I got up early this morning so I could catch the 8:30am performance by the Desert Winds, directed by Charles A. Maguire. Their sound was wonderfully balanced and transparent , and they played with an energy and expressiveness that shouldn’t be possible that early in the morning.

It’s Vegas Baby: How I Lost Everything in One Long Night – Ralph Ford

City Trees – Michael Markowski

Autumn Roads – Patrick Roszell

Tam O’Shanter Overture, Op. 51 – Malcolm Arnold

The Good Life – Rob Grice

Newcastle March – Johnnie Vinson

The Hearth Stone – Julie Giroux

The Beau Ideal – John Philip Sousa, arr. John R. Bourgeois

Mock Morris – Percy Grainger, arr. Joseph Kreines

Walking to the Sky – Robert Buckley

Novena – James Swearingen

Diamond Concerto, Euphonium Concerto no. 3 (III: Blue Heart ) – Philip Sparke

Song of Hope – Peter Meechan

Summer Nights – Robert W. Smith

The Ford was a perfect jazzy introduction for this band from Vegas, full of energy and life (and a little seedy underbelly). The Markowski is a favorite of mine – I drew hearts and stars on my program when I wasn’t getting choked up with the earnest beauty of the piece and the heartfelt playing. The Roszell was a nice contemporary young band overture with a good deal of variety. Tam O’Shanter is another band classic, very well done by this group. The Grice was a pretty and fairly predictable grade 1 piece. Newcastle March started in a minor key and moved to surprise ending – it’s a very nice work for younger band. The Giroux was as striking as most of her slow music, with a dark lyricism punctuated by a slow, pulsing phrase structure. The Sousa, with Bourgeois himself as conductor, was a true delight. The Grainger reminded me strongly of Molly on the Shore, full of wit and vigor (although Grainger might have insisted it was full of fury instead). The Buckley was essentially a Latin-flavored pop tune. The Swearingen had all of the hallmarks of his writing. The euphonium concerto, with featured soloist Demondrae Thurman, was set in a swing waltz style with a wide-ranging and impressive solo performance. The Meechan was a young band slow piece with beautiful counterlines and a lot of great solo opportunities.  Bravo, Desert Winds!

 

The clinic’s final concert was the Tokyo Geidai Wind Orchestra, one of Japan’s top college groups. To say their performance was absolutely, mind-blowingly amazing would be an understatement. They played with an abundance of clarity, musicality, and above all joy that they spread to the audience.

Liberty Fanfare – John Williams, arr. Jay Bocook

Awayday – Adam Gorb

Adagietto from Symphony no. 5 – Gustav Mahler, arr. Koh Shishikura

Bagpipe Fantasy – Katsumi Nakamura

Belkis, Regina di Saba – Ottorino Respighi, arr. Yoshihiro Kimura

Welcome to the Imagination World – Daisuke Shimizu

Rolling Thunder – Henry Fillmore

Danse Folâtre – Claude T. Smith

Liberty Fanfare immediate showcased the brilliance, clarity, and guts of their brass sound, even in the stratosphere. The Gorb was full of life and energy, built around one consistent rhythmic motive that never quit. The Mahler featured mostly the woodwind section, with abundant help from basses and harp, and a small helping hand from the brass at the end. This transcription was remarkably effective and long overdue, however much it relies on the plucked strings, and this performance was full of nuance and tenderness. The Bagpipe Fantasy must be absolutely singular in the repertoire: despite the severe limitation of the instrument it featured (only one diatonic scale available with drones), the soloist (who appeared from the back of the hall) dazzled and delighted the audience. The Respighi was another dazzler, full of instrumental color and obvious primal emotion. The Shimizu began conductorless as a theme began to emerge from what sounded at first like the tuning note. From there, it took on the flavor of background music to a Final Fantasy game. Rolling Thunder may be THE classic trombone screamer, and these trombones more than did it justice. The final piece on the program was the Smith, an obvious technical showpiece originally written for the US Air Force Band, which dazzled at every second. Every time I thought it was about to end, my heart sank, and I silently begged for more. I got my wish: after an immediate standing ovation, they encored with a joyful Latin number that featured many different sections. Stars and Stripes Forever was their second encore, a much appreciated tribute to us, their hosts. Pressed for a third encore, they repeated the Latin piece with, I dare say, even more joy. It was an absolutely devastating performance that left me an emotional wreck from so much joyful musicianship.

 

And with that, Midwest 2016 is over. Thousands of musicians and directors of all stripes are now headed home with joy in their hearts, with batteries recharged, and with all kinds of ideas to change the world. We have reconnected with old friends, found new ones, and some of us have even gotten to talk to somebody famous! We have sipped the cultural riches of Chicago, broken bread together, and outlasted last call still in our suits and badges. And we’ll do it all again in 2017, when another slate of amazing student musicians from all over the world makes us marvel at what is possible. See you all next year.