Academy Concert Band: First Recital with New Equipment

Thanks to a recent student-organized Abbot grant providing the Academy Concert Band with new alto and bass flutes, the group’s concert on Sunday hummed with more diverse sounds than ever.

The concert, organized by the Phillips Academy Music Department, featured the Academy Flute Ensemble, the Academy Concert Band and L’Insieme di Martedi Sera.

The performances started off lightly and cheerily with the Academy Flute Ensemble, which presented an alluring rendition of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s “Tambourin in E-Minor.”
“Tambourin” featured a lower range of notes, enhanced by the integration of the flutes. Composed of a few repeated melodies throughout the piece, it kept listeners entranced with variations in volume, including sudden crescendos and diminuendos.

L’Insieme di Martedi Sera performed the softer “Nimrod” from “Enigma Variations,” a set of variations composed by Edward Elgar, and the dramatic, foreboding “Mars” movement from the orchestral suite “The Planets” by Gustav Holst.

The performance of “Mars” took the audience from sitting in the chapel to exploring the galaxy. A series of sharp, high-pitched, escalating notes added a special thrill to the performance. The song ended with a single low note held out for a few seconds, giving off a powerful sense of finality.

The concert concluded with two thrilling performances by the Academy Concert Band.

The group opened with the four heart-stopping movements of the grand “Second Suite for Military Band in F-Major” composed also by Gustav Holst.

The first movement, “March: Morris dance, Swansea Town, Cloudy Banks,” captured the rhythm of dance with loud percussion and captivating saxophone solos.

In contrast, the second movement, “Song Without Words, ‘I’ll Love My Love’” was slow and melodious. Played in a minor key, it gave a sorrowful tune.

“Song of the Blacksmith” picked up the pace with a faster rhythm, featuring percussion that echoed the sound of a blacksmith striking an anvil.

“Fantasia on the Dargason,” the final movement, began with an alto saxophone solo by Matthew Osborn ’15. The movement incorporated the unique sound of a tambourine using a technique called thumb roll, where the thumb is moved over the rim of the tambourine, which causes a quick roll from the jingles.

The final song of the concert, “The Walking Frog, Two Step” by K. L. King, was another highlight. Originally written as circus music, the animated ragtime two-step brought a sense of vitality to the room and ended the concert on a joyful note.

This fast-paced song involved the use of wood blocks, giving it an unconventional sound. The unique, cheery piece uplifted both the audience and the performers.

“My favorite song to play was ‘The Walking Frog,’” says Noah Singer ’15, an alto saxophonist. “I enjoyed this one the most because it was very different than the pieces the band has played in the past. I always think of ragtime pieces as piano music, so it was very interesting to play one on the sax and then to hear it played by the whole band.”
The addition of the two new instruments, the alto and bass flutes, gave a new touch to the entire band.

“It’s wonderful,” said Vincent Monaco, Instructor in Music and the director of the Academy Concert Band. “It enables the flute choir to play repertoire that they wouldn’t be able to play otherwise, and it also gives the kids an opportunity to play an instrument that they wouldn’t normally get to play.”

The students involved in applying for the Abbot grant were Julia Kim ’14, Katherine Vega ’14, Jerry Li ’14 and David Benedict ’15, along with Dr. Meghan Jacoby, the coach of the Academy Flute Ensemble, and Mr. Cirelli, Chair in Music.

“Our main intention was to give flutists an opportunity to explore the entire range of flutes, instead of just the typical C flute,” says Kim. “They’re pretty rare, and many students aren’t aware that there are flutes that can reach unbelievably low notes.”

“Also, the alto and bass flute are somewhat essential to a flute ensemble, as they round out the pieces, giving our sound a greater range,” she added.

“Music,” Mr. Monaco said, “has an essential role on campus. If it didn’t, nobody would be walking around with ear buds.”