8 years ago

Volume 19 Issue 4 - December 2013

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Beat by Beat |

Beat by Beat | BandstandDiversity is theSeasonal KeyJ A C K M a c Q U A R R I ESince this issue of The WholeNote is a double issue covering theperiods before and after the Christmas holiday season, I expectedto be flooded with information on concerts devoted to traditionalChristmas music. I also expected a small smattering of information onwhat might be in store in the community band world in the new year.I was mistaken. In my ad hoc unscientific survey of band activities,the clear pattern was that there is no pattern. The key wordis diversity. Where to start? How are they diverse? How dothey differ from the traditional activities we think of whenwe use the phrase “Town Band”?Traditionally most town bands performed regularly inparades. Now, most community bands restrict their activitiesto concerts. In the more extreme cases, the wordparade is akin to blasphemy. In other words, to play in aparade would be beneath their artistic dignity. A specialbouquet then goes to the Newmarket Citizens Band. In athree-week period before Christmas the members of thattown band are scheduled to perform in no fewer than fiveSanta Claus Parades interspersed with some free concertsat retirement residences. That is community service. Atthe other end of the diversity spectrum, many communitybands perform one concert of Christmas or seasonal music.As for concert programming, that too has diversified greatly. Fewof the groups that we have heard from restrict their programmingto band music only. Most have guest soloists, choirs or both.For the Milton Concert Band their special guests are the KingswayConservatory of Music Children’s Choir under music director KarenSexton and a very special secret guest vocalist. They’ll cover the spectrumfrom Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride to Morten Lauridsen’s OMagnum Mysterium. The Brampton Concert Band takes diversityfurther with both the Brampton Youth Concert Band and the MayfieldSingers from Mayfield Secondary School as guests. As an additionalattraction, this year’s “Christmas at the Rose” will intertwine themusic with story-telling presented by local Brampton actor Joe Rose.On the eastern front, out in Pickering, the Pickering CommunityConcert Band’s Christmas Concert will include theme music fromHarry Potter films performed with synchronized video. To completethe mix, in addition to an audience carol sing-along they will bejoined by the Pickering High School Jazz Band.Plumbing the repertoire: Although their concerts will be pasthistory by the time this issue is off the presses, I would be remiss if Ididn’t recognize the creative efforts of professor Henry Meredith andhis Plumbing Factory Brass Band in London. In their late Novemberconcerts they included a tasteful variety of Christmas melodies inoriginal arrangements for brass band by band members. On the religiousside, these included the Ukrainian folk chant Carol of theBells, the 17th century French Canadian Huron Carol also known asTwas in the Moon of Wintertime and the premiere performance of AChristmas Carol Medley arranged by band member Ronald Morgan.On the lighter side there was The Parade of the Tin Soldiers (1897) byLeon Jessel and the March of the Toys (from Babes in Toyland) (1903)by Victor Herbert. Then, as frequently happens in their programs,there was the unknown Canadian gem most of us had never heard of.This time such a gem was The Mistletoe Galop (c. 1867–75, publishedby P. Grossman, Hamilton, ON)Horizons past: From time to time I report on the happenings of theNew Horizons bands. Now in their fourth season in Toronto, thereare now five concert bands and one jazz class with another newgroup starting in February on Wednesday afternoons. A familiarizationevening will be held for anyone interested in learning more aboutthe New Horizons movement on Friday, January 31 from 7pm to 9pmat the Long and McQuade Bloor Street store in Toronto. The originalintent of this movement, when it was started about 15 years ago, was24 | December 1, 2013 – February 7, 2014

to encourage older absolute beginners or those who hadn’t touchedan instrument since school days to get into playing in a group. Havingdecided to look at diversity this month, I inquired about the musicalbackgrounds, if any, of the local New Horizons members. What Ilearned was surprising. Many had considerable experience in music,but on other instruments. Here again, an unscientific, informal surveywas in order.One of the dedicated members of the senior group, Alizon, whoplays the oboe in the band, came to New Horizons with piano experienceand as a singer. Maureen, new to the group this year, who pickedup the French horn on her own, just happens to teach harp at theRoyal Conservatory. Gail, on alto saxophone, with no previous musicalexperience, is one of the sort that I expected. Russell, a professionalbassist, is now performing on tenor saxophone. Ken, a professionalbassoonist and bass clarinetist, now embraces a tuba. He doesadmit though that carrying a tuba on public transit presents a challenge.Carol, with no prior experience, originally took up the fluteand now plays that in the level two band. However, she had a longsuppressedurge to try drums. She now also plays drums in the levelone band. One of the most interesting members is Randy. Havingnever played any instrument in his life, Randy, a seasoned member onflute in the level three band, is now trying his hand at composition.The members of the group hope to give his first effort a read throughin the coming weeks.Within that group there are two individuals who warrant specialmention for their musical dealings with adversity. Lawrence, once anaccomplished organist and choir director, was forced to relinquishhis post when the arthritis in his hands reached the stage where hecould no longer cope with a keyboard instrument. While the organis no longer within his grasp, his musical talent is now expressedthrough the xylophone. Then there is Randall. Totally blind since birth,Randall is seen regularly carrying his euphonium at various bandevents around Toronto. He even performs frequently on euphoniumat York University. I have grown accustomed to observing Randall’sproficiency on a valved instrument. To put it mildly, I was blown awaywhen I spotted him holding forth on a large bass trombone during arecent visit to a New Horizons rehearsal. My exploration into diversityin the band world took me to places that I could not have imagined.Readers write: Although there is a regular request in this columnfor readers to write, it rarely happens. What a joy this time to have twonew responses to report, The first from reader John Ryerson offers acorrection to my referral in the last issue to “a decision by the TorontoDistrict School Board to cut the funding of some music programs inToronto schools.” He states: “For the record, it was the Ministry ofEducation that wanted the ‘flex’ funding program removed but theTDSB wore it. Regards.”Another reader response, with a twist of humour, came from“Suzanne.” Last month’s lesser known musical term was “bassocontinuo: when musicians are still fishing long after the legal seasonhas ended.” Suzanne’s rejoinder requires careful pronunciation tofully comprehend.“One of the more unsavory types out on the waters after the endof the legal season is the solitary and elusive bass angling for bass. Ihope that this will change the tenor of the common belief that bassocontinuo is just a little harmless illegal fishy fun. One must also questionLiona Boyd’s intentions. As you will note from her picture, (page31, right next to your column), she appears to be just enjoying a littleharmless R&R in a canoe. Or has she succumbed to this derelict bassocontinuo craze. After all let’s not forget that the guitar which she just‘happens’ to have with her in the canoe is a popular choice for bassocontinuo illegal fishing types. I hope this clarifies things.”DEFINITION DEPARTMENTThis month’s lesser known musical term is ben sostenuto: First cousinof the second trombonist.We invite submissions from readers. Let’s hear your daffynitions.Jack MacQuarrie plays several brass instruments andhas performed in many community ensembles. He canbe contacted at December 1, 2013 – February 7, 2014 | 25

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