A Brass Salute: The Eastern Iowa Brass Band’s Memorial Day Concert

The Eastern Iowa Brass Band performs on Memorial Day 2017

The sun shone brightly and strong prairie winds whipped the edges of the stage bunting on Memorial Day, May 29, 2017, as the Eastern Iowa Brass Band (EIBB) performed a free concert on the grounds of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, Iowa, only 10 miles from Iowa City. The crowd, a varied mixture of families and older couples, sat in lawn chairs facing the stage, which ingeniously pulled out from a large trailer. The EIBB, which bills itself as “Iowa’s only British-styled brass band”, is a 35-member all volunteer ensemble. In order to get that mellow … Read more

“Summon the Heroes” to Luther College’s Commencement Weekend Concerts

Luther College Concert Band

On May 20, 2017 I attended Luther College’s Music Showcase II, part of Commencement weekend at the campus in northeast Iowa. This program featured the Concert Band followed by the Jazz Orchestra. (Note: Videotaping by the audience was not allowed, so I have included music and videos from alternate sources. The college did videotape the concert which can be found here, and it is well worth watching, but be advised that the music doesn’t start until about 13 minutes into the recording). Conductor Joan de Albuquerque explained that the Concert  Band would be playing for the Commencement ceremony the next day … Read more

Buzzing around Decorah, named Iowa’s “Best Hippie Town”

Main Street Decorah Iowa

I’ve made the trek to the northeastern Iowa city of Decorah (pop. 8,000) many times in the last few years, but it was only recently that I realized I was visiting the hippie mecca of the state, at least according to the website Thrillist. The hipster gurus at this website said their determination was based on these factors: the city’s widespread beekeeping, the Oneota Community Food Cooperative, its two breweries—Toppling Goliath and Pulpit Rock—and Luther College, the local private college with a strong arts program. Having spent many hours in Decorah due to two sons attending college at Luther, I can attest to … Read more

Des Moines Symphony’s Season Finale Soars

Des Moines Symphony American Gothic and Bolero

The Des Moines Symphony ended its 2016-2017 season with a (percussive) bang with works by Hindemith and Ravel bookending the world premiere of a commissioned video accompaniment to the Grant Wood-inspired American Gothic for Orchestra followed by cellist Matt Haimovitz’s brilliant performance of Saint-Saens’ Cello Concerto No. 1 in A Minor. The Symphony, conducted by Joseph Giunta, concluded its 79th season May 14, 2017, with the seventh program in its Masterworks Subscription Series. The concert was recorded for later broadcast on Iowa Public Radio Classical on June 18-19 (http://iowapublicradio.org/post/2015-symphonies-iowa-listing-full-top-notch-concerts). In the meantime, however, this video teaser produced by the Symphony gives … Read more

Spring it on, Des Moines Botanical Garden!

Approach to the Des Moines Botanical Garden

Take a break from the hustle and bustle of Iowa’s capital city to enjoy the natural wonders hidden within the geodesic dome and walled gardens of the Des Moines Botanical Garden. The Des Moines’ downtown area has plenty to offer the casual visitor, even on a Sunday afternoon when government offices and many businesses are closed. This past Mother’s Day I found myself in the city with time to spare before a symphony concert at the Civic Center, so I was able to explore the Springtime offerings at the Des Moines Botanical Garden. It was only my second visit to the … Read more

7 Things the Jack Daniel Distillery Doesn’t Do

Jack Daniel Distillery Tennessee Whiskey tasting

The Jack Daniel Distillery, located in Lynchburg, Tennessee, only 46 miles (74 km) from Huntsville, Alabama and 74 miles (119 km) from Nashville, is the oldest registered distillery in the United States. On its hilly tree-covered grounds—in a dry county, no less, which prohibits most sales of alcohol—you’ll find an informative museum where you can sign up for tours that take you through the entire Tennessee whiskey making process, ending with an opportunity to sample variations of the smooth whiskey itself. As maker of the top-selling whiskey in the world—Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Black Label Tennessee Whiskey—the distillery uses … Read more

Jazzing the Night Away: Luther College Jazz Band and SuperLutherSax Combo Wows Campus Crowd

Luther College Jazz Band, Ben Ostrem soloist

The Luther College Jazz Band, under the direction of Jon Ailabouni, gave a solid performance Saturday evening, April 29, 2017, in the Center for Faith and Life on campus in Decorah, Iowa. The eight-member SuperLutherSax ensemble also entertained the audience with three jazz standards. An excellent video of the entire performance is available at Luther College’s website; just click the link below: Luther College Jazz Band Performance April 29, 2017 The performance opened with the bouncy tune Moose the Mooche written by Charlie Parker and arranged by Lennie Niehaus. This melody featured the five-member-strong saxophone section, consisting of Ben Rieckhoff … Read more

Digging the Rhythms of the “America’s Roots of Pop” Concert Featuring the Dave Bennett Quartet

The Dave Bennett Quartet: Tad Weed (piano), Kurt Krahnke (bass), Dave Bennett (guitar), Pete Siers (drums)

Covering music from a wide swath of the 20th Century—starting with the jazzy instrumental tunes of Benny Goodman and Count Basie through the rockabilly rhythms of Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis right up to the legendary styles of Johnny Cash and the Beatles—the Dave Bennett Quartet’s intensity and enthusiasm shone brightly in this 2-hour concert, part of the Mitchell County (Iowa) Concert Association’s 2016-2017 Season. The 2 1/2 hour drive through steady rain to the northern Iowa town of Osage (not far from the Minnesota border) proved tedious, but the treasure at the end of the road spurred … Read more

Fantastic! Des Moines Symphony’s enchanting performance of Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique

Des Moines Symphony

Led by Conductor Joseph Giunta, the Des Moines Symphony’s Masterworks 6 concert “Beyond the Score: Berlioz’s ‘Symphonie Fantastique’ coupled an educational, multimedia program with the full performance of this 5-movement symphony that showcased the orchestra’s excellent woodwind section. Outside it was just another gray and rainy April afternoon, but inside the spacious Des Moines Civic Center the audience at the April 2 matinee concert was treated to over two hours of musical entertainment which included the multimedia program “Beyond the Score” produced by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. My first stop was the Concert Prelude Talk given by Arlene DeVries in … Read more

March Madness in February: The music of “March King” Karl L. King in Concert

Barnum & Bailey Circus Band, 1917, Karl L. King Conductor

The Karl L. King Municipal Band of Fort Dodge presented a technically impressive concert of King’s compositions as well as a couple of tunes showcasing cornetist Tim Miller, all under the direction of Conductor Jerrold P. Jimmerson and Assistant Conductor Dr. David Klee. On a recent Sunday afternoon I drove the 150 miles from my home to Fort Dodge, Iowa, enjoying record high temperatures with the top down on my convertible as I sped along northwest on Interstates 80 and 35 and state highway 20, where empty fields stretched on both sides of the roadway as far as my eyes … Read more