From its outset, Yuba College’s Autumn Instrumental program on November 2 invoked the sounds of a season, synchronizing silver skies and the honied golds below.
The Yuba College Symphonic Band, under the tutelage of Director of Instrumental Music and Music History Allan Glenn Miller, took the digitally-illuminated Yuba College Theatre stage in black garb and confident of a heady musical performance.
Conductor Miller revved up his versed group of musicians with the flick of a baton, and the xylophone-tinged fanfare “La Peri” ensued. The song evolved toward booming extremity by gradual degrees, and upon lapsing, Miller pivoted toward an eager audience for his first thunderous applause of the evening.
“If you think it’s hot in the audience, you should be up on the stage,” jested Miller before hoisting his baton for the second piece.
Ed Huckleby’s “March of the Roughnecks” was the second-featured piece of the program, a new concert march that Heralded back to the first days of the oil boom in the early 1900s. “Roughnecks,” Oklahoma’s early petroleum pioneers, worked long, hard hours to drill for the “black crude” definitive of Tulsa’s reign as “oil capitol of the world” for some time. The Yuba College Symphonic band’s enthusiastic rendering was an appropriate commissioning of the talent required to execute such an exuberant and historically prominent piece.
“Chorale and Shaker Dance,” one of the most famous and widely recognized pieces of band literature and even deemed a “college standard” by Miller, was ushered in with a beautiful, whimsically brisk introduction showcasing a wealth of instruments such as piccollo, flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and alto saxophone with a canon theme audibly apparent on various occasions between the saxophone and flute.
Little transition time seemed to be allotted between most songs, which evoked brief confusion for a clamorous back row of self-evidenced compulsory student attendees, whose paper-chucking and indiscreet cell-phone users were the program’s only real nuisances.
After the mesmeric church chorale “Abide With Me” which was wound up in a unison “hum,” Miller ushered in a piece by Clare Grundman, one of the 20th century’s most prolific and high respected composers. “Concord,” a series of American Revolution songs in succession in one work, exhibited ‘The White Cockade,” a marching cadence; “America, a popular hymn; and the most popular Revolution-era tune, “Yankee Doodle” with a rhythmic twist.
The Symphonic Band’s last phase in the program was dramatically polished with Henry Fillmore’s march, “Americans We,” galloped with sharp, precise woodwinds and warm brass, ending abruptly in time for intermission, at which point Miller acknowledged his Symphonic Band.
“I have all ages of students, from 17 to 85,” he said with the sweeping of his hand so as to present the scope of talents seated behind him.
After intermission, the audience shuffled back into the theatre for the Jazz Ensemble’s performance, who, in both aestheticism and number, presented a measure of contrast to their stage’s predecessors. Miller joined his ensemble on trombone, and opted for a handkerchief-cue in lieu of the traditional baton.
Anyone never having enjoyed the sounds of jazz in one of its sundry fusions can still likely discern its characteristic syncopation, polyrhythms and improvosations, partly due to its commonness in modern culture. Few entities of sentiment are juxtaposed quite as opportunely as the holiday season and Jazz music, and the Jazz Ensemble’s rendition of Koehler & Arlen’s “Stormy Weather,” a mainstay in many jazz singers’ repertoire, replicated the intricate jazz inflections common of the 1930s.
Headed by the lull of alto saxophonist Daniel Wenzel, the ensemble ramped up to a pattern of swell-and-fade harmony with “I Had the Craziest Dream,” a pattern bolstered by Tucki Bailey’s crescendoing piano-playing. Bonnie Miller lent her sweet, soprano vocals to the tune, and amid momentary eardrum-grating mike feedback, she didn’t bat an eyelid. The hushed concoction of lazy brass and clinking cymbals brought to mind the often overlooked pleasure of watching red-orange leaves colliding with beads of rain from a warm, indoor vantage.
Miller punctuated the jazz portion of his concert with Joe Garland’s “Leap Frog,” engaging an unforgettable air of swing and big-band rhythm, a spirited syncopation of a musical era that was met with a standing ovation.