USU Alumni Band summer series starts tonight

With a history of 47 consecutive seasons, Utah State University’s Alumni Band has a rich tradition of bringing summer entertainment to Cache Valley. The dedicated musicians who contribute their time and talents to the band return for the 2009 summer season and a schedule that includes five concerts.The USU Alumni Band, under the direction of Nicholas Morrison, a faculty member in the Department of Music, opens the summer in concert Sunday, June 21. Concert time is 7 p.m. in the Kent Concert Hall of the Chase Fine Arts Center at USU (approximately 1110 E. 610 North, Logan). Alumni Band concerts are free and open to all, a gift to the community from its members who donate their services and from USU Bands and the Department of Music and the Caine School of the Arts. Current director Morrison provides the band’s history. It was founded in 1963 by then Director of Bands Max F. Dalby. The band entertains Cache Valley audiences with a series of free concerts on the USU campus. The ensemble is staffed by alumni of USU’s band program, and includes graduates from the 1960s to the current graduating class. The programming for the ensemble harkens back to the heyday of the park band era that made the reputations of bandmasters such as Henry Fillmore and John Philip Sousa. At USU, concerts are presented in the Kent Concert Hall (Chase Fine Arts Center) and on the Quad, east of Old Main. For the opening June 21 concert, the Alumni Band features USU music department faculty member Cindy Dewey as vocal soloist for Richard Rodger’s Sound of Music. Guest soloists are a traditional part of the band’s program. “Cindy is a very fine singer, a brilliant teacher and a great colleague,” Morrison said. “We’re accustomed to hear her in recital with art songs and on the concert stage with opera and other classical selections such as the Dvorak that she sung last year with the band. She’s equally at home in the music theater repertoire, and there’s not a singer out there with more personality or character for this kind of role.” The program for the opening concert features a number of selections familiar to audiences, including works by American composers Frank Erickson and John Philip Sousa. Morrison said the band also enjoys programming works that are not familiar to the audience and band members. “I enjoy providing the ensemble members the opportunity to perform works that may be new to them,” Morrison said. “It keeps us fresh and interested in the evolution of the repertoire.” Morrison plans one such work for the Sunday concert, Old Churches by Michael Colgrass. “Old Churches is a modern work, but not in the sense that it’s ugly,” Morrison said. “The melodies are based on Gregorian Chant, but with harmonies that change like the filtered light of stained glass windows as a cloud moves in front of the sun. And there are some new sounds and instruments, too. I can’t say it has everything but the kitchen sink, but there are a few suspended pots and pans that are played by the percussionists.” The band follows up Old Churches with Highlights from West Side Story, an audience favorite. USU’s Music Department sponsors the concerts and encourages families to attend the concerts with their children. There is no age restriction on audience members for the summer concerts. “We simply ask that parents be sensitive to the concert experience for all audience members,” Morrison said. “If you have a young child, plan on sitting near an exit and step into the lobby if necessary. I remember enjoying several concerts from the other side of the doors when my sons were too little to sit through the whole concert. It’s important to give them the experience of hearing live music, even if only for a few minutes.” The band’s summer series moves out of doors for its July 5 concert. Other performances are scheduled for July 19 and 26 (both outdoors) and Aug. 5 (Kent Concert Hall). The concerts are free. For information on the concert series or the USU Alumni Band, contact the music department office, (435) 797-3015.

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