The evening began with a reading of the flamboyant “His Honor” march by Henry Fillmore. Fillmore was a multi-instrumentalist, playing, among others, the violin and guitar.
Director Bill Doherty asked for a brisk pace so the engaging piece sounded more like a scamper than a march. The swirling flutes and forthright brass opened the concert with a bang.
The energy level remained high as the Winds embarked upon an arrangement for concert band by Tommy J. Fry of the Gioachino Rossini’s “William Tell Overture,” perhaps best known as the theme to the mid-century radio and television show “The Lone Ranger.” Clarinets and saxophones were most effective in musing, introspective passages originally written for cello in the opening section. Bill Aron on English horn and Emily Doherty on oboe played with deceptive simplicity in pastoral passages, while the brass section held nothing back in the brilliant finale.
“O Magnum Mysterium” by Mortem Lauridsen is an instrumental version of a chant from Roman Catholic monastic services. Heather Handa’s sensitively phrased trumpet passages were played with appropriate gravitas, while the saxophones and clarinets, in a largely supportive role, played with unobtrusive beauty.
“Symphonic Dances,” a suite from Jerry Bock’s “Fiddler on the Roof” in an arrangement by Ira Hearshen, was a return to the familiar. Trumpeter Bob Bacchus assayed the much-loved melody with fitting bravado, while Inga Soule and Don Meehan brought the requisite Eastern European feel to Solano County.
The words “Sousa” and “fugue” are not often thought of together; nevertheless, John Philip Sousa wrote at least one. His “Fugue on Yankee Doodle” tossed the well-known melody from section to section, neatly contrasting the bright assertive sound of the woodwinds with the weighty force of the lower brass.
American composer Alfred Reed might seem an unlikely choice to write a piece of Russian music, but his “Russian Christmas Music,” played for the first time in Denver in 1944, was an immediate success. The slow opening section featured clarinets playing with marked lyricism. The brass section, soon joined by the woodwinds, picked up the pace in the near-turbulent second section. The horns displayed a full-bodied sound through tender passages in the third section, though Emily Doherty on the English horn offered the standout performance in several contemplative solo passages. The trombones, horns and percussion, most notably timpanist Colin Gordon, brought the last section to an exciting finish.
“Imani” by Sean O’Loughlin celebrates the seventh day of Kwanzaa and proves, among other things, that the Solano Winds can sing. A work combining reflective passages – some voiced – with a lively beat featured bright, clear tones from the saxophones and clarinets yet again, and a sparkling piccolo solo from Cathy Pierce. The percussion section made tricky rhythms look easy; Jennifer Doherty even danced a bit as she dashed between at least three different instruments.
“A Christmas Festival” by Leroy Anderson weaves together such holiday staples as “Joy to the World,” “Jingle Bells” and “Good King Wenceslas” into a work with an effect greater than the sum of its parts. Unlike medleys that are nothing more than a stitching together of disparate elements, Anderson’s “Festival” uses its various melodies to create a concert piece with a cohesive, forthright feel and a markedly full-bodied sound. I’m sure I was not the only one to enjoy hearing the trombone section with the melody much of the time.
The concert ended with the now-traditional arrangement of Irving Berlin’s “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” by much-loved former Solano Winds director Bob Briggs.
Bill Doherty and the Solano Winds’ annual holiday concert once again presented the community with a wonderful, joyful and family friendly way to celebrate the season.
Kathleen Whalen is a writer and music-lover living in West Sacramento. She can be reached at [email protected].