The fans at Sertoma Amphitheatre probably never experienced a more nearly ideal evening for an outdoor to-do. There the Cary Town Band played on a mid-May evening here in the South in bracing weather with nary a mosquito to divert one’s attention. Stuart Holoman served in the dual role of conductor and (sometimes protracted) emcee for the concert entitled “Planes, Trains, …, and Other.” These thirty-odd players clearly enjoyed their work. Their dedication is indicated by the fact that several of them, including the conductor, have been with the band for at least twenty years (the group was formed in 1987).
The theme of the program was meant to pay musical homage to the many means of travel in roughly chronological order: Walking, horses, wagons, boats, trains, automobiles and planes. As Holoman pointed out, the accuracy of that chronology cannot be strictly defended. Sometimes the relationship to travel was whimsically strained, as when the piece “Car-barlick-Acid” was one of the two called upon to represent automobiles.
Holoman has here assembled a band probably much in the spirit of John Philip Sousa himself. So it was fitting that this “Sousa band” should open the program with an energetic reading of “The Black Horse Troop” by that great bandmeister. This piece was of course a nod to horse transport. The other one in that class was Hartwig’s “Lipizzaner-Parade,” a happy pastiche of tunes by the likes of Flotow and Adam.
“Tramp, Tramp, Tramp” conjured moving thoughts of its history (“…cheer up comrades, they will come…”). The elaborate “Procession of the Nobles” was Rimsky-Korsakov’s contribution. The players decided to “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and then go for a “Buggy Ride” replete with syncopated hoof beats. They sailed over the bounding main and celebrated “Where the Volga Flows,” a collection of rather well known Russian melodies. They described the “Ideal Railway” and went “Ridin’ on the Rails.”
The musical highlights occurred in the “planes” section. The “Victor’s Tale” was a vintage John Williams composition. Featured here was guest clarinetist Jim Williams from Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle and the Raleigh Symphony Orchestra, among other organizations. He negotiated those challenging measures with pleasing precision. Off into the wild blue yonder with “The U.S. Air Force March,” the players were obviously in their best comfort range.
If your taste runs to good ol’ standard, all-American band music, you could do worse than seek out performances by this ensemble.