AN EVENING AT WEST POINT

The West Point Concert Band is a first class unit. Last night I sat with friends and thousands of others on the hillside facing the bandstand below Trophy Point on the West Point campus. It was a perfect evening. The sky was clear and the air was comfortably warm. Precisely at 7:30 the announcer stepped forward to begin the final concert of the 2015 summer season.

Tradition dictates part of the concert—a salute to all of the country’s military corps with their theme songs, and the traditional march, Stars and Stripes Forever by John Philip Sousa.

One of the highlights of the latter is the piccolo solo in the trio section. Last night the band’s piccolo player was a featured soloist in a larger work and relinquished her short solo. The audience was given the opportunity to vote by phone to choose the instrument to play the solo in her place. None of the band members knew who that would be until it was announced at the last moment.

Chosen:  the tuba player, who did great job with the tricky little melody. So the highest, smallest instrument in the band gave way to its lowest, largest instrument. It was a fun event.

The band closed their summer concerts, as they do annually, with the playing of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, which was written to commemorate the Russians victory to save their country from Napoleon’s Grande Armèe.

The orchestration calls for cannons and carillon. The cannons of West Point thundered in rhythm of the director’s baton. I didn’t hear a carillon. My only thought about the music was I missed the richness of an orchestra’s strings.

The last note faded to cheering and applause. A moment later fireworks lit the sky. I enjoyed watching them twinkle through the leaves of the tree over my head. So, ended a perfect evening.

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