The 103-member, 36-year-old Lesbian & Gay Big Apple Corps (LGBAC) Symphonic Band, under the baton of Artistic Director Kelly Watkins, celebrated the Chanukah-Solstice-Christmas-Kwanzaa season with its spirited concert “Holiday Theater,” focusing on music from films, with a holiday slant, on December 12 at Peter Norton Symphony Space. Openly gay NBC-TV meteorologist Raphael Miranda was the guest MC and Philadelphia Orchestra principal tuba player Carol Jantsch was the guest soloist.
The opening fanfare from Richard Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” arranged by Robert Longfield and also known as the theme from “2001: A Space Odyssey,” served as stately, sonorous overture to the concert. Frank Ticheli’s setting of familiar Shaker song “Simple Gifts” came next and proved simply delightful.
Bruce Broughton’s Tuba Concerto, featuring Jantsch, began with variations on a theme that reminded of Mozart’s “Eine kleine Nachtmusik,” for the bouncy and cheerful Allegro Moderato. Jantsch made her tuba ‘sing’ in the florid romanza of the second movement Aria: Andante Moderato, which the Corps accompanied and echoed. A lilting ‘over-hills-and-meadows-we go’ Allegro Leggiero concluded the concerto. For an encore, Jantsch treated us to “Frosty the Snowman” as a theme with highly ornamented, Baroque-style variations. She joined in playing with the Corps for the second half of the performance.
A buoyant “Soaring with John Williams,” a medley arranged by Robert W. Smith, consisted of celebratory marziale “Superman March” and “Star Wars” theme bracketing an uplifting, more peaceful “Cadillac of the Skies.” LGBAC Concertmaster and clarinetist Francis Novak, now elevated to Assistant Conductor, led the festive opening of the second half of “Holiday Theater,” Broughton’s Overture to “Miracle on 34th Street,” written for the remake of the classic film, arranged by Johnnie Vinson, and incorporating variations on “Joy to the World.”
To mark the climax of the Festival of Lights, Watkins returned to the podium for Steve Reisteter’s “The Eighth Candle,” prayerful and reverent, then ending with a joyous dance, and a rollicking “Midnight Sleighride,” Tom Wallace’s version of Sergei Prokofiev’s Troika movement of the “Lieutenant Kijé” suite, music from the film of the same name.
The final programmed selection was a mind-boggling “Minor Alterations, Number Two: Carols from the Darkside,” by David Lovrien, twisting together the likes of “Jingle Bells,” “O Tannenbaum,” “Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” Christmastime in the Morning,” "Funeral March of a Marionette," “Little Drummer Boy,” “Twelve Days of Christmas,” “Away in a Manger,” “Danse Macabre,” “Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “O Holy Night” with “Ride of the Valkyries,” ‘Joy to the World” with the “Bacchanal” from “Samson et Dalilia,” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” as a galumphing Russian dance. LGBAC’s encore was a rousing “Carol of the Bells.”
Save April 9, 2016 for LGBAC’s “Musical Excursions,” at Symphony Space, with songwriter, screenwriter, director, actor, and novelist Dean Pitchford (“Footloose”) as host, Liz Callaway as guest singer, and composer and lyricist Stephen Schwartz as honoree. Visit www.lgbac.com
for further information. Symphony Space is located at 2537 Broadway at West 95th Street.