Unless you were in attendance on a splendid Saturday evening at Hayes Barton United Methodist Church, you likely have never heard such a rendition of "Joy to the World" as was given there. In a festive spirit that complemented the graceful and tastefully adorned sanctuary, the Triangle Brass Band opened "Music for the Season" with an extraordinary arrangement of that Christmas standby. Director Tony Granados and the thirty-plus players brought forth drum rolls, fanfares and generally elaborate orchestration in this concert arrangement.
An up-to-date reading of the ancient "Greensleeves" followed the opener. Anyone who happened to be counting would note that the evening's presentation included nine works, of which exactly half were based upon Christmas themes; this magnificent old Baroque-era tune is due fifty percent Christmas credit because of its popular association with the carol, "What Child Is This?" Long a favorite of string orchestras the world over, the piece received respectful and quite respectable treatment by these players.
The French composer Bizet created two widely-known symphonic suites from his incidental music to the drama L’Arlésienne. From Suite 2, London-born composer Denis Wright has arranged the exciting "Farandole" dance as a piece for band instruments. This work constituted possibly the musical highlight of the evening. The players moved smartly through these measures, providing the stirring fireworks one associates with the original version.
Alfred Reed’s huge "Russian Christmas Music" set closed the first half with varied sonic treats. Somber, soft church organ and bell effects opened, giving way to crashing fortissimos. The three percussionists shone brightly, withstanding a strenuous workout.
As luck would have it, the aforementioned "Joy to the World" came back first after intermission to open Leroy Anderson’s A Christmas Festival. In this admixture the players proceeded to "Deck the Halls"” and ring "Jingle Bells." After an especially "Silent Night," they saluted "Good King Wenceslas." More of such snippets furnished an effective lead-in to the featured tuba soloist as "Frosty the Snowman."
Granados introduced tuba player Matthew Baker as one of his all-time star students. Following was a tuba solo with the other members as strictly backup. With finger snapping, toe tapping, and occasional instrumental insertion, they became a veritable jazz combo. Baker’s adroit work as "Frosty" showed why an instructor might lay claim to a certain amount of credit. In a cadenza of sorts, the soloist demonstrated numerous capabilities of the tuba and the uncommon abilities of a skilled practitioner. (Baker was listed in the brochure as a substitute on the tuba. Perhaps he’s due for full-time employment!)
"Santa Claus-trophobia" is the clever title of a piece featuring various ways to anticipate an upcoming visit from the great man himself. You could scarcely have asked for a more effective and jazzy treatment of "You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch." And the musicians were at their best again in the closing Symphonic Highlights from the movie, Frozen.
The exuberant audience would not be denied an encore. For capping a festive evening with an equally festive crowd, what number could have been more predictable and appropriate than Leroy Anderson’s pervasive "Sleigh Ride"?