Academy Concert Bands Conclude Fall Term With Concert

At the Family Weekend concert, each ensemble played only one short selection. However, at this concert, each band had more time and played multiple pieces.

A procession of trumpets blared, signaling the beginning of the Academy Concert Bands’ rendition of “Thunder and Blazes March.” Soon, the rest of the ensemble joined in as the woodwinds played a cheerful melody over by the lively brass beat and percussion, with tubas playing a chromatic scale underneath. The audience tapped to the beat, and some recognized the song by its nickname, the “Carnival March.”

“Thunder and Blazes March” was the finale to the Academy Concert Bands, held last Sunday afternoon in Cochran Chapel. Led by Peter Cirelli, Instructor in Music, and Vincent Monaco, Director of the Academy Concert Band, the concert included six pieces in total, ranging from classical Mozart to a military march by Holst.

“[My favorite part of “Thunder and Blazes March”] was probably the [iconic melody of] that song. It was really just hyper and energetic and it put me in a happy [mood] and Mr. Monaco, who was the conductor, was just really energetic and was bouncing up and down,” said audience member Isabelle Benavidez ’23.

The concert bands had about a month to practice and rehearse for the concert that included all of the pieces they learned in the fall term. However, according to band member Jasmine Ma ’23, who plays the flute, the band worked hard to learn the challenging new pieces and to refine old repertoire for better musicality.

“For this concert, we worked on two more pieces than the Family Weekend concert. We worked on the Holst [piece] and the march, which was the finale. And those pieces for me… were more challenging and they required more rehearsals and more people working together,” said Ma.

Several parents were in attendance, including Edward Ahn ’90 P’22, whose son, Chris Ahn ’22, plays percussion in the Academy Concert Band, and had heard “Thunder and Blazes March” before. He found that the familiarity of the piece helped him enjoy the performance, but also appreciated the level of musicality that the performers brought to the piece.

“For me, “Thunder and Blazes [March]” sounded familiar. I think that’s a reason why I enjoyed it. I preferred a lot of those melodies played in different circumstances so it sounded very familiar… there was a lot of musicality in their performances and when they were playing their instruments it sounded very good without a lot of squeaking,” said Ahn.

According to Monaco, the Academy Concert Band has more percussionists than usual this year. Therefore, one of the challenges he faced was finding a piece with sufficient percussion parts. He also noted the difficulty of choosing quality music for large concert bands. Monaco felt that “Thunder and Blazes March” was exciting enough to add to the program.

“I have a lot of percussionists this year and I want to make sure everyone stays busy… that was my most immediate concern. You always have to make sure, in band repertoire, that there is a good bit of musical substance. I don’t mean to be too critical, but a lot of the repertoire written for band is written for instructional purposes, so you don’t always get wonderful music… I try to find at least one piece that is really substantial,” said Monaco.