Youth Band Weekend
This past weekend was a particularly good one. The Youth Bands finally got to get out of the rehearsal room and perform a concert. I say finally, because we have been ready to do this concert for a couple weeks now. I can not remember the last time we were actually ready to play a concert in time for the concert…or, at least to the degree we were for this one. That’s not to say this was an easy concert, either. The Brass Ensemble repertoire was extremely challenging, and the Brass Band program was very tough as well. Both bands played for 45 minutes to an hour. Going into it, we were just really well prepared, and poised to give a really good show.
I am very fortunate to have such a good group of kids this year. They are really putting a lot into this band. It was really great to have an evening run as smoothly as it did because of the help from the kids moving equipment and the Budway’s for organizing the truck. It makes things so much easier on me at the show, allowing me to enjoy the performance as much as the kids.
Because the band was prepared so well for this concert, I decided to have it recorded in video this time, for a DVD. Not sure exactly what we will do with the concert performance of the DVD, but You can bet that some things will make it on youtube, and my blog here. I also recorded some of the kids playing excerpts from solos to make a promotional video for our instrument fundraiser. It will take a couple of weeks to get that together as I will need footage from the band concert as well.
Our Guest soloist for the concert was Terry Everson, Professor of Trumpet at Boston University. Terry did some time in Lexington, KY at UK while I was there and he became a huge influence on my training as a musician. He was a model professional and faithful servant to his craft, in addition to being a great guy to be around. He played in my quintet when we needed a trumpet player, and was always very supportive of me, which I really appreciated. This, on top of being a phenomenal talent on the trumpet. We played in the Lexington Brass Band for several years together, which is where I got my start in brass bands. Terry was the very first clinician I brought in to work with the youth bands in 2002, just after I became the Director. When Tim Altman down at UNC Pembroke called and said he wanted to bring Terry down to the Carolinas, I jumped at the chance to have him here with us.
Jesse and I picked Terry up at the airport around 3:00 PM Friday at got him set at the hotel. Then we went back to my house to finalize things for the rehearsal and concert. We met Amanda Budway at the truck rental place to get that squared away the loaded up all of the equipment at the storage shed to move in to Salem MS for rehearsal. This was the first time we rehearsed both bands at the same time at Salem, and they were nice enough to let us use the chorus/drama room. It was a very tight fit, but it worked out great, and our rehearsals with Terry went very well. We were all very tired after the hot rehearsal.
Saturday came early, and we started off the day with a clinic for the youth band kids. I schedule long clinics (three hours) so we can get the most out of it, and not feel like we didn’t have time to get to things. There isn’t a problem filling the time up with things to talk about. The kids are generally inquisitive and can keep a question and answer session going a while. Terry started off by playing something that I am sure the kids have not been exposed to, and something that Terry does better than anyone on the planet. Check out this video at the top of the post.
After this, he talked about what he does, and how he got there. Very entertaining. We took sporadic breaks to stretch ourlegs and transition into the next portion of the clinic. Next, several players from the band played for Terry and he worked things out with them. I know this type of thing has the potential to be boring for the listener, but NOT when Terry does it. Everyone, I think and hope) learned a lot about trumpet and brass playing from watching him work with the students. He did a really good job of focusing on different things with each, despite the fact that they all needed just one thing…Blow Air Through the Horn. hahaha. He got into some really cool concepts and approaches. Very well done clinic.
Lunch, Hotel, Home to relax a bit, then commute down to the hall. All of the pre-concert activities went very well. Sound Checks went smoothly, and my video session with the individual players went well. Show time.
The TYBE has grown so much. They played a really tough program, with several tunes that TYBB has performed. Jesse is really challenging that group, and making it a first rate band. The kids seem to really be responding and digging the experience. Terry played I’d Rather Have Jesus with them and owned it. So simple, yet so refined. The band played great and the audience responded well. So happy to see things going so well so far. Intermission comes and goes, and we switch bands on stage and I have to go to work.
Our first work was James Curnow’s Laude, which I became familiar with from playing in the Triangle Brass Band. It is on their Instruments of Praise CD. I liked it, and thought it would be a real challenge for the band. They picked up on it easily, and turned it into a really good opener. It is more than that, though. Its a ten minute opener, and a significant work for brass band. It has some really big moments in it, and I think we did a good job taking the audience on a journey. Next up was Terry Everson’s performance of Canzone and Caprice by Stephen Bulla. This is easily my favorite cornet solo for brass band, and I could not wait to hear Terry play it. It’s 12 minutes long, so it is virtually a concerto without really feeling like one. The best thing about it is the band parts are just as intricate as the soloist part, and they are woven together so well.
To cleanse the palette, The band played Irish Blessing by Joyce Eilers Bacak. Not a terribly tough tune, technically, but requires a lot of controlled playing. It features a quartet, that was struggling to play this one consistently, but at the gig, the pulled off their best performance up to date. Very well done. Terry then came out and talked a little before playing Joseph Turrin’s Escapade on piccolo trumpet. He said some very nice things about the program and how much he enjoyed being here and working with the kids. Then he shredded the piccolo trumpet. Escapade is a very flashy piece and Terry owns it as well, leaving the audience very satisfied. The band played it well, too, with some tricky counting passages.
Our big feature piece was Hinemoa by Gareth Wood. This is a nice programmatic piece that has a lot of modern sounds, techniques and intervals utilized in its composition. It goes a little out of the comfort zone for what kids experience in music on a daily basis. I got lucky on the microphone, and came up with a pretty good introduction to this one, although I don’t know how or where it came from. It was funny, though. This one was 12-14 minutes long and had some very big moments and a lot of percussion playing. I really like conducting this piece and the band was really cooking on it.
We closed the concert with The Circus Bee march by Henry Fillmore. It was fast and well done, and a lot of fun to play. After the concert, everyone did a great job breaking down the stage and loading up the truck so we could get out of there. I could not be happier with how the event came off. Such a wonderful production from the kids, Jesse, Terry, Megan, the Budways and all.
The Youth Brass Bands repertoire was chosen to be difficult, but I was focusing on presenting specific challenges, mainly individual playing within the ensemble. There was a lot of quartet, duet and solo playing required of the principal players, which is one facet of playing that young players struggle with. We went after that head on, with music that had a lot of soloist passages and features, and hopefully we grew by doing this.
Next up is the Tour to Ohio where we will play some of this music and some new music as we prepare for the May program as well. I pulled off a little cold that is making me feel a bit bad today. I have not been sick in well over a year, so this is particularly annoying.
Reflecting back over the weekend, on what an incredible experience and performance we had, I can’t help but feel good.