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Concert Reviews

The Tacoma Concert Band celebrated its 25th season Sunday with a concert that touched on the highlights of its first quarter-century and gave a local hero a chance to shine.


Dubbed “Milestones,” the performance featured a selection of significant works performed by the group since its formation in 1981, as well as a quartet of works featuring virtuoso Seattle-born trumpeter Rolf Smedvig.


From the moment Smedvig, founder of the Empire Brass Quartet and holder of the “international chair” at the Royal Academy of Music in London, strode onto the Pantages Theater stage in a bold red jacket with a gleaming gold trumpet under his arm, it was clear that the small but appreciative audience was in for something special.  Whether blowing jazzily on Alfred Reed’s “Ode for Trumpet,” summoning matadors and rose-throwing senoritas on the traditional “La Virgin de la Macarena” or peeling off awe-inspiring virtuosic runs on “Carnival of Venice,” Smedvig delivered on his promise by making the most of his time in the spotlight.


He also made a point to give kudos to the Tacoma Concert Band, praising the group’s camaraderie and hailing conductor/music director Robert Musser’s musicianship.  “It’s a great privilege to come here and play with such a great symphonic band,” announced the gifted and gracious Smedvig.


Elsewhere, the group took a long look down its own little stretch of memory lane, offering up everything from good-time John Philip Sousa fare (“The Belle of Chicago”) to dense and predominantly dark transcriptions of orchestral works by Gustav Holst (“Mars” from his orchestral suite “The Planets”) and Modeste Mussorgsky (“Night on the Bare Mountain”).  The group was particularly effective on a pair of works commissioned by the Tacoma Concert Band, David Holsinger’s “Praises” and Robert Jager’s “A Sea of Glass Mingled with Fire.”


The Holsinger piece, a symphonic ballet for band that premiered in 2001, was represented by its third and sixth movements.  The third, titled “Barak,” a Hebrew word that means “to kneel and bow as an act of humble adoration,” exhibited a contemporary sound long on texture and reminiscent of the work of Aaron Copland.  The sixth movement, “Tehillah,” Hebrew for “to sing halals (praises),” was a rousing musical celebration rooted in a more traditional concert band sound that featured a runaway glockenspiel, sharp blasts from the brass and an introductory section that found the group functioning as a makeshift chorus.


The Jager composition, a tribute to the work of world-renowned local glass artist Dale Chihuly that was premiered in 1997, was a largely percussion-driven offering that ranged from airy and mysterious to rhythmic and rollicking.  The third movement, inspired by the music that Chihuly and his apprentices listen to while working, was a homage-of-sorts to ’60s and ’70s rock ’n’ roll music, complete with a percussion quote from Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham.


The News Tribune




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