Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble delight audience in chapel

Olivia Hendricks

More than just a performance, the Lawrence University Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble concert last Friday night felt like a reunion. Since the concert was part of Fall Festival Weekend, many parents, grandparents and siblings were in town to hear one of the the ensembles’ first performances of the year. Just before the music started at 8 p.m., the Lawrence Memorial Chapel echoed with the voices of parents pointing out their children as they walked onstage.
The first half of the concert featured the Symphonic Band, under conductor Andrew Mast. The group started off with a relatively new and lively piece by Frank Ticheli called “Nitro,” which the band presented with the energy required to bring the piece to life.
In contrast, the second piece performed was Morton Lauridsen’s “O Magnum Mysterium,” which is normally performed by choirs, and as Mast noted, allowed the band to “explore issues of interpretation, expressiveness and beauty.”
The third and final piece performed was Malcolm Arnold’s “Prelude, Siciliano and Rondo,” which startled a number of audience members out of their seats with its opening bang and had others nodding their heads to the rhythm. The animation and confidence of both band and conductor were notable throughout, and prompted a “wow” from an audience member during the silence at the end of the piece and before the applause.
Intermission marked the end of the Symphonic Band’s portion of the concert. During this time it became clear that not only was the concert somewhat of a family reunion, it was also a reunion between Appleton community members and the Lawrence University bands.
Numerous Appleton residents at the concert professed themselves to be loyal audience members, attending many of Lawrence’s free concerts throughout the years. One of these residents, a Ms. Toonen, commented, “Lawrence is so exceptional. We attend a lot of programs. It’s just really entertaining. Those kids work so hard — it’s terrific!”
After intermission, it was the Wind Ensemble’s turn to perform, and like the Symphonic Band, the group started off with high energy, playing Charles Ives’ “Country Band March.” This piece took elements of songs like “London Bridge” and “Yankee Doodle” and twisted them into tricky syncopated rhythms that kept the audience intrigued.
Upon standing to accept the audience’s applause, many musicians could not help but smile, as though they had just played a practical joke on the audience in pulling off such fun and unusual music.
For the Wind Ensemble’s second piece, another reunion occurred: Robert Levy, former Director of Bands and Professor of Music at Lawrence from 1979 to 2004, was reunited with the ensembles as he guest-conducted Warren Benson’s “Danzon.” The warmth with which Levy was received, including a hug from Mast, matched the spirit of the entire evening.
The next performance by Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble will take place Saturday, Nov. 22 at 8 p.m. in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel. It will feature Lawrence faculty, including Anthony Padilla and Wen-Lei Gu.