Thursday, July 5, 2012

Cleveland Orchestra/Blossom Festival Band: A Salute to America

[The complete program for this evening's concert is at the end of this post]
Loras John Schissel, conductor.

For each of the now eight years I've lived in Cleveland, I spent my fourth of July with Loras John Schissel and the Blossom Festival Band at Blossom Music Center -- also marking the beginning of the  Cleveland Orchestra's season at Blossom. As with last year, Rachel and I met up with her parents and brother for a picnic on the lawn before the concert started. I'm pretty sure that this was the hottest of the eight years, and from the time we started picnicking just after 5:30 until we excused ourselves to find seats in the pavilion, at about 7:30, if anything I think the temperature went up.

The program, as always, started with The Star Spangled Banner and ended with Tchaikovsky's Overture to The Year 1812 and Sousa's Stars and Stripes. The gooey filling in this musical sandwich was pleasantly varied and a lovely if sweltering evening of music.

No doubt my favorite of this evening's selections was John Williams's The Cowboys' Overture which was full of energy, well paced, and  delightfully textured. The piece conjured images of the excitement on the range, a quiet almost tender (within the confines of tender for a cowboy) evening scene, a sunrise, and even more action.

Sousa's Liberty Bell was more restrained than Williams's Overture and brought about a distinctly naval feeling, most clearly through a somewhat irregular bell clanging making me think of a ship at sea. Later in the program, Grainger's Shepherd's Hey was light and frothy, with hints of a jig. The quick-moving second part seemed almost Disney-cartoon-esque.

The sixth and seventh pieces on the program a march by Victor Herbert and Sousa's March: Nobles of the Mystic Shrine was an interesting contrast. The first seemed a clear march, and more than adequate for music you might encounter in a small town's parade, while the later had quite a bit of pomp and would have likely felt much out of place in the same parade.

The Symphonic Synthesis from Victory at Sea was an impressive piece of music and Rachel leaned over and noted that it makes her want to join a band again. (No word on when she will actually do this, however)
During intermission we checked in with Rachel's parents and a group of our friends out on the lawn -- eyeing the dark skies with lightning on the horizon we suggested that our friends avail themselves of the General Admission seating in the pavilion. As Intermission ended, Mr. Schissel returned to the stage with two announcements -- one encouraging those on the lawn to feel free to migrate to the pavilion, and the other was never made because at that moment the skies opened and the lawn disappeared from behind an impenetrable fog of rain and a mass of people streamed into the pavilion.

Once the human element was settled back down, the concert picked up with Mancini Magic which was interesting, but largely drowned out by the sounds of the downpour.

A tremendous thunderclap punctuated Mr. Schissel's introduction of narrator's Robert Conrad and Harold Walters, Duty, Honor, Country, and smaller thunderclaps followed -- almost as if the heavens were announcing the approval of tonight's concerts.

The program (as performed):
Key/Smith/Sousa: The Star Spangled Banner
Williams: Overture: The Cowboys
Sousa: Liberty Bell
Grainger: Colonial Song
Grainger: Shepherd's Hey
Herbert: Gold Bug
Sousa: March: Nobles of the Mystic Shrine
Rodgers: Victory at Sea, Symphonic Synthesis
Van Alston: In the Dark
Anderson: Sleigh Ride
Sousa: Semper Fidelis
Mancini: Mancini Magic
Walters: Duty, Honor, Country, Robert Conrad, narrator
Traditional: March-Past of the United States Armed Forces
Tchiakovsky: Overture: The Year 1812 

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