Three cheers to Moses Znaimer and The New Classical 96.3 FM as they continue their series of “Live From the Concert Lobby” live-to-air broadcasts. Today’s offering was easily the “biggest” event yet as the 22-member Band of the Royal Canadian Regiment donned their “reds” (be sure to check the on-line video for the full colour effect) and raised the roof, spirits and blood pressure of the hanging-from-the-rafters studio audience along with legions of radioland and Internet music lovers. Previous events have featured recital repertoire from the likes of Angela Hewitt and James Ehnes. The Elmer Iseler Singers stopped by for a set in December, but nothing to date could top the decibel count from this varied program of standards, chestnuts and novelty.
No better opener than Kenneth J. Alford’s Colonel Bogey. Conducted by director of music Lieutenant Bill Mighton, the toes started tapping and many filled their personal screens with memories of the Bridge on the River Kwai from the downbeat. The low brass fired on all cylinders; only more lift and horizontal drive could have improved the result. Philip Sparke’s A Huntington Celebration followed. After a rough-and-ready opening (where the crisp percussion interventions were instrumental in keeping everyone on track), the band settled in and delivered some marvellously liquid long lines deftly topped off by a first-rate piccolo. Trombonist Corporal Yannick Malbeouf then stepped up to the microphone and utilized his svelte tone and excellent rhythmic feel to serve up Warren Barker’s engaging arrangement of Herman Hupfeld’s “As Time Goes By”—Casablanca comes to Queen Street East!
Following the commercials, associate director of music Major Paul Weston (Royal Marines, Ret’d) stepped up to the podium and conducted his countryman’s Army of the Nile that was at once sturdier and tighter than the fabled Colonel. The muted solo trumpet call was a pleasure in the Trio and, apart from some untidiness in the clarinets’ obbligato, this march sizzled from stem to stern. William Himes’ adaptation of Amazing Grace sputtered at first but soon warmed up to produce a warm, rich ensemble where the languid legato layers tested the endurance of many embouchures yet managed to disappear into the ether beautifully. Programming Holst’s Chaconne next proved problematic: the famous tune was uneven in its truly “seul” beginning and the pulse shifted too frequently to yield the mesmerizing effect heard in other performances. The music of the only “real” composer (in the truly classical sense) needs more preparation and care next time out.
With time running out (and the one o’clock news threatening to truncate the music) the band tucked right into Mighton’s own composition (also back to direct it), Fields of Honour. Thoughtfully crafted (the melodic hint of “Oh Canada” perfectly suited the role-of-the-military subject matter) and well executed, here’s a work that should make the playlists of wind ensembles everywhere.
What fun to finish up with the full version of Floyd E. Werle’s Rainbow Ripples! Corporal Kevin Anderson barred his mallets and was the intrepid xylophone soloist on this piece of froth that couldn’t fail to crack a smile on even the most surly Grinch. Clearly management agreed, for when the woodchips had settled the events of the day waited patiently in the wings while the art of the hour scurried happily to the double bar. JWR