Review: A wild world of windy wonder

Eric Gorman

The Saddleback College Wind Ensemble blew away the crowd at the McKinney Theatre on March 15, led by their newly appointed conductor, Yorgos Kouritas.

As the audience filed in, the Wind Ensemble replaced reeds, adjusted sheet music and warmed up in a clamor of clashing solos. Peppered between the prepping bandmates was spirited chit-chat and nervous fidgeting.

Once the band was settled, Maryann McNamara, who is the First Clarinet, stood to tune the band, and as she sat down Kouritas took the stage to a warm applause from the audience.

He opened the evening with a story about Francis McBeth, who composed the first piece of the evening — “Seventh Seal.”

In 1962 McBeth conducted a young Bill Clinton, who would one day be the president of the United States, Kouritas said. He joked that if the audience members could see anyone in the ensemble becoming president one day, that we may not want to critique their work.

The ensemble’s rendition of the “Seventh Seal” was intense and riveting with a military-like pace and presence.

“I hope everything is ok up there,” Kouritas said light-heartedly as an ensemble member dropped something between songs. “We get very excited up here.”

After a supportive laugh from the audience, the ensemble began to play “Overture for Band,” by John Heins, a song that Kouritas explained was filled with “climactic fluctuations of emotions, with purpose and distinctions.”

Heins was “born in 1956, and is still alive,” Kouritas said. He has received “tons of different commissions from many countries.”

When the ensemble finished playing “Night on Bald Mountain,” written by Modest Mussorgsky and scored for band by William Schaefer, Kouritas said, “this is a hard piece to play as a wind ensemble, give them a great round of applause.”

“We are almost to the end unfortunately,” Kouritas said, as he explained the next piece, “Music for a Ceremony,” by John J. Morrissey. “It’s a nice, light, exciting piece. Always a nice way to end the night.”

He encouraged the audience to attend the following night’s Concerto Gala, and again recognized the musicians, “Let’s please give a great applause to this great ensemble.”

“I thought it was very whimsical,” said Ashley Larson, 25, undecided. “I enjoyed it. He’s a great conductor, that’s for sure.”

“It’s a lot of fun to learn this literature from different cultures,” said first chair alto saxophonist, Eric Robinson, 19, music. “It’s a great learning experience for sure.”

“I was glad it came together so well after some late additions to the ensemble” said ensemble member Thomas Torcivia, 19, music, who called the night’s performance “refreshingly, refreshing.”

For upcoming Saddleback Visual, Performing and Theatre Arts events, and ticket information visit http://www.saddleback.edu/arts/.

To read about the conductor Yorgos Kouritas and the Saddleback College programs he oversees visit http://www.saddleback.edu/fa/music/instrumental.html.

Listen to a rendition of Overture for Band by John Heins at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZf3A8rsrSk.

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