By: Andrew McNallyStaff Writer
In my seven semesters here, I have yet to miss a performance from the University’s Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band. So I can say that this might have been the weakest performance I’ve seen. However, ‘weakest’ should not mean ‘weak,’ nor am I at all placing blame on the talent on stage. Rather, it was the fault of just pure bad luck. At least three of the weekly rehearsals were missed because of Superstorm Sandy and the presidential debate. This semester a fresh face, visiting Assistant Professor Jason Noble, was conducting both ensembles. Legendary conductor Peter Boonshaft is taking a well-deserved year of sabbatical after many years behind the baton. To say Noble was faced with a challenge is an understatement. He had to quickly prepare two full-size bands, he’d never previously directed, in a shortened amount of time. He did a fine job. The show started with the Wind Ensemble, the smaller of the two bands. Their set was unfortunately shortened from Noble’s original intent, because of the lessened rehearsal time. But the flow of the performance was not hurt, and for a half hour, the band played beautifully through two pieces – the percussion-heavy “Morning Star” and the bombastic but elegant “Whatsoever Things.” The ensemble’s unfortunate early departure from stage left me desiring more, an obvious sign of a good performance. The Symphonic Band played a much longer set, consisting of five pieces. The band opened with Holst’s recognizable “First Suite in E Flat,” following it up with the slow-burning “O Magnum Mysterium.” The third piece, titled “Sonoran Desert Holiday,” would have been the standout piece for me, had it not been for some intonation trouble. I found similar issue on the following “Hymn to a Blue Hour.” “Sonoran” had some intricate and exciting rhythms that made for a largely unique listen. But both pieces suffered slightly minor glitches in tune and time keeping. The finale, “Wedding Dance,” was the best piece of the night. The song went off on a fast and fun rhythm that the band played seemingly perfect. It was a pitch-perfect ending to a thoroughly enjoyable set. Overall, every section sounded great. I heard occasional squeaks in the woodwinds and horns, but that’s the extent of criticism. The percussion section played especially well in both bands. The section consisted of almost the exact same lineup in the Symphonic Band as the Wind Ensemble, and they were as exciting to watch as always. The ceaseless talent in every section on stage is consistently amazing. The audience was small but enthusiastic and thoroughly enjoyed the show. A lot is to be said for Noble, as well. He was dealt a hefty load, but he handled it professionally. He was confident and controlled, and received an entirely appropriate amount of clapping. The night was lacking Boonshaft’s familiar quips, but that would be an unfair thing to ask of Noble. He conducted the band well, having to periodically lead them through crises during the semester. I look forward to see what Noble can do with a proper amount of rehearsal time next semester. If these two performances sounded nearly perfect with loaded hardships, then they’ll likely be extraordinary in a normal semester.