Washington, D.C. --
The year 2018 marks the 100th year of Leonard Bernstein’s birth, so this Sunday the Marine Band will honor the American icon with a concert titled “To Make Us Proud: A Leonard Bernstein Centennial Celebration.” The concert will take place at 2 p.m., Sunday, May 13, at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center in Alexandria, Va. The concert is free; no tickets are required.
This tribute highlights Bernstein’s talent and legacy as both a composer and conductor and influential figure in American music. The performance will begin with John Williams’ “For New York”—which he wrote for his friend Lenny’s 70th birthday—followed by Miklós Rózsa’s Theme, Variations, and Finale, Opus 13a. In 1943 Bernstein conducted the New York Philharmonic’s performance of the piece when he stepped in to conduct for the ailing Music Director Bruno Walter; this performance catapulted Bernstein into the spotlight. The concert continues with Benjamin Britten’s Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes, Opus 33a, a composition which Bernstein conducted in the summer of 1946 at Tanglewood in Lenox, Mass. It is also one of the last pieces he ever conducted before his passing in 1990.
The second half of the concert features compositions by the talented composer: Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs; Divertimento; Fanfare for the Inauguration of John F. Kennedy; and Scenes from A White House Cantata. Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs is scored for conventional jazz band and showcases the brass, saxophone section, solo piano, and solo clarinet.
“I love the energy of this piece—it’s unique in the clarinet repertoire,” said co-principal clarinet Gunnery Sgt. Patrick Morgan. “Performing the solo is interesting because the clarinetist doesn’t play for the first five minutes of the piece. When it’s time to begin the solo, it’s like being shot out of a cannon—fast, loud, and before you know it it’s over!”
“This piece is very rhythmically complex, and all three movements have lots of sections that are written to seem off balance,” he continued. “It’s exciting to hear when the ensemble comes back together, especially for the finale.”
In the frenzied finale, Bernstein instructs the players to repeat the last phrase “as many times as seems psychologically right (that is, to an ‘exhaustion point’).”
The concert concludes with Scenes from A White House Cantata, featuring baritone vocalist Master Sgt. Kevin Bennear and mezzo-soprano vocalist Gunnery Sgt. Sara Dell’Omo as they portray Presidents and First Ladies who have occupied the White House throughout history.
“On this concert, our patrons will have the opportunity to hear a vocal work by a master composer,” Bennear said. “I love Bernstein’s use of melody, the way he paints the text with the melodic lines is pure genius!” He continued: “Sara and I approached this in a very sincere way as we endeavored to understand and play the parts Bernstein assigns in the piece. It was an interesting challenge to take on the roles of the Presidents and First ladies.
The concert is free and no tickets are required. Doors will open at 1:30 p.m. and a string quartet will offer pre-concert music in the lobby beginning at 1:15 p.m.
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