Somewhere, Over the Rainbow
Review by Lynn Taylor
The spring concert by the Lower Columbia College Symphonic Band showcased a wide variety of music and talents. The first selection, Lincolnshire Posey by English composer Percy Grainger, set the stage for what was to come. Each of its four parts was distinct from the others, and each has a very descriptive name. The first, Lisbon or "Sailor’s Song," was light and airy, with a heavier counter-theme. The second has the title, Horksow Grange (The Miser and His Man: A Local Tragedy). It was slow and noble, with a trumpet and snare drum roll duet. The Brisk Young Sailor (Who Returned to Wed His True Love) had what sounded like bird songs played by the piccolo, flutes, and oboes. The Last Lady Found (Dance Song) required very quick tonguing and fingering. Its theme was played in contrast by different sections at differing tempos. These songs were based on English folk songs that the composer had collected, so there are stories behind the curious titles.
A marching band would have a difficult time keeping step with Sergei Prokofiev’s March op. 99, played at a very rapid tempo. It featured a cornet solo by Donnie Dugan and some admirably rapid fingering by the clarinet section. The music reminded me of the sounds played by traffic in old movies.
The next suite, Caucasian Sketches by M. Ippolotov-Ivanov, was also descriptive musically, and based on regional folk tunes collected by the composer. In the Mountain Pass opens with a tuba solo to which a solo clarinet responds. The music builds slowly and steadily as though one is ascending to a high pass in the mountains. The second movement, In a Village, featured a mournful English horn solo by Lisa Sudar. The band achieved very dramatic crescendos and decrescendos. The next movement, In a Mosque, had a definite flavor of Mid-Eastern music with solos by the English horn, clarinet, and oboe. The final movement, Procession of the Sardar, opened with a solo by Sharon Floyd on the piccolo. The movement has a familiar theme perhaps from its use in movies or as a popular piece for concert bands.
The Sun Will Rise Again by Philip Sparke was written as an honor and to raise funds for the people of Japan after the earthquake and tsunami in March of last year. The piece’s majestic tone creates an image of a sunrise and birds trilling.
The first half of the concert closed with Spring, by Johan de Meij (whom director Kurt Harbaugh happened to meet at a music educators conference last year). It contained interesting special effects including ringing wine glasses and falling water. A vocalist and other instrumental soloists performed from off-stage. It ended with high winds playing at a fast tempo, while the low brass were at a slow pace. Each part could be heard clearly and distinctly before a final fanfare.
The second half of the concert opened with the flourish of Aspen Jubilee by Ron Nelson. It contains off-beat rhythms, bluesy clarinets, and the interesting and effective pairing of oboe and French horn. It ends as it begins, with a flourish, and with the tympani playing some solo notes.
Jungle Fantasy, by an anonymous composer and arranged by Naohiro Iwai, is the percussion section’s dream. Anything that could be hit, shaken, or spun, was hit, shaken, and spun. In addition to playing their instruments, the musicians contributed their voices in making a variety of animal sounds.
For the next piece, 15-year-old harpist Madeline Woo, joined the band. As she played Over the Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz, the band subtly accompanied her with a muted trumpet, solo clarinet, and soft saxophones.
Miss Wood then played a solo harp piece: Fantasy for Harp on a Theme by Haydn arranged by Marcel Grandjany. The stage was dark with a single spotlight on her. Her changes in tempo and tone were seamless. She created crescendos and decrescendos, and demonstrated all the different effects and ways the strings can be plucked. Her music was spell-binding. A sophomore at Mark Morris High School, Miss Wood had auditioned for the young artist guest position and received a $500 check and a floral bouquet on stage.
The title, Rush, brought to mind a rapid tempo. The name perhaps has more to do with filling orders quickly by the Wenger Corporation, maker of music performance facility products, for whom this piece was commissioned. The music does bring to mind the sounds and rhythms of factory machinery.
I once heard a band director say that the last piece at a band concert should always be a march. This concert ended (almost) with a march, Transit of Venus by John Philip Sousa. It is named for the astronomical phenomenon in which the planet Venus crosses the face of the sun. This will be occurring on June 5 (Don’t look directly at the sun without eye protection to see it!). This march is very typical of a Sousa march, except that it ended before my foot was ready to quit tapping.
Before Mr. Harbaugh had a chance to direct his encore piece, alto saxophone player Dr. Chris Collins spoke to the audience, honoring Mr. Harbaugh for his time as interim director of the band. He received a well-deserved standing ovation from the musicians and the audience.
Lynn Taylor is one of Columbia River Reader's performing arts reviewers. She is a veterinarian and a "reformed violin player" who now plays the oboe, with a wide variety of music genres on her iPod that she listens to while training for 5K and 10K fun runs.
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