The Tacoma Concert Band definitely had something worth celebrating last Saturday night at its 30th Anniversary Spectacular concert in the Pantages Theater – great playing, innovative programming and a whole lot of commitment.
Putting together a varied program that pulled from the band’s 30 years of going way beyond the Sousa box was founding director Robert Musser, careful and competent with the baton. After a Sousa march (the very first piece the band ever played) came a string of vibrant favorites, played with flair: the March from Hindemith’s “Symphonic Metamorphoses,” with its ominous-turned-triumphant theme just slightly messy, but offset by forceful bassoons and trombone, and “Barak” from David Holsinger’s “Praises,” the Copland-esque sparsity led by serene clarinet and flute solos.
“A Sea of Glass Mingled with Fire” by Robert Jager was the band highlight of the evening – one of TCB’s many commissions, and speaking to their commitment to living composers. Based on the glass art of Dale Chihuly, the piece resonates with atmospheric contrasts of floating flutes, angelic glockenspiel and glassy clarinets.
Also on the program were some standard band favorites: John William’s “Star Wars” theme, Percy Grainger’s version of Londonderry Air (taken rather turgidly by Musser) and Malcolm Arnold’s tedious “Scottish Dances.”
But the icing on the cake was international trumpet soloist Allen Vizutti, back by popular demand and for good reason. Vizutti soared through his own “Three Magical Places,” composed with true orchestral texture and featuring Vizutti’s virtuosic rapid-fire tongueing and brilliant tone. Back after intermission, the Mercer Island trumpeter gave a big, brassy feel to the 1940s feel of Alfred Reed’s “Ode” before launching with style into a party-piece arrangement of “Carnival of Venice,” including (among many tour-de-force acrobatics) the impressive trick of rotating his horn 360 degrees while still playing.
That this is a group of volunteer musicians who play simply for the love of it is remarkable – Tacoma’s lucky to have an ensemble like this.