Catching up from the weekend, Part 2:
By the time you read this, members of the Clovis Wind Symphony will be in Chicago strutting their stuff at the 72nd Midwest Clinic International Band and Orchestra Conference. It’s a big honor for the newly founded ensemble, which won an invite to the prestigious event — as only one of two bands nationwide in its category — just a year after the group was founded. Just before flying off to Chicago, the ensemble offered a send-off concert Sunday night at Shaghoian Hall.
It was stellar.
Perhaps it was the excitement of the impending trip that revved the performance up a notch or two. Or just the cumulative talent on the stage before me. (Many of the players are area music teachers.) Whatever it was, the first notes of the first piece (Rossano Galante’s “Landscapes”) were as brisk and bracing as a splash of cold water on your face on a summer day. Whether under the baton of Gary P. Gilroy, Christine Keenan or Lawrence R. Sutherland, the ensemble had that razor-sharp tightness that can only mark musicians in creative and spiritual sync with each other.
Pictured above: In this Wednesday photo, euphonium players Jordan Ray, left, Salvador Hernandez and Scott Downs prepare to go on stage in Chicago. Photo: Facebook
My favorite five songs in the program (which is being repeated Wednesday in Chicago):
“Two Lane Blacktop”: A jangly nod to automotive liveliness, this bruising piece managed to be both a cacophony of sound and a nod to soaring melodies. Composer James David was inspired by the open road, but to me, much of the piece is less about a two-lane highway and more about 14 lanes of traffic-circle, rush-hour chaos in Rome. Keenan brought a precision to the podium that reminded me of a high-performance engine. I loved it.
“Legacy Fanfare”: Almost aggressively celebratory, this pleasing bit of pomp by Ryan Nowlin offers lush harmonies and a sense that something good and important is going to happen.
“Evocation of the Spirit”: Beautiful entrances by the brass (oh, those French horns!) and a spiritual intensity infused this fine piece. I like the way Gilroy held the last, precious moments of silence at the end of the piece before lowering his hands.
“Country Band March”: Perhaps not the easiest piece to listen to, but with composer Charles Ives, you don’t expect that, right? I found it to be an impressive blur of musicality and tonal ferocity. And it was great to see guest conductor Sutherland (the emeritus director of bands at Fresno State) on the podium.
“Miracle on Prince Street”: This piece, written by Gilroy specifically for the Wind Symphony of Clovis journey to Chicago, is an homage to his mother’s Polish heritage and the touching musical tale of a Christmas Eve quest to deliver a tree to a single immigrant mother and her children. Jaunty, tender, whimsical and imbued with a boisterous sparkle, the 11-minute song was a fine conclusion to an impressive concert. I hope they like it as much in Chicago as the audience did in Clovis.