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Symphonic Band Takes the Stage in Spring Concert

With March winding down, the St. Ambrose University Symphonic Band was prepared to take the stage on Friday, March 31 for their spring band concert. At least, until strong winds, rain, hail, and even tornadoes swept through Iowa that evening.

Much to the dismay of the performers, the concert had to be postponed, but the symphonic band still made an appearance on Thursday, April 13 at 7:30 PM. 

The Symphonic Band performance opened with Courtly Airs and Dances by Ron Nelson, which is a piece made up of five moments from various baroque-style dances. Second, was Moon by Night by Johnathan Newman, a slow piece with chord clusters a la Eric Whitacre. Next, the band played Concertino by C.M. von Weber featuring SAU band member Jaylon Foster on clarinet. The concert ended with First Suite in E Flat for Military Band by Gustav Holst, a classic three-part march that features every instrument. 

Above: Jaylon Foster receives applause after finishing playing his solo piece. Photo courtesy of Erin Robertson.

Director of bands at St. Ambrose University, Dr. Nicholas Enz, was asked to speak about his thoughts on the recent performance. 

Q: What was the thought behind each of the pieces you chose? 

A:  With Courtly Airs and Dances, I liked the piece because it showcases each family. The brass have their moments, the woodwinds have their moments, and the percussion as well. The Holst piece is such a cornerstone work, so we try to play it every four years so everyone has the opportunity to work with it.

Q: What do you think was the band’s biggest success at this concert?

A: Everyone played really well and sounded great. I would say that Moon by Night improved the most throughout the concert cycle because it forced everyone to focus on how they’re passing off their lines to other instruments. 

Above: The woodwind section plays Holst’s First Suite in E Flat. Photo courtesy of Erin Robertson.

Q: What do you think the band could work on for the May concert?

A: This next concert is very different because it’s outdoors, so the music is going to be light and in general more similar to a “pops” concert. One of the things we’re going to be working on is how to play in a jazz style, as well as working with middle eastern instruments.

Q: Which piece was the most enjoyable to rehearse and perform?

A: I really like the Holst first suite and the first movement should be played at my funeral. It’s such a well-written piece and continues to be a model of quality composition and orchestration for winds. 

Q: What was the most difficult part of putting this concert on? 

A: We plan out concerts a year in advance. We are trying to avoid conflicts with athletic events, on-campus events, etc, and we need to have people scheduled to work at the concert itself. So a year of planning went into this concert only to have it postponed. Having to reschedule and plan it in two weeks was the most challenging part, but it showed great flexibility and nimbleness. There was no way we could’ve had the concert the night it was supposed to be. The storm blew out the dimmer rack, so the lights couldn’t dim anymore, and the backstage lights weren’t working either. 

With the help of many faculty and students alike, the SAU Symphonic Band was able to put on a very successful concert this spring. On May 13th at noon, they will appear at the LeClaire Band Shell at LeClaire Park for their final concert of the year. You won’t want to miss it!

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