The theme of the Lesbian & Gay Big Apple Corps (LGBAC) Symphonic Band concert, on December 15 at Symphony Space, was “Home for the Holidays,” as musicians shared musical memories from their youth, leading them to favor particular works for the festive season, which they presented here to us, their enthusiastic listeners, mostly under the baton of Music Director Henco Espag.
The Corps began with Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride,” bouncy and jubilant. LGBAC played Johnny Marks’ “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” in Chris Sharp’s arrangement, as a lively march that you might hear performed on Bourbon Street by a Dixieland band. Their “Imani,” by Sean O’laughlin, was a ringing Kwanzaa piece that required the band members to sing as well as play. “Holiday Celebration,” a medley by Larry McTaggart, led by Assistant Conductor Royden Ringer, focused mostly on a rousing “Over the River and through the Woods (/to Grandmother’s House We Go).”
After LGBAC Board of Directors Chair—and clarinetist—Rusty Riker presented the band’s Golden Apple Award to percussionist Lindsay Becker for her service to the Corps, the instrumentalists offered Randol Alan Bass’ colorful music for “The Night Before Christmas,” as NBC 4 meteorologist Raphael Miranda recited Clement Clarke Moore’s famous poem, also known as “A Visit from St. Nicholas.”
Small ensembles from the Corps gave us their take on music from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s ballet “The Nutcracker,” with the Spectrum Sax Quartet—Steven Albanese, Kyle Quirion, Gennaro Aliperti, and Rich Nelson—beginning with a spirited, breathtakingly precise “Overture Miniature,” arranged by Kenneth Abeling; the Brass Quintet—Kimberly Engel, Nicole Lusskin, Joe Waslin, Lance Lucas, and Jeanette Sears—leading us through the “Marche” (March of the Toy Soldiers), martial and crisp, then ambling, then brisk, in Richard Waddell’s arrangement; the Horn Ensemble—Eric Dieboldt, Alex Grant, Chris Jones, Lucas, Adrienne Morrison, and Elizabeth Schwartzburt—delivering a “Danse de la Fée Dragée” (Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy) more earthy than delicate, in Jeremy Corcoran’s edition; and the Woodwind Quintet—David Street, Brian Shaw, Concertmaster Fran Novak, Nancy Reyerson, and Lucas—concluding this suite with a “Danse des Mirlitons” (Dance of the Buffoons) of luminous luster, in John Gibson’s version.
After LGBAC Marching Band Music Director Marita Begley reminisced about late band benefactor extraordinaire and member Edie Windsor, she introduced guest singer Klea Blackhurst who, with a somewhat larger ensemble, guided by Espag, proffered a sultry “Santa Baby,” by Joan Javits and Phil and Tony Springer, as arranged by Robert W. Smith.
The full Corps’ dulcet “Greensleeves” AKA “What Child Is This,” in Alfred Reed’s version, the choice of Nolan Dresden, evoked a far off time. LGBAC acknowledged Chanukah with Stephen Melillo’s heroic “Festival of Light,” incorporating the sound of the Shofar and Hebraic dances and generally evoking the East. For an encore, the band returned to “Nutcracker,” for a rollicking “Trepak,” the boisterous Russian dance.
Hold April 13, 2019 for LGBAC’s “Playing Out: 40 Years of Love and Joy,” at St. Bart’s. Visit www.lgbac.org
for more information.