Patriotic tunes by nearly flawless Alumni Band set mood for July Fourth
Next concert July 23 on Old Main Hill
Utah State University's 85-member Alumni Band delivered a moving, patriotic performance kicking off Logan's Fourth of July celebrations Sunday evening.
This free concert was at the USU outdoor amphitheater on Old Main Hill. The evening was filled with a variety of patriotic tunes and other Americana-related works.
Conducted by USU Associate Director of Bands Nicholas Morrison, the band pounded out patriotic favorites like The Star Spangled Banner, the Armed Forces Medley and America the Beautiful.
"This group has been together for 40 years now," said Morrison. "There are not too many groups who could do what we do -- show up at 5 o'clock, rehearse for about an hour, and then perform almost flawlessly in concert -- all of this without meeting for the past 11 months."
Band members travel from all over Utah and other surrounding states for this once-a-year performance.
This annual concert is well supported by the community and also by many who travel to hear the band every year.
"Where else can you go and get this kind of great entertainment," said David Garber from Sun City West, Ariz. Garber and his wife, Caroline, have been coming to the USU Alumni Band concerts for many years. Garber, once a trombone player himself, was toe-tapping and humming along to every tune the band played. Although Garber didn't graduate from USU, he and his wife are season ticket holders to both the Lyric Theater and the Utah Festival Opera and never miss a performance of the USU Alumni Band.
"The audience is a big part of the show for us," said Morrison. "Their response to the music is a great motivator."
With more than 400 listeners between the amphitheater and the grass of Old Main Hill, the band was obviously well supported Sunday.
Jeneile Tams, clarinet player for the band, has been with the group for almost 40 years now.
"I'll keep playing in the band as long as I can make my fingers wiggle and hold my mouth correctly," said Tams.
Tams was a student at USU in 1959 when she became involved with the band while working at the USU Annual Summer Music Clinic.
Morrison was both conductor and emcee for the concert. Because there were no printed programs, Morrison introduced each piece himself and often told the song's history or interesting tidbits about each song. One tune the band played, Variations on America by Charles Ives, was a real crowd-pleaser. The song combines many different arrangements of the song America played simultaneously. Morrison said he often worries about programming the piece because it is sometimes misunderstood. The work he said, is not always easy to listen to, and there are places where the band is divided in half and plays in opposition and in different keys.
"The audience always sticks with us and it's important to remember that this piece is a bit tongue-in-cheek," Morrison said. "Ives is an American composer and he's not making fun -- it's important to laugh at ourselves. It's important that this piece be taken in a lighthearted way."
The next Alumni Band concert is another outdoor event at the amphitheater July 23.
Until the band's next performance, Morrison will be out of the country conducting workshops for the U.S. State Department.
"Everyone in the band agreed to this schedule which is set up for me," Morrison said. "I'm selfish -- I wanted to conduct all the concerts so we're doing them when I can be there. It's a lot of fun for me. In fact, it's the highlight of my summer."
For more information about upcoming performances, visit the music department's events web page.