Upper Valley Community Band

Lynne and I had a dinner date last night and after eating at Three Tomatoes we spent $5 each to see the Upper Valley Community Band at the Opera House. It’s hard to tell when a “band” ends and when an “orchestra” begins, but I’m pretty sure when you’ve got 65 people on stage, and a conductor, and they’re reading sheet music, it’s more like an orchestra.
The primary reason we attended is because my brother-in-law, whose has a day-job as the police chief of a nearby town, is at heart a composer who has written something like 400 pieces for jazz, big band, and orchestra. He was premiering a new piece written for this band, and was conducting it on stage.
There were a couple of hundred people there, and though we weren’t the youngest, we didn’t bring the average age down much. I think what impressed me most about the whole thing was the “just folks” nature of it. I really wish I had brought my camera, but imagine everyone on stage in their “Sunday best” with the result that “Sunday best” means a lot of different things to different people. Cotton country dresses, tweed sport coat, three piece suit, polyester slacks, velvet evening gown, etc. The diversity in background of the players was amazing; very much a community effort.
At the start of each piece, a Distinguished Gentleman came out from the wings and introduced the work, providing a bit of background and history. At the beginning of the concert he welcomed us, and invited us to “honor our country and our flag by rising to sing the Star Spangled Banner – the flag is right over there” pointing to stage right. Everyone stood, even me – why not, I thought, this isn’t the time to make a stand against jingoistic excess – and faced the flag, and did our best to remember the words. I even put my hand over my heart the way the Distinguished Gentleman was modeling. I looked around and realized there were a lot of WW II, Korean War, and maybe even WW I vets in attendance, and they take this sort of thing seriously. Ironic detachment and post-modern multi-cultural “God loves all people” philosophy were in short supply.
Anyway, the band was pretty darn good. It’s not the Vienna State Opera, but it wasn’t a hack job either. Tim’s piece was called the UVCB March, and it was strong and well-played. I think the band really likes having a resident composer and they seemed to work hard on his piece. They did a nice job on the ballad With Quiet Courage, and the Learner and Loewe musical medley brought fond memories of recognizable show tunes. Gershwin’s An American in Paris is a jazz-based piece with more complexity, and they suitably satisfied my “reverie quotient.” What’s Up at the Symphony was a cartoon medley, and you’d have to get up pretty early Saturday morning to hear all these themes in one day. They played a Benny Goodman medley, and closed with another march. Unfortunately, they didn’t play any Frank Zappa compositions.
Then the Distinguished Gentleman came out again and thanked us for coming, and said they’d like to play for us now, God Bless America. The band launched into it, and from above the stage a brightly lit American flag descended with much drama. They encouraged us to sing, which was quite amusing – other than the three title words, how many of those lyrics to you know? At the end, Lynne said, “And God bless everyone else too.” Right on, sistah.
All in all, a great Northern New England community event.