the band settled in and interchanges between sections were well executed. The following adagio mesto was also generally well executed. Intonation, which can be a problem for amateur musicians in slow movements, was quite good. The final allegro spumante was particularly impressive - very well executed with sparkling percussion work and bubbling woodwinds. The audience was very appreciative and enthusiastic in their applause.

Retiring music director William McManus took the baton for the next section to conduct Alfred Reed's Armenian Dances, which was on the first program he conducted with the band. Gerald Kriedberg, saxophone, built the tension with a solo in the first movement, followed by David Southard's admirable saxophone solo in the second movement with the transparency of texture between the saxophone and the solo oboe (Louanne MacKenzie) in a slow dance written in 5/4. The saxophones shined again in the third movement that began with a lush chorale played by the full ensemble. The selection closed with a bouncy, happy dance and plenty of participation from the percussion section.

Vocalist Amanda Carr, the Concord Band's first Honorary Member of the Band, was introduced by Dr. McManus as "the real deal." Amanda is one of the best jazz singers performing these days and every bit as good as the best from the big band era. Amanda always adds sex appeal and a fresh, clear jazz style as well as her own sound to her performances. The first tune, Maybe, was written in the Bossa Nova style by Amanda and arranged for band accompaniment by McManus. Amanda then did her rendition of the Irving Berlin tune Cheek to Cheek from the 1935 movie Top Hat arranged for band accompaniment by Jerry Seeco. As always, her performance was spontaneous, energetic, in the character of the tune's story line, and above all, very very musical. The band, with the aid of appropriately thinly scored arrangements, did a good job of providing a tasteful accompaniment.

Next on the program was Dixieland Live!, an arrangement of dixieland tunes for dixieland band with concert band accompaniment arranged by Lewis Buckley, with the Band's dixieland ensemble including Buckley himself on trumpet, Mark Petersen (tuba), Andy Nichols (trombone), David Purinton (clarinet) and Neil Tischler (drums). Lewis wowed the audience with his improvised solos and his growling trumpet solo in St. James Infirmary. Mark Petersen's "Hold That Tiger" was very effective as he hugged that tuba and worked the audience. Playing dixieland music from printed charts is often problematic because of difficulties in maintaining the necessary exuberance while trying to faithfully reproduce the printed notes. The solo combo managed to pull this off quite well although Buckley, who was playing without music, did stand out as being more relaxed and "on top of the beat."

James O'Dell made his second appearance on stage (his first being a percussion section member in the Armenian Dances) and was enthusiastically received with his introduction as the new Music Director with the Concord Band. O'Dell chose to conduct Malcolm Arnold's Four Scottish Dances composed in 1957 and a Concord Band favorite. The piece is an audience pleaser - full of fun tunes and stamping rhythms. The first movement, Pesante, is in the unusual time signature of 5/4 and is a slow dance. The brass players effectively performed some heroics and provided a bagpipe effect with a characteristic drone. The second movement, Vivace, begins gently with some nice woodwind duets and a bassoon solo played with authority by Nathaniel Hefferman suggesting a drunk making his way along the street. The clarinet hornpipe was beautifully played by David Purinton. O'Dell had requested a harpist (Lisa Duke) be available for the lush third movement, Allegretto, a reflection on the landscape of Scotland. This movement was quoted by one sound recording reviewer as "one of the finest tunes that Malcolm Arnold has composed." The band did justice to this dream movement that is beautiful in it simplicity and showcased a brooding oboe solo by Louann MacKenzie. The closing Con Brio movement is a short, energetic highland fling and O'Dell led the band through the style contrast and extremely busy woodwind parts with a well-paced tempo.

Next on the program was a performance of the first movement of Mozart's Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra transcribed for wind ensemble and performed by Nathaniel Hefferman. This is really quite a difficult undertaking for a wind ensemble. Mozart's works are so well known in their original form and so perfect in composition and scoring that (unlike the more abstract music of Bach) even the most minor of alteration can be unsettling. However, the transcription actually seemed to work surprisingly well. The band was able to provide an accompaniment for Hefferman that seemed both appropriate and complimentary. The Concord Band regularly features soloists form among its playing members which presents them with a unique opportunity to perform before their friends and neighbors with a full symphonic wind ensemble.

Another audience favorite on the program was an arrangement of selections from Phantom of the Opera, Andrew Lloyd Weber's masterpiece that has left an indelible mark on the musical theatre stage. This is a super number that shows off the band, complete with offstage scream! The trombone section was effective in the driving force of the opening theme and the band glided through the romantic tune "That's All I Ask of You" - a tune that sends chills down one's spine no matter how often heard. As "Music of the Night" tapers to a quiet ending, the Band played the distinctively dissonant "phantom chords" with confidence, ending with the single chime.

The final piece on the program was the commissioned work Flowing Pens from Concord, composed and conducted by Roger Cichy. The work is in four movements, each inspired by the literary contributions of one of Concord's more renowned authors. The first movement Mosses From an Old Manse starts rather slowly with an open scoring and some nice solo work by several band members followed by more dense scoring with complex interweaving melodic lines. Little Women follows with jaunty melodies, abrupt phrases and surprising discontinuous transitions which somehow all seem to make sense. The whole movement seems to express the feeling of rebellious independence one might expect from the "little women" of any generation.

As might be expected, the third movement, Walden, conveys an impression of peacefulness one would hope to feel in such a setting. The colors of Walden Pond are described with Chinese chimes, a lovely arpeggio section played by the clarinets, and then the lonely call of Thoreau's flute, convincingly played by Barbara Weiblen. This is a movement which absolutely demands good intonation and the band did not disappoint. The final movement, Nature, is again complex, beginning with a driving rhythm in the lower brass embellished with complex fills from the upper woodwinds. After a brief interlude of a more contemplative character, the movement returns to the driving force of its beginning and builds to a suitably climatic ending.

Cichy's work manages to delight the first time listener but has a depth of musical content which encourages repeated hearing. This is a prescription for a work which is likely to enter the mainstream repertoire. Perhaps the Concord Band has made yet another contribution to this nation's cultural heritage with a work which will become recognized internationally. It is also worth mentioning that throughout the performance of Cichy's piece, this listener was never really aware of the band. The focus of attention was entirely on the work. The band's performance was in every way sufficient to allow the listener to maintain that attention without any performance-related distraction.

The capacity audience immediately broke into a standing ovation for the Cichy piece and the entire concert. Fortunately the Band was ready with an encore, Steven Grimo's medley of famous rousing marches, while the three conductors took turns passing the baton from Toland, to McManus, and finally to O'Dell. The audience again voiced its approval of this Gala 50th Anniversary Concert and adjourned to the lobby for refreshments and socializing.

The Concord Band continues its 2008-2009 season with its Spring Pops Concerts on April 3 and 4, followed by the annual appearance at the Boston Festival of Bands on June 6 before their regular season of summer concerts at Fruitlands Museums in Harvard, MA. For more information, visit their website at www.concordband.org.

For additional information, contact Peter Norton, Concord Band Publicity. Visit our website at www.concordband.org.


This page last updated: 2009/6/3
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