Friday, July 5, 2013

Cleveland Orchestra/Blossom Festival Band: A Salute To America

I've lived in Cleveland for about eight years and two weeks. Tonight, Rachel and I headed out to Blossom for my eighth fourth of July with Loras John Schissel* and the Blossom Festival Band. The first half of the program had some staples, but a number of fresh and very enjoyable pieces. An intermission snafu** had me too livid, and Rachel in too much physical pain to really enjoy the second half, though, I didn't get the sense of much fresh blood there to begin with.

As always, first up on the program was the traditional Star Spangled Banner.  Immediately following, Joseph Wilcox Jenkins' American Overture for Band blew fresh air into the pavilion and created the imagery of wide open prairies, neighborly small towns, and even a hint of industry -- one of my favorites from the program. While listening to Sousa's Century of Progress, an addition to the program, I found myself thinking--and jotted down the note "feels like music for a World's Fair exhibit" (thinking of the faded old film strips of the "world of tomorrow" from the '30s and '40s) -- and Mr. Schissel satisfied my curiosity by mentioning that it was written in anticipation of the 1933 Chicago World's Fair.

Ballad for Band, Morton Gould's contribution as the fourth piece on the program, started significantly more subdued than the other pieces on the program and developed like a starless night before firing off some fireworks and ending with a musical kiss goodnight. Fillmore's Miami, another addition to the program, didn't do much for me but the sounds made me think "cruise ship". Lincoln's Funeral March scored for band by Jari Villanueva based on the original piano score by General J.C. Barnard, though tugged more firmly on the heartstrings and much more vivid imagery: I could see the horses drawing the casket past mourners dressed in black, but in the same token while the music was respectfully mournful, while hinting at optimism. Claudio S. Garfulla's Quick-Step: Skyrockets was a bit less compelling and was largely disrupted by a yakking family in the row behind us.

The eighth piece is listed in the program as Music from Taras Bulba by Franz Waxman and announced as the Ride to Durbano (sp?) and seemed appropriate for a gallop or old-time convertible jalopy ride. Closing out the first half of the program was the light fun of Wilson's A Hunting Scene (complete with animal calls) and the staple, Sousa's Semper Fidelis.

As mentioned, we had no warning of the impending end of intermission, and though my paranoia had Rachel and I heading back to our seats in the pavilion, we were still in transit when the orchestra started tuning and the first piece of the second half. If performed as programmed, Music by George-Lyrics By Ira: A Gershwin Medley--instead of hearing that piece, Rachel, a couple dozen other patrons and I were hearing ushers say that they knew no warning chimes could be heard and it was a ongoing problem but offer no real apology. My blood was still boiling for the second piece -- again, if performed as programmed that would be Leroy Anderson's Serenta.

By the third piece, my irritation had calmed and was replaced by concern for Rachel who was not looking at all comfortable -- and by this point we had reached the rote standards that form part of the Independence Day obligation -- the traditional March-Past of the U.S. Armed Forces, Tchaikovsky's Overture The Year 1812 (incidentally, through Mr. Schissel's commentary I learned that it's only really been an Independence Day staple since the Boston Pops played it in 1976 -- only a bit more than 30 years ago). God Bess America and Stars and Stripes Forever rounded out the musical program before the fireworks started.

*- Senior Musicologist at the Library Of Congress. Incidentally, it's interesting how many unique visitors from the Washington DC area this post in previous years has picked up.

**- Long story, but it involves the customary chimes to warn the impending end of intermission either not being played or not being played at an adequate volume (with a number of unhappy consequences)

No comments:

Post a Comment