Symphonic Band joined by Academy winds

Amelia Perron

Saturday night’s Symphonic Band concert featured the Lawrence Academy of Music’s New Horizons Band, conducted by Jon Meyer. The performance was one of many this year in which Conservatory band director Andy Mast made efforts to draw the larger Appleton community into the “Lawrence Bubble.”
“The New Horizons Band is a community band for adults,” said Mast, “who may be retired or just looking for another place to play. Some of them are beginners, some have had years of experience.”
During the first half of the concert, the New Horizons Band played several expressive works such as the Air from Bach’s Suite No. 3, and also community band classics such as highlights from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel.”
The band didn’t lack dedication from its members; the performance showed a strong effort from all, resulting in a full, blended sound, and an excellent sensitivity to varied dynamics and tone colors.
Many students, like clarinetist Joy Manweiler, were very encouraging and supportive of their older colleagues. “They are a hard-working group of people who are performing simply because they enjoy music,” said the sophomore. “They’re all heart; it’s just great.”
For many, the New Horizons Band – part of a national adult program of the same name – is an environment to foster amateur musicians. “It’s good to know that if I chose to play flute, for instance, years from now, there are organizations that exist to facilitate that,” said trumpet player Drew Baumgartner.
The Symphonic Band had the stage for the second half, beginning with Dello Joio’s “Fantasies on a Theme by Haydn.” It’s three variations based on a theme from a Haydn string quartet, but as Mast put it, “Dello Joio makes it his own and almost forgets about the original.”
Although the first variation retains some of Haydn’s humor, by the end of the piece, with its modern restlessness, thick harmonies and cool trombone riffs, the listener has completely forgotten about Haydn.
They followed with Mast’s own arrangement of a 16th-century mass – Victoria’s “O Magnum Mysterium.” Mast claims arranging as a hobby and, having never had this particular work performed, was appreciative of student comments concerning his work.
The effect is impressive – the instrumentation perfectly captures the transparency and expansiveness of a Renaissance choral work, although his use of the saxophone was certainly a surprise.
The third piece, “Proclamations” by Jon Frantzen, was the most talked-about. The piece was written for a high school band director in Ohio in commemoration of 30 years of teaching. Last week’s performance was only the piece’s second. “The ink is dry but still tacky,” said Mast.
“Proclamations” is for band, which was conducted by Mast, and an antiphonal group in the balcony, conducted by Philip Swan. The piece was active and exciting, with unsettled harmonies and a rustling, muttering texture.
The main draw of the Frantzen, though, was Frantzen himself. “Mr. Frantzen flew in from New York to work on the piece,” said Baumgartner. “He was able to tell the performers directly what it is that he wanted. It was really great to be so close to the creative process.”
Trombonist Sarah Justinger agreed. “It was very interesting to get to hear from the composer as he shared his feelings on music teachers and his own thoughts on the piece,” the freshman said.
The two bands concluded the concert with a joint performance of Henry Fillmore’s “Lassus Trombone.” Fillmore’s march featured, of course, the trombones, which the ordinarily neglected trombonists, such as Justinger, said was “awesome.”
The concert was an encouraging event – encouraging to hear the continual progress and quality playing of the Symphonic Band, and encouraging to see that there are adults far beyond the Conservatory bubble who are committed to lifelong music making.