The Big Brass Band Played On

The atmosphere was surprisingly relaxed when parents, friends, and teachers filtered into the Cochran Chapel. The low buzz of friendly conversation echoed through the room as the sound of musicians tuning drifted up from the basement and hinted that the concert was about to begin. This was the scene this past Friday, when the Phillips Academy Music Department presented a band concert, which included the Academy Quintet, L’Insieme Di Lunedi Sera, and the Academy Concert Band. The tune-up was only the beginning of an evening of enjoyable music and fun. Directed by Instructor in Music Robin Milinazzo, the Academy Brass Quintet began the concert with the harmonious “Four Songs for Brass” by Ludwig Maurer. The first of these songs, “Kriegslied,” went well. Each instrument contributed to beautifully crafted and quite precise chords as the trombone broke away to play rich melodies. However, in “Lied,” the second movement, the music became sloppy as extraneous notes began to appear outside of the intricate web of patterned melodies that each instrument had begun to weave. These unsure notes left the piece for the stately “Vokslied,” but then returned for “Trinklied,” the fourth movement, making the audience wonder whether the interesting dissonances were intended or whether they were created by the musician’s carelessness. Although “Four Songs for Brass” could have been performed with greater precision, its amazing harmonies proved that brass instruments aren’t suited just for traditional marches, but can be used in other types of music as well. Continuing with another unorthodox band song, the small group, L’Insieme Di Lunedi Sera, directed by Instructor in Music Vincent Monaco, performed next. They began with Michael Praetorius’s “Terpischore Suite.” Although they played only the first three movements of this piece, they played them with ease and grace, starting with the uncaring “Bransle,” which quickly led into the happy, upbeat “Philou,” the second section. Ending with the beautifully very fast and carefree “Galiard,” “Terpischore Suite” was quite short, but displayed three very different rhythms and moods. L’Insieme Di Lunedi Sera then played “Military March,” a seemingly traditional band song full of wonderful surprises. Written by Ludwig van Beethoven, it incorporated all the elements of a traditional band song into one piece. It was very loud and rhythmic with a strong percussion section, loud trumpets that announced a war, and fluttering flutes. Through all of this, one could discern some nuances that Beethoven had purposefully added to create depth. At some parts, the flutes would fight the trumpets and drums with a call and response theme that mimicked war. In other sections, menacing undertones echoed above the fray. The Academy Concert Band took the opportunity to dazzle the audience with amazing music. “Mars” by Gustav Holst was their first offering, and was by far the most interesting, unique piece of the night. It started quietly with a sinister two-note motive, which eventually built to five notes. As it became louder and more haunting, the fact that it seemed to have no time only added to the fearful effect of the urgent clarinets, flutes, and trombones as they fought against the loud drums and crashing trumpets. After coming to an urgent climax, the piece abruptly ended with a loud bang from the drums and blast from the trumpets, which echoed through the Chapel as the audience sat stunned at the magnificence of “Mars.” The concert drew to a close with “The Thunder March” by John Philip Sousa. With no menacing undertones or musical battles, it simply illustrated the Concert Band’s amazing endurance and ability to stay together and perform with precision. Closing the concert with a strident chord, the piece was a perfect ending to a strong concert.