Keith A. Reynolds
Civic band concerts tend to conjure memories of old men with shiny heads performing the works of Sousa with uncharacteristic vigor. Something about the concept of a concert band made up of non professionals performing mostly popular tunes doesn’t generally spark the imaginative fire of even the most voracious of music lovers. This shouldn’t be a problem though, because civic bands aren’t attempting to break new ground in the realms of artistic expression or programming; they are just trying to have fun. It is through this lens that one should view these spectacles of the pure enjoyment that music can bring. The latest performance by the Lorain County Community College Civic Band was a perfect representation of this basic fact, despite straying from Sousa.
Led by conductor Mark Wainwright, the band presented a collection of, as the name of the concert would imply, are their “favorite things.” To drive the point home, the first piece they played was an arrangement of the classic “Sound Of Music” ditty that was enjoyable; though, as Taylor Swift found out, it’s hard to stand up next to a young Julie Andrews.
After some preliminary remarks by Wainwright, they tore into a piece that was so reminiscent of the inventor of the Sousaphone, that I was forced to ask my neighbor to see his program just to be sure it wasn’t a product of his prodigious pen. It was “On the Mall” by Goldman, another prototypical concert band piece that seems to get performed ad nauseam out of some misplaced hope that a bit of audience participation would build camaraderie between the audience and performers, like Stockholm syndrome.
Next came an arrangement of the “William Tell Overture,” followed by a few pieces that were obviously written for concert band due to the fact that the vast majority of the people in the auditorium seemed thoroughly disinterested in them. You see, concert band music is the equivalent of musical wallpaper, unless it’s really terrible or a glorious expression of the human soul it generally goes unnoticed.
After a short intermission and a few more concert band originals, the audience was treated to what I view as the highlight of any well rounded program, a bit of Bach. In true concert band fashion they chose a particularly clichéd piece known as “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring.” It was a fine arrangement, but one can’t help but feel that they were limited by the pallet of instruments the orchestrator had to work with. If only they were able to add a beautiful string section this group would have brought most of the audience to tears. A trombone just seems to lack the pathos of a fine cello.
After over an hour of simply going through the motions, the concert concluded with a rousing performance of “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” It’s common knowledge that this tune was a favorite of President Lincoln, and from the sound of it one is lead to believe that one of the great emancipator’s contemporaries was dictating the pace.
All things considered, I found this concert rather enjoyable. Despite certain problems that I find with every civic band, the LCCC Civic Band managed to put on a performance that was both musically enjoyable and just plain fun to watch. No mean feat in this time of petulant pop stars and ridiculous rappers.