New Enlgand College Band amazingNew England Inter-Collegiate Band, directed by Eugene Corporon. At Kresge, Sunday, March 31.
Sunday's performance of the 1985 New England Inter-Collegiate Band was much like the group's very existence: transient, yet sublime. The band's purpose, as delineated in the opening remarks, was to "get students from New England colleges to meet their peers, under the guise of performing excellent music with a guest conductor." It succeeded on all accounts.
Members of the elite performance group came from twenty-three regional colleges, including Harvard, Yale, Tufts, the Berklee School of Music and host MIT, which could boast of ten members. This year's guest conductor was the distinguished Eugene Corporon of Michigan State University.
Corporon wisely limited the presentation to three compositions, allowing for concentration on their refinement. Apparently, musicians, conductor and method harmonized beautifully, as the trio of pieces emerged with such polish that it was difficult to believe rehearsals had begun the day before the performance.
From the opening theme of "Children's March `Over the Hills and Far Away,' " the clarity and tone of the sections (particularly the French horns) and solo parts (including doubly-tongued flute lines) dominated the performance. While "Children's March" suffered slightly from sluggishness and cliches (remininding one of Coplandish/Western music), the tight band sound transcended these problems.
The second work of the afternoon, a "Medieval Suite" by Ron Nelson, made extensive use of the varied tonalities of the band. An intoned Gregorian chant, superimposed on ad-libbed trumpet and flute flurries, created the weighty mood that surrounded the composition. Once again, the musicians shined, producing sustained pedal tones and harmonic intervals under an increasingly complex theme.
The section dedicated to Machaut (the 14th century composer) brought the climax of this piece. Harmonies effortlessly slipped from major to minor keys, as the volume and complexity of the composition steadily grew. Finally, the listener was left with only the haunting opening chant.
The finale, "Gazebo Dances," merely added finishing touches to what the band had already demonstrated. Under Corporan's skillful hand, the group waltzed through varying time signatures and syncopated accents. An excellent sectional balance was maintained at all dynamics. The final Tarantella took the band full circle, to a familiar bouncy feeling found in "Children's March."
The performance could be criticized for a dearth of challenging melodic lines for individual players, in contrast with an earlier performance of MIT's own band. Surely, the lack of rehearsal time and the conscious effort to emphasize the unity of the group made some omissions necessary. But the cohesiveness of the band, something normally expected only of long-standing groups, tended to supersede any such shortcomings, making the afternoon an uplifting experience.