Washington, D.C. -- The 2017 Fall Chamber Series will begin at 2 p.m., this Sunday, Oct. 8, with its first of four concerts in the series. This week’s performance will feature tango music, Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F, and a throwback to World War II aircraft and take place in John Philip Sousa Band Hall at the Marine Barracks Annex in southeast Washington, D.C. The concert is free, no tickets are required; it will stream live at youtube.com/usmarineband.
When programming for this Sunday’s performance, French horn player and concert coordinator Staff Sgt. Cecilia Buettgen aimed to showcase many different styles of music the Marine Band can play while also highlighting the organization’s virtusoic musicians. “In some cases our musicians double (and triple!) on different instruments,” she explained. “For example, Gunnery Sgt. Russell Wilson will be playing piano, harpsichord, and accordion on this concert.”
A string ensemble will kick off the concert with Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto in B minor. Following the string selection, Staff Sgt. David Young will perform Paul Bonneau’s Caprice en Forme de Valse on solo bassoon. The first half of the concert will conclude with pianist Gunnery Sgt. Russell Wilson and viola player Gunnery Sgt. Tam Tran performing two tangos.
“One aspect of this performance that is special is that Tam and I both will be playing secondary instruments,” Wilson said. “He, a violist, will perform on fiddle; and I, a pianist, will perform on the accordion. More than that, we’ll be playing in a style that is not our primary one. Our comfort zone is to read classical music from notes on a page, as we were originally trained to do. But we’ve become increasingly interested in aspects of music-making that move beyond merely reading notes on a page. So for the past few years, Tam and I have been meeting informally simply to jam and share our latest discoveries, questions, and ideas about music. We’ve been exploring improvisation, chord progressions, learning music by ear from recordings, arranging, memorization, and total mastery of a piece in order to focus on aspects such as showmanship, and interaction between musicians and the audience.”
He continued: “We have had lots of fun and Marine comradery by jamming on fiddle and accordion in the safety and privacy of a soundproof practice room. Now we are eager to share that same fun with the audience and are hopeful that they will feel it too.”
Tran echoed Wilson’s sentiment, saying, “I love tangos and I really enjoy playing music with Russell. We’ve been having a fun time exploring different music genres with different instruments.”
According to Tran, the pair will play one of the tangos as written but the other they will experiment with sections of the form and incorporate elements of improvisation to expand beyond the rules and boundaries of classical music.
“Tango music is so much fun to play because there’s so much fire, excitement, and passion,” Tran said. “I can see why people love dancing the tango.”
The program will continue with Nathan Daughtrey’s Spitfire, for euphonium, tuba, marimba and vibraphone. It was inspired by the British fighter planes used during World War II by the Royal Air Force and several other countries. According to euphonium player Staff Sgt. Hiram Diaz and percussionist Master Sgt. Kenneth Wolin, an inner motor in the vibraphone allows the instrument to mimic the euphonium which creates an interesting effect adding what almost sounds like an extra voice.
“The opening of the piece is a single forte chord on the vibraphone, so right off the bat we’re revving up the engine and taking flight,” said percussionist Gunnery Sgt. Kenneth Wolin.
Following Spitfire, clarinetist Staff Sgt. Parker Gaims will perform an accompanied solo titled Time Pieces which, in addition to being technically challenging, has a wonderful interplay between the piano and clarinet lines.
To close the concert, an ensemble of unconventional instrumentation will perform Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F, led by Gunnery Sgt. Brad Weil on trumpet.
“This is one of the most challenging pieces in the trumpet repertoire, which was enticing to me,” Weil said. “It is challenging for the trumpet on so many levels. First, it’s in the extreme high range of the piccolo trumpet which can have difficult pitch tendencies and endurance requirements. Then, trying to blend this brilliant instrument with the other solo instruments—violin, oboe, flute—is a challenge I’m excited to undertake!”
When asked what concertgoers will enjoy about the piece, Weil said: “Everything! It’s Bach!”
The Fall Chamber Series concert is free and no tickets are required. The Marine Barracks Annex is accessible by Metro via the Navy Yard or Eastern Market stations. Free parking is also available under the overpass on 7th Street, across from the Annex.
Complete program and program notes
Directions and parking information
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