The music guided the audience to places ranging from a breathtaking sunrise, a war-torn beach in South Korea and back again in the Keene State College Concert Band’s spring concert. The Redfern Main Theatre was filled with the sounds of KSC’s musical talent this past Thursday evening, April 23.
The title of the concert, “Mystery, Melody, and More!” describes the variety of musical pieces that were performed by the concert band: an ensemble made up of KSC music students, local guest performers and a few KSC faculty members.
A variety of people attended the concert, such as music department faculty, students, family members and friends who all came out to support the hard work of the concert band. “It’s always really good to have people who aren’t a part of the department to come and enjoy it,” percussionist Devon Larrabee said.
Music director James Chesebrough conducted the band through four incredible pieces. “A Basque Lullaby (2009)” is composed by Dan Forrest and the performance program notes describe the piece as a “superb choral writing . . . full of spine-tingling moments” (Salt Lake Tribune).
Another piece conducted by Chesebrough, “O Magnum Mysterium (1998),” is composed by Morten Lauridsen. The performance program described Lauridsen’s work as “serene” and “internationally acclaimed” and this particular piece has been arranged for symphonic wind, solo voice, piano, organ, men’s ensemble and brass ensemble. Ola Gjeilo’s “Meridian (2011)” was a penultimate piece that “included a consistent rhythmic drive,” as described by Chesebrough. Gjeilo is New York City based composer with Norwegian roots who “often draws inspiration from movies and cinematic music.” The concert concluded with the lighthearted piece called “Eine Kleine Yiddishe Ragmusik (2003),” composed by Englishman Adam Gorb. This piece was “a synthesis of Jewish traditional folk dances and ragtime music,” according to the program notes.
Additionally, the concert was highlighted by assistant conductors, Kenneth Ballou and Lauren Casey, two music majors selected to lead a piece of their choosing based out of the conducting workshop classes. Kenneth Ballou conducted a moving piece about the Korean War Conflict of the 1950s.
The piece was called “Inchon (2001)” and was composed by Robert W. Smith as a tribute to the memory of his father, Staff Sergeant Benjamin F. Smith U.S. Army, who was a veteran of Korea and Vietnam. Ballou wanted this piece to be played because he played it in high school and enjoyed the experience. He also pushed for the work because, “It is a challenging piece that I felt the ensemble could accomplish,” he said. The song included rousing percussion work that began on stage and was spread throughout the main theatre on specific cues by Ballou at the conductor podium. The drum work was meant to simulate the beating of helicopters, Ballou described to the Equinox.
Casey began the concert, as another assistant conductor, with the piece titled “Beyond the Horizon (2009)” by Californian composer Rossano Galante. Casey spoke about wanting to select the piece because she was looking for a composition that sounded as though it could belong in a film.
After searching through YouTube, she found Galante’s work and discovered that the composer has roots in film score composition. The piece is meant to depict the Earth’s sunrise and the performance program describes how this is accomplished by using “majestic brass fanfares and sweeping melodic lines.”
Taking the lead as conductor of this piece was nerve-wracking for Lauren Casey, especially because the piece kicked off the concert. Casey said, “So many people think you are just waving your arm around — waving that stick around — but it’s so much more than that.” She described how conducting is about connecting with the ensemble as they put their trust in her judgement. “Being a conductor requires you to be so vulnerable up there . . . it’s very hard to get in front of your peers and just convey so much,” she said. However, this vulnerability has its benefits for Casey, who said, “The most rewarding thing, I think, is the happiness that the class I am teaching — or my band — is feeling when I am standing up there . . . just seeing how much of a positive impact music has on so many people.” Casey is the recipient of the Doug Nelson Outstanding Concert Band Member Award, as voted on by her fellow concert band peers. She said she was very grateful for this honor.
Next semester the student conducting will be passed on to tromsbone player, Sam Irvine, who said he is up for the challenge.
“Once this semester is over I am going to start listening to lots of music and find sample scores, I already have a composer in mind, so I just need to find pieces that match the level of difficulty our concert band can play,” Irvine said. KSC will have to wait and see what his research and the hard work of concert band will have in store for this upcoming fall.
Rebecca Costanzo can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org