It was an evening where I realized I hadn’t attended a live concert event in quite some time and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why, when music seems to be at the center of every soul fulfilling moment. Think about it: your favorite memories come back in a flash with that familiar tune on the radio. You remember people, places things. “Your song” becomes the important decision for dancing at a wedding. Is there a DJ or a live band? Will there be an orchestral trio or the more traditional organ music? But it starts before that: the first slow dance in middle school where you may or may not have been dancing with the person who makes your heart flutter in science class. Or was it more like Pretty in Pink where that melancholy beat left you standing against the wall wondering why you weren’t asked?
Which leads me back to the other evening of jazz and concert music, expectations unknown, but the venue quite familiar. The New Horizons Jazz Band is an eclectic group of musicians, with quite a few faces being older than one would traditionally expect on a college campus. The hall was more sparse than I had expected, although it could have been that not as many friends and family attend your events when you age, as they once did while in elementary school with your cheering section (hopefully) around every corner. Their first piece was by far their strongest. It became evident there was a wide variety of talent at all levels, but there were so many brave souls grooving out the best ways they knew how.
The Concert Band, led by director Christopher Baumgartner, had more content, a wider variety, and of course more participants. There was some overlap in the players from the concert to the jazz band, which could be viewed as passion for the music, but on occasion a detriment to the percussion section. The tonality of the saxophones was quite impressive during the “Three Songs from Sussex” by composer, Hugh Stuart, with a delightful little piccolo melody in the third movement. Their third song really ramped up the performance, with an impressive and unexpected oboe solo (of course I’m biased having played the instrument for 7 years!). While this may be more common in orchestral pieces, it isn’t seen as frequently – or directors are fearful – in concert band pieces.
“Terpsichorean Dances,” composer Jodie Blackshaw, happened to completely steal the show. There were Australian percussive instruments along with another oboe solo – the only musician brave enough to tackle the illustrious double reed – Emily Hiltner. It was a longer piece, and while it was not divided out into movements, it had the feel of such with the repetitious theme carried throughout different instrument sections.
When all was said and done, it was a lovely little evening. Even the rockiest of starts were overcome by beautiful melodies and a zest for being part of something memorable. Instead of cratering down into a lost abyss, they were able to move past initial tepidness and strive for a strong finish.