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Press Release

For Immediate Release

The Concord Band Spotlights the Saxophone

Concord, MA, March 6, 2010 — The Concord Band played a virtually sold-out concert on Saturday—led by its imposing new director, James O’Dell. How did Mr. O’Dell, French composers and saxophones (invented in Paris) hold such a crowd spellbound for two hours? Hard work and musical skill.

The Band’s concert began not with a march, as usual, but instead with a French overture—the stately Overture in C by Charles Simon Catel. A Mozart-like duo of clarinet and oboe started it out, with later finger-twisting scales from the clarinets (nice playing, David Purinton and section). I enjoyed the “bounce” and the dynamic contrasts.

Next a real challenge—Milhaud’s (mee-yo) Suite Française—one of the most famous suites in the band literature. Wrote Milhaud: “I wanted the young Americans to hear the popular melodies of those parts of France where their fathers and brothers fought.” The first movement, Normandie, featured euphoniums and saxophones, plus strong French horns led by Cam Owen. In Bretagne, Louanne MacKenzie played her oboe lyrically, well tuned, and with a subtle vibrato—later joined by David Southard on a classy alto sax. Ile de France featured a bouncy low brass section, in duet with piccolo at one point—then finished off with a nice trumpet-piccolo duet (cheers to Arthur Magazu and Laura Finkelstein). Mr. Southard started Alsace-Lorraine off nicely on alto sax, followed by muted trumpets and a soulful clarinet choir. With its drum-and-fife lick, Provence reminded me of Concord’s history and its restaurant on Thoreau Street.

Then on alto sax, Dennis Shafer serenaded us with Dubussy’s The Girl with the Flaxen Hair. This arrangement from the piano works very well, indeed, and was lyrically played in the French manner (little vibrato) by Mr. Shafer.

Berlioz’s March to the Scaffold poses immense difficulties for concert band. The Concord Band, however, had no apparent problems (lots of practice, right?). In essence, the band became a chamber-music ensemble with many predominant solos, duos and trios—tuba, low brass, high winds, and very nice bassoon unison (Nathaniel Hefferman and Erin Cram). Nice clarinet “wail” at the end, David Purinton.

After intermission, the band’s brass section solidly rendered Dukas’ Fanfare from La Peri—brassy, lyrical, then brassy again. The woodwinds then shifted gears with the prelude from Debussy’s Suite Bergamasque—again with saxophones and an upward sweeping scale, from bari sax through tiny E-flat clarinet, played by Charlie Learoyd.

Then Dennis Shafer returned with his full Back Bay Saxophone Quartet, playing Bill Holcombe’s Stephen Foster Revisited (my grandfather’s favorite composer). The French horns introduced the first song, then the band provided a smooth accompaniment to four wailing saxophones—in Camptown, Jeanie, Banjo, Dreamer, Old Kentucky and more. I liked Holcombe’s concoction and the quartet’s bouncy-jazzy playing. Their encore (a French word) was America from Bernstein’s West Side Story. I was astounded by Dennis’s very high-pitched, very in-tune soprano saxophone (that’s a beast of an instrument, per my experience with it). The Back Bay Saxophone Quartet brought the audience to their feet.

Now, of course, Charles Ives was not French. But I was delighted with his Old Home Days, arranged mostly from voice/piano by Jon Elkus, my former band director and woodwind-quintet partner at Lehigh. All five parts of this Ives/Elkus suite have wide audience appeal (not “off the wall” like some other Ives I like). Shades of village band (nice drumming, Dan Diamond), a Slow March for the funeral of a family pet, and a complex, rousing/crashing London Bridge is Fallen Down! I hope the finale of Ives’ Symphony No. 2 (another Elkus transcription) is upcoming.

The concert ended with a superb French military march, Le Regiment de Sambre et Meuse by Joseph Rauski. Nice euphoniums and French horns.

The Concord Band Spring Pops is next—on Friday, April 9 and 10. Call Joan Hale at 978-369-1500 or Priscilla Gannon at 508-341-8185 for tickets. Come one, come all! And visit concordband.org on the web.

Grant Anderson has been principal clarinet of the Concord Orchestra since 1970—although originally a bandsman (and sax player), from third grade through the Navy’s Officer Candidate School.

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


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