At 6:15 p.m. on June 29 I arrived at the Gazebo in Wells. The sun was shining in a cloudless blue sky with a gentle breeze wafting in from the ocean. The reason I was there was the announced concert by the Stratford Wind Symphony. However, the place was deserted.

I recalled the small print in the publicity stating that in the event of rain the concert would be held at the Junior High School Gym. Sure enough that WAS the location. After intermission, June Messier, the chairperson of Harbor Park Music Committee, related that at 4:30 p.m. it was raining and that is when she decided to change the venue. The difficulty for myself and others is that there was no sign anywhere to that effect.With regard to the JHS gym, it is my opinion that it is probably the worst place to hold a musical event.

As for the Stratford group, I had heard them before, and they were wonderful then and nothing I heard that evening changed my opinion in the least. The ensemble consists of some 50 players ranging in age from active musicians, retired educators, very accomplished amateurs as well as a few talented students. While space will not permit me to single out more than a few, I wold be remiss if I did not mention those who had significant solos in the program, these include: Brian Gardell, horn; Deborah Gardell, alto saxophone; Claudia Bissetet, flute; Joan DiVitorri, clarinet and Ralph Turmelle, Euphonium.

The conductor of the ensemble is Bruce Gatchell who will be retiring and succeeded by assistant conductor, Jeffrey Smith. While each conducts differently, both are skilled, communicate their wishes clearly and the group responded to each.  I wish to make it clear that the difference in style and approach does and should not imply that one is better (or worse) than the other, merely different.

The theme for this concert was Americana in music which was appropriate because of the proximity to the 4th of July, less than a week away. With that umbrella, the group played and demonstrated skill and understanding in performing an eclectic variety of music. I missed the first selection, a march from the film “Captain America.” This was followed by a medley of selections from “Fiddler on the Roof.” What impressed me was not only the impeccable intonation of the group but ensemble playing as well. Next up was a rock medley that started with the song “Don’t Stop Believen’.” Mr.Gatchell then introduced Elaine Gatchell who served as narrator in a group of three stories by Aesop that included “The Hare and the Tortoise, The Dog and the Bone, and The Wolf and his Shadow.” These entertaining stories featured the band playing musical ideas that reflected the mood of each story.

Before concluding the first series of compositions, Gatchell led a stirring rendition of “Buglers Holiday” and then turned the baton over to Mr. Smith. Smith led a performance of music from the film “The Greatest Showman.” Before intermission Smith then led a characteristic performance of “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” in New Orleans style. Gatchell then led a medley of service songs prior to intermission.

Following this break, the works performed only underlined the sheer versatility of these musicians. Gatchell led off with a James Bond medley. Smith then led a vibrant performance of the “Variations on America” by Charles Ives as arranged by William Rhoades.¬† Possibly the most moving rendition of the evening was the performance of “The Last Uniclorn” which concluded Mr. Smith’s work for the evening as conductor. Mr. Gatchell then returned conducting “At the Movies” by John Williams; “Summer Wind” with talented tenor Don Plummer and Sousa’s “Hail to the Spirit of Liberty.” While Gatchell conducts a variety of the music of many composers extremely well (myself included), I believe that he has a special way with the music of Sousa. Other works followed: “The Queen of Soul,” “America the Beautiful” (again with Plummer as soloist), and Sousa’s “Billboard March.” As an encore he conducted a most stirring performance of Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” with the massed piccolos and brass sections distinguishing themselves. All in all it was a most enjoyable evening and the several hundred who managed to find the gym enjoyed a wonderful¬†program of superb music making.

– Dr. Morton Gold is a composer/conductor,retired educator and an arts reviewer for the Journal Tribune.

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