FAIRFIELD — Solano Winds opened its 19th season at the Fairfield Center for Creative Arts with a salute to the classics by the Brits in a program called “Across the Pond.”
This musical ensemble had its premiere performance in 1995. It was founded by the late University of California, Berkeley, band director, Bob O. Briggs, and carries on today under the formidable musical direction of Bill Doherty.
The evening opened with “Life on the Ocean Wave,” composed by Henry Russell and arranged by Harold Gore. The music, published in 1838, was actually created for a poem written while watching ships embark in New York City. Today this piece is the official march of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.
Solano Winds is truly an ensemble effort, with a superior ability to blend sounds seamlessly. Of particular note is the percussion section and xylophone that adds great color to the reed and brass sounds.
The next offering was “First Suite for Military Band.”
This work was written by the well-known British composer Gustav Holst. It is a mainstay in concert band repertoires, and was written for a full-fledged military band in 1909. This piece was at times gleefully joyful, interspersed with huge ornamental, illustrious sounds.
It was followed by a wonderful medley of sounds composed by Britain’s famous composer, Andrew Lloyd Webber. Educated in both classical and rock, Webber’s works are easily recognizable by audiences throughout the world.
Listeners were treated to the magnificent sounds from shows such as “Cats,” “Evita,” “Les Miserables” and the ever-popular “Phantom of the Opera.”
The works of Webber were immediately followed by a rousing British march, “The British Eighth.” It was published in 1944 and dedicated to Gen. Bernard Montgomery and his Eighth Army for a triumphant sweep across Africa in 1942. The Solano Winds created an equally triumphant sweep with this choice musical endeavor.
The second portion of the performance included the works of the English composer Philip Sparke called the “Bandwagon,” followed by the work of Percy Grainger that was also inspired by folk music. “Lincolnshire Posy” includes six quite different movements.
The night ended with a resounding performance of music by Sir Arthur Gilbert of Gilbert and Sullivan light opera fame. The piece selected was “The Gilbert & Sullivan Symphonic Suite.”
By the end of the evening, people were on their feet requesting an encore. “Get your whistlers ready, how about one more popular British march?” conductor Doherty said. He ended the night with a toe-tapping march that made for a resounding successful opening night for what promises to be a great season.
Senior tickets for Solano Winds are modestly priced yet the theater was barely half-full. The offerings are well-defined, carefully chosen and superbly executed.
Their holiday performance is Dec. 13 with the works of Offenbach, Sousa and holiday magic.
Suisun City resident Nancy Lee Liebscher had this to say: “The amazing part is that I love to attend every performance I can of Solano Winds. I don’t even know what the different instruments are; all I know is that the dedication of this all-volunteer band, the beauty of the music they offer blesses my soul.”
You just can’t get a much better review than that.
Paula McConnell is a freelance writer living in Vallejo.