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 (Sunday, May 21st) then leaving for a 12-day performance tour to Spain. The program included selections from their tour repertoire.
Concert Band conducted by Joan de Albuquerque
I was impressed that the group took a full two minutes to tune. This unrushed time allowed the various individuals and sections to tune at their separate pace and led undoubtedly to a more pleasing in-tune performance.
The first piece was Summon the Heroes by John Williams, a household name and prolific composer of movie soundtracks (Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jaws among many other) and other enduring music. Conductor de Albuquerque described how Williams composed this piece to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the modern Olympic games. It begins with a stirring trumpet fanfare joined by other brass instruments. There is a rather high trumpet solo which the student musician Ryan Ehrhardt performed masterfully. The video below captures the composer conducting this piece at the opening of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta:
Next up was Flaher by Ben Lee, written to celebrate the life of a friend who had committed suicide. The alto flute represented his lost friend (Anthony Flaher), and piano, solo woodwinds, and the bells figured prominently in this often somber but nevertheless lyrical piece.
Following that was a jazzy piece, Big Four on the River by James David, inspired by historic Southeastern riverfront cities such as New Orleans and Savannah. The various student soloists (clarinet, saxophone, trombone) contributed to this selection’s upbeat melody.
The band then played a planned encore piece for their tour, the lively Tour de Force March by Robert Jager. They concluded their concert according to the group’s tradition with Bach’s Who Puts his Trust in God Most Just and Stars and Stripes Forever by John Philip Sousa, the latter tune featuring Marta Williams on piccolo as well as the entire trumpet and trombone sections.
Jazz Orchestra conducted by Juan Tony Guzman
After a brief intermission the Luther College Jazz Orchestra opened their portion of the concert with Flaming Sword by Duke Ellington, transcribed by David Berger. Soloists included Colin Weber (trumpet) and Jackson Churchill (trombone). Conductor Guzman contributed to the performance by playing the bongo drums.
Enjoy the Jazz at Lincoln Center’s interpretation of this jazz rhumba number:
Next, Michael Chesher, guest faculty soloist, took the lead in Artie Shaw’s Concerto for Clarinet, transcribed and adapted by Myles Collins. The piece also featured student soloists Pablo Gomez (piano), Lauren Sather (alto sax), Christopher Lange-Pearson (trombone), Peter Mathistad (tenor sax), and Michael Winkler (trumpet). Dr. Chesher worked his clarinet expertly, imparting a rich tone and pleasing glissando at times in this popular swing number.
The next piece, Moon over Cuba written by Juan Tizol and arranged by Duke Ellington, featured student Elliot Douma on valve trombone. I enjoyed his excellent vibrato and rich low tones. Lauren Sather on alto sax and Jonathon Goldstein on tenor sax were also featured soloists.
Another student, this time on baritone saxophone, was featured on A Smith Named Greg by Hank Levy. The soloist, David Blackstad, displayed great tone and technical skill in this piece which began and ended slowly but picked up tempo in the main section.
This video features the Stan Kenton Orchestra performing this tune with Greg Smith on bari sax:
The college’s student led jazz vocal group took the stage for two unaccompanied numbers: Orange Blossoms in Summertime and Cole Porter’s Everytime We Say Goodbye. The 14-member group gave a professional and enjoyable performance with numerous solos.
The Jazz Orchestra’s own vocalist, Emma Withers, took center stage for What a Little Moonlight Can Do by Harry M. Woods, arranged by Billy May. This familiar jazz standard also featured Peter Mathistad on tenor sax.
The next piece treated the audience to another guest faculty artist: Jon Ailabouni, who directs the college’s Jazz Band as well as the jazz combo program. His trumpet performance in Transit, written by Darcy James Argue, was masterful and very enjoyable.
Jon Ailabourni, guest faculty soloist performs “Transit” with the Jazz Orchestra
Here is a video of the composer’s own Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society performing “Transit”:
The Jazz Orchestra concluded its set with Free, written by Robert Lamm and arranged by John Wasson. Lamm wrote this tune for the rock group Chicago as part of the “Travel Suite” included on its 1971 album Chicago III, and it featured student soloists Michael Winkler (trumpet), Peter Mathistad (tenor sax), and Aidan Schmitt (drumset).
This concert provided two hours of musical entertainment with a fantastic variety of both wind ensemble concert pieces and fantastic jazz instrumental and vocal performances. Bravo to all the musicians for their many hours of practice and rehearsal!