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Lobby 7 bewitched

MIT Concert Band in Lobby 7, Oct.31.

The MIT Concert Band occupied Lobby 7 last night for its Halloween Concert. The eighty-odd costumed musicians made quite a sight. Lobby 7's unusual acoustics posed a challenge which the band was mostly successful in meeting.

The concert opened with George Washington Bridge, an amorphous piece by William Schuman. It was loud and jumbled, which may be reminiscent of traffic on the bridge but was not pleasant musically. I had some difficulty distinguishing different parts. Richard Wagner's Trauersymphonie (Mourning Symphony) was a big improvement. This time the subtleties were not lost in a muddle.

Vaclav Nelhybel's Estampi was next. I don't know what estampi means, but I think it must be some kind of stomping dance. The piece made heavy use of bells and chimes and was tremendously stirring. The "wall of sound" effect produced by Lobby 7 was very impressive.

The first half of the concert was conducted by alto saxophonist Edward Ajhar; now bass clarinetist Charles Marge took over.

The next selection was Night Soliloquy by Kent Kennan. It is written for solo flute and band but the band divided the flute part among three soloists (Marcia France, Arlene Lanciani, and Clifford Yang), who were strategically placed on the three second floor balconies surrounding the lobby. This created a lovely conversational effect, as if three nightingales were singing to each other.

Choralia and Fanfare by John Cacavas was a typical "band" piece, brassy and reverberant. The reflecting concrete walls and pillars created waves of sound that were felt as well as heard.

Ron Nelson's Medieval Suite is an homage to three composers of the 12th to 14th centuries. Although modern-sounding, the three sections used medieval musical techniques. Most effective was the first movement, where xylophones and Gregorian chants created an effervescence that reminded me of the sun shining through a waterfall. There was a lot going on in the other two movements but they were hard to get a handle on -- I couldn't really follow them until the Gregorian chants came back at the end.

John Corley, who has directed the MIT concert band since its inception in 1948, has been in the hospital for much of the term. He made a dramatic appearance at the end to conduct the last selection, three movements from Gordon Jacob's Music for a Festival. Corley looked energetic and fully recovered, and lead a rousing finale -- this time the trumpets and trombones were playing from the balcony.

Corley thanked Ajhar and Marge for leading the band in his absence and catalyzed a clamorous ovation.

All in all an excellent performance: the band has maintained Corley's high standards and I'm looking forward to his come-back concert.

Joe Shipman->