When you put the words “concert band” and “holidays” together, you probably imagine a brassy swing version of “Jingle Bells” and Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride.” Which is exactly why the Tacoma Concert Band’s second annual “Holiday Traditions” show this Sunday is so unexpected.
Yes, there’ll be Leroy Anderson and some classic hits, but you’ll also find the “Sussex Mummers’ Carol” and a musical version of “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” narrated by KIRO-FM radio’s Dave Ross.
“The idea was to do music that may have a familiar title or melody, but a new arrangement and sound,” said TCB director Bob Musser. “We’re putting old wine into new bottles.”
Some of those new bottles include a fanfare arrangement of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” in the style of Renaissance composer Giovanni Gabrieli, an “Ave Maria” by Franz Biebl where the band sings in Gregorian chant style, and an arrangement of the “Sussex Mummers’ Carol” by 20th-century Australian-English composer Percy Grainger.
Anderson is there, but not his jazzy “Sleigh Ride.” Instead the concert includes his 1950 concert overture based on traditional carols. Vocalist Melanie Vail, from the Swing Reunion band, will sing pops classics like “Santa Baby” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” but there’ll also be “Stille Nacht” and Hannukah song “The Eighth Candle.”
But the centerpiece of the concert is a recent original composition for band to accompany a narration of the famous poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas.” While Ross reads, the band’s classical-style score paints the picture of the poem: reindeer flying, Santa scuttling down the chimney. Some passages even echo the rhythm of the spoken words.
“It’s very creative and entertaining,” Musser said. “It’s nicely done.”