Thursday, April 17, 2008

It doesn't happen that often

It's always a number of years between their concerts here in Milwaukee...

Last Friday, April 11th, marked a return visit by "The President's Own" United States Marine Band. They performed both Friday night and Saturday afternoon in conjunction with MENC: The National Association for Music Educators conference. We attended the Friday concert and I saw representatives from many community bands around the Milwaukee area: the Knightwind Ensemble, Milwaukee American Legion Band, Milwaukee Concert Band, the Racine Concert Band, and the Milwaukee Festival Brass. And I'm sure that other bands from the area were also represented in the audience.

I've been lucky enough to see the Marine Band perform 4 or 5 times, and I am always impressed by the quality of their performances. No, I take that back: I am blown away by their performances. They may very well be the best symphonic band in the world.

Let me just list as few observations about the performance. The ensemble work is unbelievably clean. This was evident in the performance of Shostakovich's Festive Overture, the Grainger Children's March, and Respighi's Roman Festivals. I was also amazed at the differences in dynamics. There were times when we had to lean forward (from the balcony) to hear the music played at pp, while we were blown away when they played fff. Some of my goosebumps had goosebumps.

There was no downside to the concert, but there was a downside to the audience. The program included the world premiere of Scamp by Melinda Wagner. It is a very interesting piece, mischievious in nature but a lot of fun to listen to (and a bear to play, I bet). Unfortunately, a couple of former Marines in the row in front of us were not interested in the music and were discussing something among themselves. The piece was tough enough to listen to, as there was so much going on, without having to tune out conversation as well. They just did not realize that this part of the program was aimed at the MENC conventioneers (and a few members of community bands in the audience), not at former Marines. What a shame.

Their performance of Respighi's Roman Festivals brought the audience to their feet. After a well deserved standing ovation and a few curtain calls, the Band performed the most appropriate encore: The Marine Hymn.

An evening doesn't get any better than that.

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