Music: Harmony & Hobbits: Concert Band Conquers Cochran

Last Friday, creatures of Middle Earth paid a visit to Cochran Chapel. Hobbits seemed to dance, elves to chant and orcs to beat their drums thanks to the Academy Concert Band, which played two symphonic pieces written for “The Lord of the Rings.” The first piece was taken from the movie soundtrack “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers,” composed by Howard Shore and arranged by Jerry Brubaker. No doubt, anticipation was at its height as the audience waited to hear this famous piece. Needless to say, the crowd was not disappointed. The band played the cinematic masterpiece with earnest effort. The timing was precise and the music flowed with strength and expression, especially in the tense sections, which built up to bursting climaxes. Unfortunately, some instruments were on the louder side, as if each instrument was trying to be heard above the others. Otherwise, the dynamics of the performance were wonderful with remarkable contrast between the uplifting “Riders of Rohan” and the deep and dark melodic “Gollum’s Song.” The second piece, “Symphony No. 1 ‘The Lord of the Rings’” provided a bit of variety. Taken from a score that was composed by Johan de Meji before the story hit Hollywood, the piece gave the audience a taste of another interpretation of Tolkien’s work. It had both quick-tempoed, triumphant themes, which recalled the glorious battles of Middle-Earth, as well as slower but fuller themes to show the tender side of the tale. The music reflected the practice and hard work of the musicians. Still, problems arose over timing, especially with the percussion section, which separated itself from the rest of the band with too much gusto and sound at times. However, no one can complain that the energy was not there on stage. Furthermore, the piece ended with a spectacular rising chord, which broke into pure silence, leaving the audience to dwell in suspense and wonder. As Teresa Ding ’04 said after the concert, “I didn’t know much about ‘Lord of the Rings’ before but I felt greatly disappointed when it ended.” Earlier in the concert the seven-member Academy Brass Ensemble, directed by French horn teacher Ms. Milinazzo and including trumpeters Benjamin Heller ’05, Jessica MacNutt ’05, and Daniel Serna ’04, trombonists Han Lie ’04 and Maxwell Parsons ’06 and a tuba player Andrew Glasrud ’06 , performed. The ensemble introduced the concert program with an Adagio movement by Mozart. While sounding more like a Moderato than an Adagio to the listener, it engaged the audience from the start with its cheerful sonorities. Although good, the trumpets could have been less tentative. Overall, the ensemble’s gift for blending, despite its large number of players, is enviable. Their second piece, John Glasel’s arrangement of “Contrapunctus IX” from J.S. Bach’s The Art of Fugue, began with a truly impressive solo by MacNutt that set a challenging pace for the rest of the piece. The ensemble players demonstrated their skill in executing rapid notes that must have been immensely difficult to play on brass instruments. Altogether, this portion of the program was excellent. After the Brass Ensemble left the stage, L’Insieme di Martedi Sera (the Tuesday Night Band, in less flowery English terms) took its place to perform multi-movement sections from the Water Music Suite, by Handel (arranged by Hershy Kay. The first movement, an Allegro, boasted a rhythmic character that the band handled capably, without any of the usual lagging. The second movement, an Air, had a lovely theme with the low instruments in counterpoint to the high ones. Admittedly, the tune was a bit muddled by the players, but it could still be appreciated. Toby Clark ’07 played a solo passage on the oboe quite beautifully. However, the performance of the Air seemed weak in comparison to that of the next movement, a Minuet. Overall, this was a fabulous and energetic concert largely due to the bands spectacular rendition of “The Lord of the Rings” music.