The Triangle Brass Band's 15th anniversary celebrations continued on the afternoon of February 17 with a splendid program in Meymandi Concert Hall. It's an ideal venue for the ensemble of 36 top players, many of whom are band directors and teachers. Michael Votta, Jr., and Brian K. Doyle share the conducting duties, and the group's programs are invariably innovative. We've been hearing their offerings for a long time, so it is with considerable experience that we affirm that the group has never sounded better--in terms of the quality of the playing itself and in terms of the room in which they played this go-'round. Meymandi is ideal for members of the brass-playing ilk (which in this case encompasses cornets, tenor horns, baritones, trombones, euphonia, tubas, a lone flugelhorn and a bass trombone, and a not-inconsiderably percussion battery) because in Meymandi the players of these instruments may let them sing to their hearts' content without ever having the results seem too loud. In addition, Meymandi's superior acoustics allow the band's softest playing to be clearly heard, too.
This virtuoso band has always displayed razor-sharp attacks, degrees of balance and blend usually found only in leading symphonic ensembles, often-breathtaking technical skills, and meticulous attention to releases, which are as precise and uniform as those aforementioned attacks. The NCS, whose permanent home Meymandi is, has experienced some problems with the projection of sound from lower instruments, but the band, heard at first from the main floor and, later, from the front of the first balcony, sounded uniformly rich and solid.
The program began with Torstein Aagaard-Nilson's fascinating Circius, Wind of the North, which commences with a great storm that gradually subsides. Later, the breeze rustles wind chimes before dying away. A hymn-like reflective passage ensues, and then the storm resumes in all its fury.
The second number was actually a suite (Evocations of an English Countryside), transcribed and arranged by TBB Resident Conductor Doyle, that encompassed four British choral works, one by Stanford, one arranged by Stanford, and two by Delius. These last two were announced by Music Director Votta as "Two Aquarelles"; he (and the program) indicated that they were, in the composer's words, "To be Sung of a Summer's Night on the Water." So far, so good. The Delius pieces began as wordless choruses for SATTBB, composed in 1917 and published with the long title quoted immediately above. They didn't become the Aquarelles, however, till they were arranged for string orchestra in 1932 by Delius' amanuensis, Eric Fenby, in response to a request from violinist Albert Sammons. I mention this because if Doyle's transcriptions are indeed of the choral works, then the title should perhaps be revised. In any event, his arrangements were superb--we liked them better than the string orchestra versions. Here's hoping that they will appear again in TBB programs.
Euphonium soloist Edward Mallett, who has a concert at NCCU today [February 19], was heard to tremendous advantage in Joseph Horovitz' Euphonium Concerto (1970-1, rev. 1991). This instrument occupies middle ground between the tuba and the French horn. The work is lightly scored, for the most part, so the higher instruments, used sparingly, do not mask the soloist. Mallett played wonderfully, weaving his lines into and out of the fabric of the piece. He was beautifully accompanied and supported, too. The work is an important contribution to the literature and it was a real treat to hear it.
The rest of the program was as varied - and as well played - as the first half. Doyle led Vaughan Williams' classic Variations for Band, illuminating its eleven sections brilliantly. Welsh-born Gareth Wood's "Japanese Slumber Song," also led by Doyle, uses the brass band in strange and unusual ways, charting several new courses simultaneously. Under Votta's leadership, a trio of marches (by Johannes Hanssen, Kenneth Alford and Sousa, our great March King) brought the generous program to a festive conclusion.
But where was the audience? Parking downtown was a zoo, as it often is in the vicinity of our beloved Big MAC (Memorial Auditorium Complex), so on entering the hall we had great hopes for a large turnout. Maybe everyone went to the flower show, across the street? As someone (was it Gatti-Cazazza?) once said, If the public won't come, you can't stop them. Still, we've got to try--and try harder. Meymandi's a good home for the TBB, and the Big MAC is a good home for our other regional performing organizations, too. Our citizens helped pay for our new facilities, so the public might wish to consider turning out to support the local groups that appear therein. In the case of the TBB, there is none finer in Central Carolina, for sure, and - like our community orchestras - we need them as much as they need US, if not more.