Photos by Kayla Michaud |CIGAR|
The University of Rhode Island was paid a visit by the American Band, a classical concert band of over 60 of the finest musicians and conductors in Southern New England, this past Sunday.
The American Band is one of the oldest concert bands in America still in operation, having just celebrated the commencement of its 118th season.
Held in the recital hall of the URI Fine Arts Center, the event was intended to pay tribute to the state of Rhode Island, featuring a number of distinctly American pieces ranging from traditional to contemporary, including several pieces composed by native Rhode Islanders.
A crowd comprised of both students and the public streamed into the concert hall to behold the impressive looking band, crowded onto the stage and uniformly adorned in formal clothing, led by their conductor, Brian Cardany. Band announcer Scott Fraser stepped up to the podium to introduce the band as they launched into “American Band Salute,” a piece composed especially for them by Rhode Island-based composer, Roger Cichy. The song showcased the bands keen ability to invoke the musical heritage of the United States of America. Cichy himself, a close collaborator with the band as well as the University of Rhode Island, having served as the Director of Bands here, was present at the concert, and stood to receive a round of applause after the piece had finished.
The band then backtracked for a performance of the traditional “Narragansett March,” composed by D.W. Reeves. A Rhode Island composer active during the late 19 century, Reeves is said to have developed the traditional style of American marches later popularized by composers such as John Phillip Sousa, who would be featured later on in the set.
The following piece was another contemporary piece known as “Curtain Raiser,” which was composed specifically for the American Band by Peter Boyer, in honor of their 180th anniversary. It was the first piece Boyer had composed for the American Band, and Cardany, the conductor, has described it on Boyer’s website as “an engaging work, full of fervent energy and exuberance,” a fitting tribute indeed.
Fraser, the announcer, then acknowledged the attendance of George Masso, a prolific composer native to Rhode Island and a U.S. Army veteran who served during the second world war. Masso stood to wave to the audience before two pieces of his own were performed – “The Golden Anchor,” a tribute to his home state, and “A Tribute to the World War II Memorial,” which was inspired by Masso’s visitation of the titular memorial in Washington, D.C. The crowd was then asked to recognize Arthur Medeiros, a Rhode Islander and veteran of the second world war who received the Purple Heart in the Battle of the Bulge, as well as the composer of the next piece of the event, entitled “AMVETS 1948,” a touching tribute to American veterans of the war.
Next were three more pieces composed by Cichy, beginning with “Divertimento for Winds and Percussion,” a tribute to prolific composers of the twentieth century such as Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland, whose influences are evident in the movement. Next, Cardany briefly handed conducting duties over to percussionist Dalen Favali for a rendition of “Amazing Grace” arranged for the band by Cichy, followed by “Beachscapes,” a piece with three distinct conceptual movements- “Nauset,” “Rocky Point” and “Scarborough”- each named after the New England beaches they were inspired by.
The band then rolled out a true piece of Rhode Island history with their performance of “Rocky Point Holiday,” a composition by Ron Nelson inspired by a 1966 summer vacation to Rocky Point Amusement Park, a Rhode Island theme park which closed in 1995. The piece was notably performed by the University of Minnesota Wind Orchestra during their 1969 cultural exchange tour of the Soviet Union.
For the final performance of the evening, the band pulled out all the stops for, “Stars and Stripes Forever,” the traditional march composed by John Philip Sousa, often hailed as the “American March King,” in 1897, which has since been adopted by Congress as the official march of the United States of America.
With 118 years of patriotism and musicianship behind them, the American Band shows no signs of slowing down in the future. For dates and more information on future performances in the Rhode Island area, visit the website at www.theamericanband.org. You can also check them out on Facebook at Facebook.com/theamericanband, or follow them on Twitter, @theamericanband.
For more information on upcoming events in the URI Department of Music, visit www.web.uri.edu/music/music-department-events/.