John Frayne | Venue change is only bummer in Twilight Concert

John Frayne | Venue change is only bummer in Twilight Concert

On the evening of June 21, the Twilight Concert by the UI Summer Band was, as usual, scheduled to be on the Quad, just south of the Illini Union. Because of the frequent downpours of the past week, the concert was switched to the Foellinger Auditroium, at the other end of the Quad. The result was a quantum leap in the quality of the sound, but there were losses. I missed the sight of the leafy trees, toddlers on the loose and a rare canine disagreement. In the Auditorium, concert manners asserted themselves, and the PA announcements were easier to understand.

As I am sure you have noticed, the UIUC is 150 years old this year, and the selections offered at this concert might be called "Illinois Top Hits." By the way, this is the 108th year of having Twilight Concerts.

The "Star Spangled Banner" opened the concert, and a goodly number of the audience joined in singing it. Barry L. Houser, Assistant Director of Bands, with a precise and encouraging beat, conducted the first six numbers on the program. Then, Col. A. F. Hand's "Entrance #3" was played, with a middle verse sung by band members not playing their instruments. And this was followed by the Illinois State Song, "By Thy Gentle Waters Flowing," by Johnson and Chamberlain, in which the clarinets and flutes stood out.

Conductor Houser explained that "Oskee Wow-Wow," by Hill and Green, was traditionally played when the Illini scored a touchdown, and the rarity of its being played in recent seasons drew a knowing laugh. Harry Alford's "Glory of the Gridiron" opened with a grand introduction, followed by a jumpy tune. Then, Karl King's "Pride of the Illini" blazed forth with its familiar, uplifting theme.

With Percy Grainger's "Children's March," graduate student conductor Jason Gardner took the baton and skillfully led the band through Grainger's droll, tongue-in-cheek unfolding of his own folk-like tune, "Over the Hills and Far Away." Gardner continued conducting a jolly, ragtime-sounding novelty number called "Ragged Rozey" by K.L King.

Then came the turn of Joseph Clark, graduate student conductor, to bring out the humor in F. H. Losey's "Windy Willie," with its wailing, yes, "windy," accompaniment. Clark was then able to urge on the band in the racing rhythm of James Curnow's arrangement of "Cheer Illinois."

Conductor Houser then came back to the podium for the only piece on the program with symphonic complexity, Alfred Reed's "Armenian Dances." The piece began with slow, broad melodies, and through various stages of acceleration leading up to a brilliant Khachaturian-like finish that evoked "wows" from the audience. Houser called for a collective bow from the band members.

For the last three numbers, Director of Bands Stephen Peterson took over the podium.

At about this time, and amid all these numbered anniversaries, it was announced that on that day conductor Houser was celebrating a birthday. Band members wore tiny paper hats, and Houser, who professionally deals with "wind," easily blew out the two candles on the birthday cake.

Conductor Peterson vigorously led the band through Goldman's upbeat "Illinois March," as well as the "University of Illinois March" by the "March King" John Philip Sousa, whose archives are here at UIUC. Thatcher Howland Guild's "Illinois Loyalty" ended the program, as we all stood and clapped along with the admirable players of the Summer Band. In the balcony, enjoying the concert, were the aspiring musicians of the Illinois Summer Youth Music program

The next concert in the Twilight Concert series will be at 7 p.m. July 19 on the Quad, if the creeks don't rise.

While we are talking about the age of everything, the Foellinger Auditorium dates from 1907. Before the Krannert Center opened in 1969, many musical events took place in the Auditorium, and some still do. I remember in the late 1960s a concert there by the Concentus Musicus of Vienna, a pioneering original music group, as well a song recital by the famous German soprano Elizabeth Schwarzkopf.

John Frayne hosts "Classics of the Phonograph" on Saturdays at WILL-FM and, in retirement, teaches at the UI. Reach him at frayne@illinois.edu.

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