Concert Review of the Calgary Wind Symphony's Hilarious Holidays

The Calgary Wind Symphony performed a selection of upbeat and amusing band music at its Christmas concert on Sunday, December 2, 2012 at the University of Calgary's Rozsa Centre. Cellphone soloist Wendy Freeman and pianist Julie Jacques drew the crowd in with their energetic performances.


The CWS Set the Stage for an Afternoon of Hilarity


Various members of the Calgary Wind Symphony glittered. Literally. There was a wide assortment of blinking and non-blinking elf caps, Santa Claus hats and reindeer antlers, which set the tone for a lighthearted musical afternoon.


It only gets more garish as the afternoon goes on,” quipped CWS Music Director, Dr. Jeremy Brown after walking on stage with his fire-truck red cummerbund beneath his tux.

The Calgary Wind Symphony's "Hilarious Holidays"  Concert on December 2, 2012. Photo by R-M Arca.

Fanfare and Cell Phones Highlighted at the Calgary Wind Symphony Concert

The CWS its Christmas programme opened with Jim Colonna's “Fanfare on Adeste Fidelis”, a lively number that featured a witty fugal fanfare in the brass. This was followed up with Jan Van der Roost's “Flashing Winds”. This energetic number contained sweeping themes reminiscent of the classic TV show “Bonanza”.


One of the highlights from the first half was the “Concerto for Cell Phone” by James M. Stephenson. Yes, you read that correctly – cell phone. Soloist Wendy Freeman scoured the malls to record “the six most epic ring tones”. Each ring tone was “introduced” by the cellphone and then developed by the CWS. The fugal treatment of the infamous NOKIA® ring tone was beautifully done.


The first half ended with “Pequeña Suite para Banda” by Luis Serrano Alarcón. This suite featured some polytonality, instruments played in extreme registers and catchy rhythms. The flute solo in the “Rana” was simply exquisite, while the melodic themes in “Galop” weaved a twisting soundscape, punctuated with energetic, Batman-like “SPLATS”.


The CWS Presents the World Premiere of Le Tombeau de Liberace and More Season Favourites


The hilarity reached epic levels in the second half, beginning with the world premiere performance of Michael Daugherty's “Le Tombeau deLiberace”. This suite in four dances is scored for piano, flute, clarinet, French horn, violin and percussion. Julie Jacques of Calgary took on the role of Liberace at the piano.


It showcased everything you'd expect for a Liberace tribute – glittering rings, feather boas, candelabras and trademark Libarace piano riffs. The first dance, the “Rhinestone Kickstep”, featured a dialogue between the marimba and the piano, boogie woogie rhythms and crunchy harmonies.


How Do I Love Thee” is named after Elizabeth Barret Browning's sonnet of the same name. Liberace often recited this poem at performances. It featured a mournful melody on the French horn, glittering arpeggii on the piano and some lush Debussy-esque harmonies.


Sequin Music” is a classic example of dodecaphonic music. The 12-tone motive was presented and then developed through various permutations, such as transposition, inversion and retrograde. It became more embellished once the piano cadenza was reached.


The final dance in the suite is “Candelabra Rhumba”. The Spanish-flavoured theme weaved between the instruments against heavily syncopated rhythms played on the piano.


The stage lit up even more for the next piece, with a sudden increase in blinking Christmas hats and antlers. The CWS performed “Canadian Brass Christmas”, arranged by Luther Henderson and adapted for band by Howard Cable.


This upbeat number opened with the Big Ben clock theme before launching into a contrapuntal treatment of “Ding Dong Merrily on High”. The medley also included “Here We Come A Wassailing” as well as “Huron Carol”.


Another highlight from the second half was “A+: A Precise Prelude and an Excellent March” by Thomas C. Duffy. To set up this number, trombonist and band teacher, Jim Kramer shared this quote by baseball legend Ted Williams: "Baseball is the only field of endeavour where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer.”


With “A+”, Duffy wanted to demonstrate the difference between a performance in which everyone is trying to play as proficiently and expressively as possible (A+) and a performance akin to Williams' 3/10 game stats. Suffice it to say that Duffy and the Calgary Wind Symphony proved that getting 3/10 notes right in music is unacceptable.


The final number on the programme was Leroy Anderson's “Sleigh Ride”. As an encore, the CWS performed Karl L. King's “Circus Days – Galop”, featuring Monica Leong on bicycle honker horns.


About the Calgary Wind Symphony


The Calgary Wind Symphony is a 60-member ensemble, directed by Dr. Jeremy Brown of the University of Calgary. Formerly known as the Calgary Concert Band, the ensemble has been active in Calgary's musical community since 1947. The band went on a European tour in 2011, performing to enthusiastic audiences in Italy and Austria.


In the summer of 2012, the CCC changed its name to the “Calgary Wind Symphony”, operating under the Calgary Concert Band Society.


Music aficionados can check out the Calgary Wind Symphony's upcoming concerts for the 2012/13 season. On Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 2:30 p.m., the CWS presents “Music of Mysteries, Legends and Ritual”. On Sunday, June 2 at 2:30 p.m., the Calgary Wind Symphony presents “Apollo Sings! Music that Soars”. Both concerts will take place at the Rozsa Centre on the U of C campus. For more information and to buy concert tickets, please visit the CWS's website.


The Calgary Wind Symphony's “Hilarious Holidays!” concert in Calgary on December 2, 2012 boasted a lively and amusing programme guaranteed to elicit giggles and chuckles from the audience. From the downbeat, the CWS had audience members tapping their toes, chuckling and cheering in appreciation for not only a proficient performance, but a highly entertaining one.