“On a Snowy Winter’s Eve,” read the concert program’s title. On Monday, Dec. 2, in the Pequot Lakes High School auditorium, an ensemble of bands from grades six through high school took to the stage under the directorship of Michael Sommerness.
The Pequot Lakes bands glided and soared enthusiastically through a spirited holiday repertoire and delighted a full house of parents, grandparents and friends.
An entertainer between numbers, Sommerness, with his informative, ad-libbed insights, walked the audience through an overview of music education.
He recalled telling his concerned sixth-graders, just learning to play their instruments, “Don’t worry, that’s my job to teach you!”
In play-by-play fashion, he described and had his sixth-grade students demonstrate sounds created by the various instrument types. (I can now, personally, recognize the unique, softly subtle tones of a French horn — with its “excess of twisted metal,” as Mr. Sommerness joked).
Sommerness described degrees of difficulty involved in performing more advanced music scores at the high school level: rapid-fire 1/16-notes strung into more complex melodies, dramatic changes in tempos that require the musicians to look up from their music sheets to the conductor and back, and stick to their own score when the person sitting right next to them is playing different notes and riffs.
As members of the audience focused on both the sixth-grade and high school bands, we felt like time travelers: This is how it sounds now, and just wait, this is how it sounds a few years down the concert pathway.
The high school band’s vibrant intertwining of Christmas standards with pop, rock and jazz (“Christmas ‘a la’ Big Band”) from the 1940s could have had even some of the parents of us grandparents jitterbugging in the aisles (did I really just hear swing band leader Gene Krupa’s spirit playing on the tom-tom drums?). The percussion sections of all the bands could have led Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The subtleties of the woodwinds, and accompanying soft vocals, at times were befitting last Sunday’s church service.
And so it went.
Following the evening’s program finale by the Pequot Lakes Symphonic Band, Sommerness remarked on the continuing passion for music that he sees developing in his students every day, which affects him every day in his job as director. There’s math and there’s geography, and then there’s music, he said, which has all those same elements of education — and more — with a bit of mystery, and the way that affects us.
(Steven Olson is a freelance photojournalist with Flying Cloud Exposures of Baxter, who attended the concert as a friend of a grandparent.)