On Saturday, February 27 at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center Concert Hall, the Rensselaer Music Association presented Broadway: Rensselaer’s 8th Annual Pops Concert. A total of five separate musical groups performed that evening, led by conductors Joseph Bonville and Robert Button.
The first to perform was the Symphonic Band, conducted by Joseph Bonville. They played two pieces: “Overture to Candide” by Leonard Bernstein, and “Highlights from The Music Man.” With such a large and full band, that brassy, old Hollywood sound was achieved easily. “Overture to Candide” was a lively and grand arrangement with contrastingly light portions dispersed throughout. “Highlights from The Music Man” was a smooth, big band rendition of the famed Broadway play’s score. “Till There was You,” which would be performed again later in the evening by the 8th Street Swing Band, was sweetly portrayed with the passing of the solo between the woodwinds and the pass swelling to a grand finale.
The Percussion Ensemble, also directed by Joseph Bonville, performed “Mambo” by Leonard Bernstein, “Maria” by Steven Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein, “One Hand, One Heart” by Sondheim and Bernstein, and “America” by Leonard Bernstein. The Percussion Ensemble is composed of a series of mallet instruments: marimbas, xylophones, glockenspiels, and bells. Accompanying these were a timpani and bass player, offering a full bass support. The renditions of the songs listed above were dreamlike, some even evoking a mournful feeling. These moments were offset by lively and rapid portions, especially in “Mambo.” Something rather comedic to note was the accompaniment to the solo in “Maria,” as it sounded like the Wii theme song.
After a brief intermission, The Concert Jazz Orchestra took the stage, directed by Robert Button. They played in the classic big band style, with a large brassy sound. Their set included “Choo Choo Ch’Boogie” by Denver Darling and Milt Gabler, “Is You Is, Or Is You Ain’t (Ma’Baby)” by Billy Austin, and “Calidonia” by Fleecie Moore. These performances were highlighted by solos from Alex Quigley ’17 in “Choo Choo Ch’Boogie,” the conductor Robert Button in “Is You Is, Or Is You Ain’t (Ma’Baby),” and Devin Glenn ’16 in “Calidonia.” All of these songs were lively and upbeat, with a rocking tempo in the piano and bass instruments. While the solo by Button was well done, it seemed like this director was stealing the attention from the students in the band.
Following this performance, the Contemporary Jazz Ensemble, also directed by Robert Button, presented “I Feel the Earth Move” by Carole King, “Sweet Seasons” by Carole King and David Palmer, and “Jazzman” by Carole King and Toni Stern. This group performed much like the Concert Jazz Orchestra did, with a big band style of playing, also containing solos from Lauryn Curtis ’16 and Erin Lazar ’19.
The final group, the 8th Street Swing Band, directed by Joseph Bonville, performed “Till There was You” by Meredith Wilson, “I Have Dreamed” by Rogers and Hammerstein, “On the Street Where You Lived” by Lerner and Lowe, and Dancing Queen by ABBA. These songs were performed with gusto, mirroring that initial energy brought to the stage by Bonville and the Symphonic Band at the beginning of the evening.
The night finished off with Dancing Queen, multi-colored lights flashing about the concert hall, and the director encouraging the audience to stand up and dance, which was met with enthusiasm. This was a perfect ending to this Broadway themed night.