The year 2018 marks the centennial of the end of World War I: Nov. 11, 1918.
The famous phrase “the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” commemorates the event, and its anniversary has been celebrated since. First known as Armistice Day, Veterans Day now honors and celebrates all American military veterans.
The 55-member Southern Oregon Concert Band opens its 2018-2019 season with its annual Veterans Day Concert at 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 11, in Stedman Auditorium at Central Medford High School, 815 S. Oakdale Ave. Admission is free, but donations will be accepted.
“The show will start with the National Anthem, then “Over There Fantasie,” says Don Bieghler, who’s served in the past as SOCB’s conductor and member of the concert band.
“Over There Fantasie,” based on World War melodies, follows. It pays tribute to George M. Cohan’s famous “Over There.” Cohan wrote hundreds of songs, including “You’re A Grand Old Flag,” “Give My Regards to Broadway” and “Yankee Doodle Boy” (known as “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy”). He also wrote 50 Broadway musicals between 1904 and 1920, and some historians consider him the “Father of American Musical Comedy.”
Cohan wrote “Over There” in 1917, during World War I, and it closes with the memorable line, “We won’t come back ‘til it’s OVER, over there.” It’s the primary song in the “Over There Fantasie,” appearing throughout the medley by Ferde Grofe. Grofe’s piece also includes other songs from that era: “The Rose of No Man’s Land,” “Goodbye Broadway, Hello France” and “K-K-K-Katy.”
Look for “Elegy,” written by American band composer John Barnes Chance for concert band in 1972. Chance became an arranger for the Eighth United States Army Band while serving in Korea, and later a member of the music faculty of the University of Kentucky.
An elegy is a lament for the dead. Written during the Vietnam War, Chance’s haunting “Elegy” evokes the sorrow of all wars. Its ambiguous ending symbolizes young lives taken too soon — drifting slowly and inconclusively into silence.
Next up is “American Patrol,” originally written as a march in 1885 by F.W. Meacham. It’s best known today as a swing-band version written for the Glenn Miller Orchestra in 1942, during World War II. It depicts a military band on parade, opening softly as the band approaches from a distance. Meacham augments its loud and dramatic presence as it passes with quotations from “Columbia, Gem of the Ocean” and “Dixie” before fading softly as the band continues marching on.
The first half of the concert concludes with Warren Barker’s medley “Themes Like Old Times,” which focuses on Broadway, and popular songs from the first two decades of the 20th century. “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” was Irving Berlin’s first hit song, written in 1911. Barker sets “Peg O’ My Heart” from 1913 as a richly harmonized ballad, and he has some fun with the 1909 song “By the Light of the Silvery Moon,” setting it in a deliberately old-fashioned style before closing with a rousing version of “12th Street Rag,” a jazzy ragtime piece from 1914.
The first part of the show will be conducted by Laurie Bonner-Baker, a native of Chicago who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education in Illinois. She taught music for four years at a British International school in Beijing, and is now a substitute teacher and private music instructor in the Rogue Valley. Bonner-Baker plays clarinet in the Rogue Valley Symphonic Band and Ashland City Band, and saxophone in the Southern Oregon Jazz Orchestra and the Timberline Express Big Band.
The SOCB concert’s interlude will include a reading of John McCrae’s war poem “In Flanders Fields.”
Chris Pearson conducts the remainder of the concert. Pearson grew up in the East Bay Area of Northern California. He earned degrees in clarinet performance and education from California state universities, an instrumental conducting degree in Arizona and a certificate in musical instrument technology in Colorado. He’s an instrument repairman and plays sax in the funk and fusion band Deja Neaux and in the Timberline Express Big Band.
The concert’s second half starts with John Williams’ 1998 “Hymn to the Fallen,” for the film “Saving Private Ryan.” It serves as a memorial for all soldiers who lost their lives in Normandy.
Williams’ piece does not appear in the film itself, but instead provides an epilogue as it runs during the final credits.
Bands in each branch of the military perform their own medleys of service tunes, but the most popular arrangement for community bands is Bob Lowden’s Armed Forces Salute, an anthem that pays tribute to all five branches of the military. This lively and richly scored medley will be accompanied by presentations of colors for each service branch during its particular song.
Also look for Warren Barker’s “In Praise of Freedom,” with plenty of trumpets and drums, a couple of original tunes, some references to “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and a richly harmonized version of “America the Beautiful.”
With 24 Grammy Awards and 51 Academy Award nominations, Williams is a popular and successful film score composer in history.
SOCB’s show culminates with Williams’ “Midway March,” written in 1976 for the film “Midway,” which chronicles the 1942 naval battle in Japan. The United States sank four Japanese aircraft carriers, losing only one of its own, in a battle that was a turning point in the Pacific during World War II.
— Musicologist Ed Wight