For video from the band's reherasal, click here: http://widget.newsinc.com/_cfvp/playlist16x9_player.html?CID=15348&WID=25274&VID=25434922&freewheel=91764&sitesection=havenews_hom_non_fro&external_url=http://www.havenews.com/
The 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Band puts on a variety of concerts during the course of a year, but its annual Christmas concert is always something special.
“If you can only make one of the Wing band’s concerts during the year, this is the one that you need to come to,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Benjamin J. Bartholomew, who is officer in charge of the 50-member group based at Cherry Point.
The band’s always popular Christmas concert is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday at the base’s Two Rivers Theater. Doors open at 6 p.m. for the free event that is open to the public. Toys for Tots donations will be accepted.
“This year there is going to be a good portion of our concert utilizing our jazz ensemble,” Bartholomew said. “They’re excited to do it and I’m excited as well. There are some Christmas classics that people expect to hear and they are going to get those, but we need to change it up and keep it fresh. That’s what we’re trying to do this year with the jazz ensemble.”
Two arrangements from the Stan Kenton chart book have kept the band members rehearsing tediously. Arranged by Ralph Carmichael, the versions of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “Good King Wenceslas” really swing, Bartholomew said.
“As challenging as they are, these guys really enjoy them,” he said. “You want to get outside the box as much as you can for these concerts. This is the one opportunity that they have each year to depart from playing Semper Fidelis on the parade deck, so they like to stretch their legs, musically speaking.”
Kenton was known for highly orchestrated arrangements that took big band music to a new level.
“With complex arrangements like this, you have to kind of get down into the weeds and make sure that everybody is exactly interpreting their part consistently across the board so that the end product coming out matches up perfectly,” Bartholomew said. “It only takes one guy that’s playing one note a little bit longer than the rest to make it not quite sound the way it should.”
The instrumentalists in the band can handle it, Bartholomew said.
“I think primarily what we as Marines have going for us is the refusal to settle for anything less than the optimum performance,” he said. “They are always going to strive to hit it out of the park in everything they do. That’s the one distinctive advantage that we have. We set the bar very high, and I believe that we consistently leap over that bar. At least we strive to. I think the audience is going to enjoy it.”
The tunes bring out the best in the band, he said.
“The individual parts themselves are very challenging and very difficult,” he said. “Depending on what part you’re playing, it requires near virtuoso capabilities. The lead trumpets are screaming. It’s very taxing and demanding on their chops. The French horns are screaming as well.
“These charts are what we like to call high risk, high reward. You have to be aggressive. You have to push the envelope of what your perceived playing abilities are, and if you go for it and you nail it, it’s awesome. That’s the way that you have to approach these. That’s what we’re trying to instill in these guys. ‘Hey, don’t be afraid of making a mistake. You have to tank up. Take a big breath and lay it out there.’”
Together, the two Kenton tunes last for less than five minutes of the 90-minute show, which includes an intermission.
“For this little tiny piece of the performance, it’s a lot of work to get these together,” Bartholomew said.
Attendees can expect to hear the standard wind ensemble repertoire, too.
“The concert is going to run the gamut of all the different styles of music,” he said. “If you’re coming to hear standard Christmas favorites performed by the concert band, you’re going to get that. If you’re into something different, like these jazz charts, you’re going to get that. Of course, we’re saving everyone’s favorite until the end as well. I can’t talk about it.”
Staff Sgt. Terri L. Kopetzki, the band’s lead female vocalist, will return for a couple of melodies. Special appearances will also be made by civilian bassoonist Amy Shields, wife of Sgt. Eric Shields, a French horn player in the band, as well as retired Master Sgt. Mark Munger, of Hubert, who will be the narrator for “Twas the Night Before Christmas.”
Seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis, and Bartholomew encourages those from the public who plan on attending to get to the theater by 6 p.m. Identification may be required at the main gate.
“The theater is usually near capacity for this concert and that’s the way we like it,” he said. “We want it to be full. So, for those that are going to join us to celebrate the Christmas season that evening, I highly encourage that you get there in a timely manner in order to get a good seat. It’s going to be well attended. A lot of the Marines from the base will be there. Most of the base shows up for this.”