ILWACO — The Ilwaco High School concert and jazz bands were in top form for their first concert of the year last Tuesday, as they each performed a half hour set at the Hilltop Auditorium.
The IHS Concert Band was first up, performing an impressive set of five songs. The 47-piece group led with “The March of the Belgian Paratroopers” (“Marche des Parachutistes Belges”), the most well-known work of composer Pierre Leemans. They followed with the sweeping first movement of Franz Schubert’s “Symphony No. 8” (also known as the “Unfinished Symphony”). Johannes Brahms “Hungarian Dance” came third.
In introducing the fourth song, “Sandpaper Ballet” by Leroy Anderson, IHS music director Rachel Lake explained the interesting use of percussion in the song.
“It features our entire percussion section on sandpaper blocks,” she said, as the crew set up at the front of the stage, each holding a pair of sandpaper blocks. “It’s supposed to be emulating a soft-shoe dancer.”
The group then “scratched” their way through the tune entertainingly. Each block had a different grain of sandpaper, which gave some variance in the tonality of each player.
The band wrapped up their set with a fascinating arrangement that interwove the “Hallelujah Chorus” and “When the Saints Go Marching In,” to great affect.
“I really enjoy it because it mixes two songs together, done originally by The Canadian Brass,” said Lake.
The Jazz Band came out swinging with the tune “Smack Dab in the Middle,” which featured solos by McKenzie Mulinix on bass, Jose Mendez Hernandez on baritone saxophone, Tristan Trudell on tenor saxophone and Lindsay Hunt on alto saxophone.
While introducing the second number, Lake took the opportunity to point out the new construction of the group. The plethora of trombonists from years past are gone, and the band features two drummers and two bassists.
“It gives us some flexibility on some different charts we’re looking at this year,” she explained. “And you might look at our band and say there’s an instrument missing, and I would say no!”
Lake said that while she laments there being no trombone players this year, it won’t stop them from reworking songs like “Zoot Suit Riot,” their third number.
“A lot of those tunes we like to do, you can’t play those without a trombone,” she said, before adding, “Oh yes, we can!”
The sax-heavy lineup gave the song a delightfully muscular feel, as opposed to the more nimble groove in the trombone version of years past.
The group took an interesting turn for their fourth tune of the set, “Garden of Babylon,” then showed their versatility as bass player Mulinix came to the front of the stage to sing on their penultimate piece, a nice, brassy take on “It Don’t Mean a Thing.”
The group finished up with a great arrangement of the Lennon/McCartney song, “Got to Get You Into My Life.”
The IHS music department is currently selling Christmas trees each weekend at the high school, and will be hosting a Holiday Follies spaghetti feed on Dec. 1, that will feature entertainment by the jazz band, choir and a sneak peek at what the drama program is working on.