With their March 15 concert fast approaching, members of the LRHS Symphonic Band have entered into an intense period of preparation. With a difficult yet rewarding concert program, the pressure is on as the group works diligently to develop what promises to be a superior quality performance.
“The process itself is much different than any other concert that we do,” described Alex Umfleet, senior percussionist in the Symphonic Band. “We always pay close attention to detail, but especially so for our festival pieces, because we know we’re going to be graded.”
The band’s festival concert precedes their performance in the state-sponsored MPA festival– at which the band is graded on their performance by a panel of judges.The festival concert is the band’s chance to play through their repertoire in a concert setting– acting as a sort of “dry run” to iron the last wrinkles out of their performance.
Also setting the festival concert apart is the difficulty of the literature being played. “Pedagogically speaking, you should always be playing music that is challenging, but yet reachable,” said David Albert, current interim director of the LRHS Bands Program.
The band’s 2013 repertoire consists of three pieces: Clifton Williams’ “The Sinfonians,” James Barnes’ “A Light in the Wilderness,” and Franz Von Suppe’s “Light Cavalry Overture.” Each piece presents its own unique challenges, but the rewards are also evident.
“The Sinfonians” is a march based on a number of hymns, that features several brass choirs, a percussion feature, and an unusually prominent piccolo solo.“It’s a great march,” said Albert, “And I really like it for this band because it shows off the strength of our trumpet and percussion sections.”
“A Light in the Wilderness” is a slow, lyrical work exuding both sadness and redemption. “It’s a wonderful work of music which is very, very passionate,” said Albert. “It goes through a range of emotions mirroring the loss of a friend, and the process of coming to terms with that loss.
“Light Cavalry Overture” is a fast-paced, fun piece with a memorable trumpet fanfare. “It’s a great piece, both fast and fun,” said Albert. “But it’s not an easy piece by any means. It’s definitely meant for upper level ensembles.”
The fast lapsing window of time is also reflected in the band’s rehearsals. More and more, rehearsals are spent working on the span of a few measures. The time for learning notes and rhythms is to their backs. Now is when the band fuses musicality to technique. Now is when the group transforms from a jumble of high school musicians, into the Leesville Symphonic Band.
Though at this stage in the process, playing through more than five measures without stopping is a rare treat. The repetition can certainly become tedious– especially when you’re resting through the part being scrutinized. But precision and attention to detail are two things that define the Leesville Symphonic Band. And if constant repetition and boredom are the price they must pay for greatness, then Symphonic Band members are all too willing to pay it.
So despite the tightening time frame, the band strives on past notes and rhythms– delving deep into the nuances and subtleties that give life to the music. “Rehearsing the same pieces again and again get repetitive, especially being a percussionist,” stated Umfleet. “But it’s all worth it. Because we’re always improving, we’re always learning. And in the end, we create something that absolutely blows everyone’s minds.”