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"Dreams, Fantasies & Prophesies" was the intriguing title of this, the initial concert celebrating thirty years by the Triangle Brass Band. With the fine Cary Arts Center as backdrop, director Tony Granados and the players first delivered on the "dream" promise. They launched into that greatest and ghastliest dream of them all – the "March to the Scaffold" movement from the renowned Symphonie Fantastique by Berlioz. In this sonic warhorse the dreamer imagines his own execution on the gallows, with such macabre sound-effects as can flow from the composer's fevered and fecund imagination. (Was that current disruptive traffic pattern around the facility part of someone's fiendish plot to add a ghoulish touch to the evening?)
It is always pleasing and somewhat surprising how satisfying brass band arrangements of familiar symphonic works can prove to be. Here the band version was furnished by Howard Snell, a prolific composer in his own right. All the traditional spirit of the piece was present, with the tubas and the percussion providing the requisite bombast.
Granados introduced the honored guest performer, Mark Norman, as not only an accomplished tuba player but also as his mentor over the years. The guest delivered the prophetic dimension with "Prophesies for Solo Tuba and Brass Band," a work by veteran performer and composer Barbara York, and commissioned by Norman himself. Who knew that a tuba could be so nimble and light on its feet? The soloist was appropriately agile with these demanding passages reflecting Aztec, Christian and Mayan influences. He also called attention to the crashing fanfare midway through the piece, crediting the players' skill in delivering its power.
Norman returned later in the program to join the band, fantasizing on how to reach that fabled land somewhere "Over the Rainbow." Judy Garland would have smiled upon how well the tuba captured the spirit of that Harold Arlen classic.
The players visited Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera, returning again and again to that engaging theme. They indulged in "A Disney Fantasy," wherein they did not fear "The Big, Bad Wolf," they wished "Upon a Star" and each performer fantasized of having "Mr. Bluebird on My Shoulder." This genial arrangement by the (late) British composer Goff Richards seemed to explore every tune that one associates with vintage Disney productions.
The band wound up an imaginative evening with selections from the Stephen Schwartz musical, Wicked, introducing the witches of Oz, and aptly described by Granados as a "prequel" of sorts to Dorothy and Toto and all those other endearing characters one finds along that old Yellow Brick Road.