Wind Ensemble joins Appleton West at PAC

Veronica Devore

The Lawrence University Wind Ensemble will present a concert together with musicians from Appleton West High School at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center Monday. The performance, which begins at 7:30 p.m., will also feature guest bass trombonist Charlie Vernon.
Professor Andrew Mast, conductor of both the Lawrence Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band, said that the idea for a musical collaboration with Appleton West began about a year ago. Appleton West band director Mike Ross was very enthusiastic about the possibility, and he was able to select Vernon as the guest artist for the program.
Vernon is an incredibly sought-after performer and teacher, as well as a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He currently serves on the faculty at DePaul and Northwestern University, having previously taught at the Curtis Institute of Music and the Brevard Music Center.
Vernon is also a talented soloist and a true ambassador for his instrument. He gave the world premiere of Ellen Taafe Zwillich’s Concerto for Bass Trombone with the CSO in 1991 as part of the orchestra’s centennial celebration, and he released an album composed entirely of pieces for solo bass trombone and tuba, accompanied by composer and pianist Eric Ewazen.
One reviewer commented, “Charles Vernon expands the lyrical and technical capabilities of the bass trombone, the likes of which have never been heard before. Mr. Vernon whispers and shouts with the instrument in a nearly impossible range, seemingly effortlessly. He is a pioneer in bringing the bass trombone to the forefront as a solo instrument.”
To demonstrate Vernon’s talents as a performer, Mast and Ross included a special arrangement of the piece “We’ve Loved Before” on Monday’s program. According to Mast, this piece will “show off [Vernon’s] lyrical side.” In addition, Vernon will perform on the piece “Variations on Barnacle Bill the Sailor,” which Mast called “a typical theme and variations in a late 19th-/early 20th century format for soloists.”
Other pieces on the program not featuring Vernon are Gustav Holst’s masterpiece “Hammersmith,” and “Smetana Fanfare” by Pulitzer-winning composer Karel Husa. Finally, the concert will end with David Dzubay’s piece “Ra!” which Mast called “muscular and energetic.”
Tickets for Monday’s concert, which cost $5 for students and $8 for adults, are available at the Lawrence University Box Office or at the door. The performance will highlight the talents of high school, college, and professional musicians alike in what could develop into a collaborative tradition between Lawrence University and Appleton schools.