Friday, July 4, 2014

Blossom Festival Band: A Salute to America

(The full program can be found below)

My personal tradition since moving to Cleveland has been to attend Blossom's Independence Day festivities. This year marked my ninth year attending, and Rachel and my's third year and enjoying the Blossom Festival Band under the direction of Loras John Schissel, an able conductor and a Senior Musicologist from the Library of Congress.

(Incidentally, since I pick up a few hits from the DC area around this time each year, Rachel will be interning with the Library in Washington DC in August and September -- if anyone knows someone whit a spare bedroom or couch available for rent rent in the area please drop me a line at lincoln at lincolnincleveland dot com.)

I had an unplanned trip to New York on Tuesday and had planned on returning Wednesday afternoon, but due to the wonders of United's reliability, about 6 hours after I first started trying to get back to Cleveland I just changed the flight to a 6am Thursday morning -- meaning that I was awake starting about 3:30. Not being a morning person to begin with, by the time concert time rolled around I was basically in a perpetual state of yawn. (You know you're too far gone when the cannon fire in the 1812 Overture doesn't stir you...)

The program was the typical fare -- patriotic pieces with a few more Sousa pieces than I'd personally like-- and you'll find my reactions to many of those pieces in my prior posts about the annual patriotic tradition.

Worth particular note, however were Copland's Variations on a Shaker Melody and Anthony O'Toole's arrangement of George F Root's The Battle Cry of Freedom. I learned from Mr. Schissel's introduction of Variations on a Shaker Melody that it's parent piece (the ballet Appalachian Spring - also a favorite of minewas a commission by The Library of Congress for Martha Graham  The Shaker Melody is also known by its first few lyrics ('tis a gift to be simple, 'tis a gift to be free...) and the variations were interesting in their treatments of this from delicate and understated to bold, forceful declarations.

Meanwhile, Anthony O'Toole's treatment of The Battle Cry of Freedom -- receiving what is believed to be the first public performance with these concerts -- stated "elegiacal" (to borrow Mr. Schissel's description which I fully endorse) but took on a cinematic and triumphant swell about midway through the piece and became more of a declaration of future freedom the respect for past freedoms that seemed to mark the first half.

Mr Schissel's own November 25, 1963 had an intense and somewhat haunting drum beat

There were at least two encore pieces following the official end of the program, however, I was far too tired to stay and enjoy.

Key (arr. Schissel): The Star-Spangled Banner
Gomes: Overture: II Guarany
Sousa: Federal
Copland: Variations on a Shaker 
Root (arr. O'Toole): The Battle Cry of Freedom
Gould: Pavanne
Sousa: March: Jack Tar
Rodgers: Symphonic Synthesis: Victory At Sea
Goldwin: On the Mall
Sousa: Semper Fidelis
Sousa: Humoresque on Jerome Kern's "Look for the Silver Lining"
Schissel: November 25, 1963
Traditional: March-Past of the U.S. Armed Forces
Tchaikovsky: Overture: The Year 1812


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