Concert Band and Wind Ensemble Give Rousing Performances with Challenging Pieces

Ellen Jarvinen, Adviser

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Issaquah’s Concert Band and Wind Ensemble played their winter concert last night, Dec. 12, in the Longman Performing Arts Center. Having only rehearsed three times with percussionists, the pieces were polished and precise considering the challenge of so many musicians getting few full rehearsals.

Concert Band, 109 members strong, began the night with “The Viking,” a lively march that reminded me of a carnival or circus. It had good parts for every instrument, including percussion, and was a foot-tapper. (Really, I looked around the audience and saw several people tapping their feet to the beat.) Next came “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” a song that comes from the Tim Burton movie of the same name. A non-traditional Christmas song, it was a fun piece to listen to, and the musicians pulled off a fast tempo. Occasionally, the parts fragmented a little but quickly pulled back together under Director Pat Holen. (Truly, the band was so large that they didn’t quite fit on the stage. While I was backstage during the concert, I noticed one trombonist in the back who I am sure could not be seen from most of the seats.)

The third piece was my favorite of the night, “Redemption.” The song brings to mind images of dawn or majestic mountains. Its slow, melodic pace and building volume with the crescendo of cymbals contrasts with sweet, soft flute and clarinet parts. The emphasis added by timpani drums was one of my favorite parts of the song. The piece also has a seemingly tricky ending where everyone holds a note and then ends sharply on the same note repeated, with percussion emphasizing the final note as well. The band attended to Holen’s direction well and ended the piece perfectly.

Their final song was “Winter on Emerald Bay,” a festive number to end their set. With fast-paced fingering and matched percussion, the song came together nicely. Adding to the challenge of only having practiced a few times with percussion, the band is actually separated into two different class periods; thus, the musicians strayed a little early on but came together quickly to continue the song in unison, culminating in a strong finish.

Following Concert Band’s performance was Wind Ensemble, the audition band. Their set began with the John Philip Sousa march, “The Thunderer.” The upbeat song full of trills alternates between big brass sound and quiet woodwinds and was a peppy way to begin. Next up was the traditional holiday tune, “Greensleeves,” for which a few students brought out Santa hats and a menorah hat. The rich, full melody of the slow-paced song was an enjoyable change of pace.

Next up was “Colas Breugnon Overture.” This song sounded impossibly difficult to play, let alone play in unison. Only hours of practice could bring an arrangement like this together, and indeed, I had the satisfaction of witnessing this process. Teaching in the classroom next to the band, I heard their progress playing this song from early this fall. It was neat to hear the pace gradually increase and to have them finally nail a technical part of the song.

It’s a toss up between “In Dreams” and Mt. Everest,” Wind Ensemble’s final songs, as to which one I liked best. These two were definitely my favorites in their set. “In Dreams” is neat because it slowly builds in energy, tempo, and number of instruments. However, “Mt. Everest” is majestic and visual. No wonder I liked it; the composer (Rossano Galante) is the same as “Redemption,” which I loved from Concert Band. It was a smashing finale to a great concert.