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Maneuver Center Band performs Opening Night Concert at ITG
By Neville Young
International Trumpet Guild Journal
Photo credit: Vera H. Olcott
MCOE Concert Band performing "Olympic Fanfare and Theme" at the 37th Annual International Trumpet Guild Conference, Columbus, GA
I was already pretty impressed with Columbus, Georgia, even before I reached the Heard Theatre for the tonight's opening concert but I was really bowled over by this magnificent venue, part of the River Center. We began with gracious and informative welcomes from our host Rob Murray, ITG President Kim Dunnick, and Richard Baxter, the Dean of the Columbus State University College of the Arts. In just a few minutes we were ready for the United States Army Maneuver Center of Excellence Concert Band, under musical director and conductor, CW3 Jeremiah Keillor. The band, based just a few miles down the road at Fort Benning, played Saint-Saens's "Pas Redouble" (arr. Frackenpohl), a pretty fast march with an appropriately operatic-overture feel. You could imagine Paris and all sorts of French jollity in the precise, good natured performance and its fiery closing accelerando.
Then followed the world premiere of Columbus native Christopher Tucker's "Concertino Harmonie Del Sur" with soloist Robert (trumpet) and Lauren (oboe) Murray. A rather exciting start with maybe a hint of Shostakovich took us into a cadenza for the soloists, in melismatic phrases with sparse backing, intitially little more than timpani then building into a fuller sound. When a main melody enters, it's a nice, rather wistful tune leading to another cadenza and then to the tempo starting to pick up. Through a few such contrasts we move towards a climax and the trumpet suddenly has a dramatic, declamatory solo statement; the trumpet goes offstage for a gentle slow waltz presented as a long oboe solo with trumpet interjections which gradually builds into something rather grander and more hymn-like before moving to a quiet and more contemplative section of the same atmosphere. With a faster section, and sharp interjections from the band trumpet section we're led strongly on to an imposing ending.
Next came a brisk and pleasingly precise performance of Leroy Anderson's "Bugler's Holiday" featuring MSG John Manning from the West Point Hellcats alongside the MCOE Band's SPCs Julia Brett and Christopher Neverve.
Cornet soloist Michael Martin then delighted us with Philip Sparke's "Song and Dance" (arr. Geoffrey Brand); we heard a lyrical, warm first section, with long flowing phrases against a calm background then a sudden eruption of energy into a light, busy melody with great dialog between Martin and the band.
John Williams's "Olympic Fanfare and Theme" was a last-minute addition to exploit the full strength of the band onstage. This was written for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and was a particularly nice touch in an Olympic year. I can attest to the fact that all the way through this fine piece -- magnificently performed -- at least one person in the Heard Theatre felt the lovely warm glow that comes with knowing that you have some tickets for 2012.
After the intermission we heard two terrific numbers from the Maneuver Center of Excellence Stage Band, recreating a strong big band sound in a great "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" (complete with Andrews Sisters-a-likes) and a truly impassioned and convincing America the Beautiful, as performed by Ray Charles.
With the full concert band back on stage the next item was "The Twain Have Met", a 1999 composition from Greg McLean with soloist Marvin Stamm and Robert Murray on trumpet and Bill Mays on piano. A lively introduction leads to the trumpets' statement of the tune, first solo then as a duet. With a sudden transition to swing and back out we realize that tere are many moves and merges going on between a swing idion and more of a 20th-century-classical feel. It's busy and energetic, but a contrasting slow section has a bluesy feel, building into a climax and leading to some beautiful flugelhorn from Stamm with a lyrical section then a more angular and urgently enunciated section for Murray and offinot a complex and interesting fugal passage. Some sparse, spotty moments really required the great precision the band brought to bear on them, before we heard a fast, hard-swinging passage with big piano an flugel solos before another busy classical section, then, moving towards the end, a Latin section with extended solos and wonderful imitative improvisation between Stamm and Mays before a cadenza ending with piano and flugel well to the fore.
Next came an inspiring and uplifting performance of Barry Manilow's "Let Freedom Ring", before a very pleasant and well executed "March of the Belgian Paratroopers" by Pierre Leemans; as the mellifluously-voiced narrator pointed out, this was "a march that takes full advantage of a band with double reeds" and it so certainly did. Another surprise addition to the program was a second Christopher Tucker piece, conducted by the composer. "Valor of the MNC-I" is a splendid and rousing march "composed in tribute to the United States military men and women who have served and will serve in Baghdad, Iraq as a part of MNC-I (Multi-National Corps Iraq)." The work is further dedicated to the composer's father, military surgeon Col. Leo D. Tucker. The "US Armed Forces Medley" then gave veterans of each service the opportunity to stand and be acknowledged by the band and audience, each branch as their own tune came around, before we finished with Sousa's immortal "The Stars and Stripes Forever" in a truly exciting performance that brought this excellent evening to a fittingly grand end.
About the author: Neville Young is an amateur trumpet and cornet player in London. Neville works at a medical college, serves as an ITG Board Member and was ITG News Editor 2003-2008.