West Branch Winter Concert

The West Branch area 2023 annual winter concert
Keagan Dobo a trombone in the high school band playing at a rehearsal
Keagan Dobo a trombone in the high school band playing at a rehearsal
Image/Graphics by Braeden Salter

On Thursday, December 7th, West Branch held the middle and high school winter concerts. Mr. Jones, the director of the bands, invited Addison Collar, Kelcey English, and Madison Gray, three high school band students, to play the middle school music with the band. The program included Symphonic Variants arranged by Doug Wagner, Finlandia by Sibelius arranged by Jay Bullock, Junkyard Jam by Kevin Mixon, and First Winter Sleigh Ride arranged by James Swearingen.

During the high school segment of the winter concert, Mr. Jones enlisted six band members—Madison Gray, Lily Jones, Haylie Amos, Kelcey English, Matt Eirich, and Keagan Dobo—to speak between pieces. The students provided insights into the content and stories behind the traditional wind band literature, which included classical compositions and seasonal-infused hymns.

The band’s first piece was “Hanukkah Dance” by Matt Conaway, which is centered around a traditional Jewish melody called S’vivon, meaning Dreidel. This was followed up by “Hymn For Band” by Hugh Stuarts, a piece that the band will be performing at Gettysburg. The next performance was a two-piece arrangement of Percy Grainger’s “Shepherd’s Hey and Country”. Mr. Jones delved into the concept of an arrangement, explaining that it involves editing a piece of music from its original form to suit different ensembles in various ways.

After that, the band played “First Suite in F” by Gustav Holst, one of the most influential composers of all time, who was an influence for many bands. In the early 1900s, bands became more popular but struggled with pieces of their own, often having to play orchestra pieces. Thus, there was a call for composers to write more music specifically for bands. Gustav Holst, being the biggest composer of his time, obliged the request with two pieces: “First Suite for Military Band in Eb” and “Second Suite for Military Band in F.” The final piece the band played was “Santa At the Symphony” arranged by Mark Williams. It is a piece that blends classical music themes, such as “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik,” “1812 Overture,” and “Brahms’s First Symphony,” with other seasonal melodies, such as “Silent Night,” “Jingle Bells,” and “The Nutcracker.”

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