Air Force band delights with precision

A lively Air Force Band of Liberty concert at Proctor’s Theatre on Wednesday night had stars and str

A lively Air Force Band of Liberty concert at Proctor’s Theatre on Wednesday night had stars and stripes draped all over it.

It started with “The Star Spangled Banner” (of course) and ended with John Philip Sousa’s “The Stars and Stripes Forever” (what else?). In between, the band, led by 1st Lt. David A. Alpar and stationed at Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts, offered music by Aaron Copland, Robert Russell Bennett and Sousa as well as a handful of lesser known American composers, including Joseph Wilcox Jenkins, Eric Ewazen, Dwayne O’Brien and D.W. Reeves.

The well attended concert was sponsored by the Gazette Newspapers.

This is a fine band full of outstanding instrumentalists, but the star of the show was vocalist Staff Sgt. Michele Harris, who was featured twice during the evening.

On the first half she sang Copland’s setting of two old American songs (“Shenandoah” and “Simple Gifts”) with a powerful operatic voice and lots of style. Harris, a native of Long Island, is one of the best vocalists I’ve heard with any service band.

On the second half she switched to a brassy show biz voice to sing songs from the great white way in a segment called “All That Jazz.” Included were the title song from “Chicago” and a set dedicated to Liza Minelli, including “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” “Cabaret” and “New York, New York.” Master Sgt. Jenn Dashnaw (Peekskill) also sang nicely during the segment, offering rather torchy renditions of “That Old Devil Moon,” “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” and “That Old Black Magic,”

The first half of the concert featured a brilliant performance on trombone by Senior Airman Mike Mannella. The Detroit native, a University of Michigan graduate, played the third movement of Ewazen’s Concerto for Trombone. Third movements of concertos usually have lots of fireworks and this one is no exception. It’s fast and technical with lots of range and Mannella handled it all beautifully with a velvety tone and spiffy technique. One could expect this would be the way Tommy Dorsey would have played it.

Another first half highlight was Reeves’ “Yankee Doodle Fantasie Humoresque,” a tongue-in-cheek, Charles Ives-like, mini concerto for wind band. A theme and variations, it comes with lots of unexpected starts and stops and up and down runs. The familiar tune comes out in all kinds of ways in the form of solo and ensemble passages.

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts

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