The Capital Region is one of those fortunate places to live for music educators who still can play a wind instrument. Whether they are teaching or retired, the Capital Region Wind Ensemble will welcome them with open arms.
On Sunday afternoon, the 50-member group gave its final concert of the season at Schenectady County Community College’s Carl B. Taylor Community Auditorium. Founded in 1994 by Joseph Miller, the group is now led by SCCC professor Brett Wery, who is in his fifth season.
There’s something very hometown about the group, and not because of its personnel. Some of the rather short works on the program, which was played without an intermission, were better than others. Pitch was close but not exact; solo entrances had moments of suspense as to whether the player would nail the part; and instrument sections didn’t always blend.
But you couldn’t fault the spirit behind the performances. This was their day and they were going to make the most of it.
The program began with Carolyn Bremer’s “Early Light.” It was a bit shaky with the staggered syncopation, but Wery cued accurately and everyone pulled together for a nice, splashy ending.
Principal cornetist Cathy Sheridan was the convincing soloist in the first movement of Alfred Reed’s Concerto for Trumpet and Winds (1995). The piece had much intensity and drive and Sheridan was unhesitating in vesting the part with an exciting edge. In the beautiful lyrical section, her mellow tone sang and soared and she finished with some strong fiery technique. The CRWE supported her well.
Shafer Mahoney’s “Sparkle”(1999) scintillated with a rainbow of colors that the CRWE played with lightness. An arrangement of Samuel Barber’s “Sure on This Shining Night” was less effective, mainly because of the greater demands slow, quiet and chorale-like music places on instrumentalists and their ability to control their tone and breath.
Frank Ticheli’s “Sun Dance” was tuneful, but an arrangement of a movement from Gustav Holst’s “A Moorside Suite” didn’t get off the page.
The mood was very introspective and Wery’s pace tended to drag. This made all the exposed parts and the same difficulties the musicians faced in the Barber more obvious.
Spirits picked up for the final “Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna Overture” by Franz von Suppe. As an interesting aside, Wery told the small but very enthusiastic crowd, that it was Bugs Bunny who was conducting this piece in the cartoon “Baton Bunny”(1959), which convinced him to become a conductor.
After a brief applause, Wery bounded onto the podium for the encore, Soichi Konagaya’s “Star Puzzle March.”