“Band Together” was the brainchild of Alex Eichelbaum; why not bring the top three community concert bands in Auckland together for a symphonic spectacle at Auckland Town Hall? With the support of Auckland Live, his idea became a reality.
The three bands were at the top of their game, fresh from the NZCBA Festival the week before, and each of them presented their Festival repertoire. Playing at the Town Hall was the opportunity of a lifetime for many of the community musicians; it is an incredible venue with stunning acoustics. One musician described it as “like playing inside a recording- you can hear everything, all the bits you don’t usually hear!”
The evening was wonderfully documented by the Goh family, who have generously shared their photos with us.
Manukau Concert Band, who won the new Competition Category at the NZCBA Festival, opened the evening with Movement I of Kozhevnikov’s Symphony No. 3. This exciting piece set the tone of the evening, with its aggressive and lyrical declamations. Next up was Chroma, which was the set piece for the Competition Category, and is notable for its colour, rhythmic fun and harmonic playfulness. For a reflective piece, MCB called on the master of soaring harmonies, Frank Ticheli, and played his arrangement of Amazing Grace, with a beautiful alto sax solo by Nicola Thomas. Their final piece was Loco Motion, a frenetic mix of Latin rhythms, where the band duels the percussion section with hands and feet.
The University of Auckland Saxophone Quartet, consisting of Christiaan Swanepoel, Michael Jamieson, Mojca Pecman, and Tomomi Johnston, gave us a beautiful rendition of Ferenc Farkas’ Old Hungarian Dances, a lively suite composed from seventeenth century folk melodies accompanied by early baroque harmony.
University of Auckland Concert Band is the largest of the bands with over 70 members,and is conducted by Alex Eichelbaum. They took on the modern yet familiar March of the Resistance, from Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2016). Another modern piece, Gravity Wave, featured long sustained chords over a pulsating rhythm. Their final piece was Lacien Cailliet’s arrangement of Wagner’s Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral, a solemn piece of building intensity.
West City Concert Band, led by Chad Davonport, displayed their usual passion and willingness to tackle exceptional concert band repertoire. Ghost Train (movement 1) is a wind band classic, rich in special effects. Suite from MASS, arranged by Michael Sweeney, is a challenging work that features the most striking and beautiful themes from Bernstein’s original. Hymn to the Sun, With the Beat of Mother Earth was well-received by the audience, especially the moving harmonic vocal lines.
The fitting finale of the night was when selected players from all three bands came together to play the incredibly difficult, but powerful, Finale from Camille Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No. 3 (arr. Earl Slocum). This symphony is known as the “Organ Symphony”, and Tim Carpenter, on the Auckland Town Hall pipe organ, sure showed us why. The combined band pulled this piece together over three brief rehearsals. Under the practiced hand of Tom Chester, we navigated the pitfalls of time signatures that varied between 9/4, 6/4, 3/2, and the uncommon 3/1, to raise the roof.
Participating in the combined group was a challenge and an honour. As a community musician, I never imagined I would have the opportunity to play in such a spectacular venue, let alone with the majestic pipe organ. It was truly a night I will always remember.
Huge thanks go out to our conductors, Alex, Tom and Chad; Auckland Live; the crew at Auckland Town Hall; the organist, Tim; the Goh family for their photography; the band members and friends who took on the responsibility of transporting percussion and being stagehands; and last but definitely not least, the audience members who made the night so special.