ALEXANDRIA, Va. --
Since the professional football season has officially come to a close, spend your Sunday afternoon not in a recliner in front of the television, but in a front row seat to see “The President’s Own” perform! Join the United States Marine Band at 2 p.m. on Feb. 10, for a free concert entitled “Portraits” at Northern Virginia Community College’s Schlesinger Concert Hall in Alexandria. A cello trio will offer pre-concert music beginning at 1:15 p.m. in the lobby.
Conducted by Capt. Ryan J. Nowlin, the band will perform pieces chosen to paint a series of musical portraits, including those of Desi Arnaz, Don Quichotte, and “friends pictured within” Sir Edward Elgar’s masterpiece Enigma Variations.
The concert will open with John Philip Sousa’s March “The Diplomat,” dedicated to William McKinley’s Secretary of State John Milton Hay, whose diplomatic skill impressed the composer. As former Sousa Band cornetist Dr. Frank Simon remarked about this piece, “…we could literally visualize the graceful swagger of a handsome diplomat, top hat, tux, striped trousers and all, strutting down the street, nodding cheerfully here and there.”
The next work is Michael Daugherty’s Desi, a tribute to Desi Arnaz’s persona. Arnaz, was well-known for playing the Cuban bandleader Ricky Ricardo alongside his wife Lucille Ball in the 1950s television comedy “I Love Lucy.” With rhythms and instrumentation inspired by the conga dance, the lively Latin sound builds and builds to a sizzling conclusion.
The 2016 song Love Among the Ruins by James Syler will follow, featuring a viola solo by Staff Sgt. Sarah Hart. “This is not a concerto in the traditional sense,” Syler said, “but rather a work that features the viola for its color, expressivity, and voice within a narrative.” Much like the Robert Browning poem after which this piece was named, it is meant to create a space for contemplation and illustrate love as a timeless force.
Concluding the first half of the concert is Richard Strauss’ Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, Opus 28. This tone poem paints a story based on an old legend of a prankster named Till Eulenspiegel who enjoyed playing tricks on his fellow villagers. The character is introduced through a short melody from the French horn, after which a musical depiction of his pranks ensues.
One of Maurice Ravel’s most famous orchestrations includes that of Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Having proven his skill in refining musical imagery through his arrangement of this piece, he then went on to apply his artistry to other works as well. This includes his song cycle (a set of related songs intended to form a single musical entity) Don Quichotte à Dulcinée, a charming work that reflects both the composer’s Spanish heritage and characters of Miguel de Cervantes’ classic novel. This piece will feature baritone vocalist Master Sgt. Kevin Bennear.
This exhibition of musical artistry will close with Sir Edward Elgar’s Variations on an Original Theme, Opus 36, Enigma. A lifelong fan of puzzles, riddles, and codes, the composer took this opportunity to combine this hobby with his passion for music. One such puzzle that the song provides is that each of the variations is a musical portrait of a friend or loved one represented by a series of initials or a nickname. This was easily solved by anyone familiar with Elgar’s family and friends, and Elgar himself provided the answers in a piano roll version of the music published in 1929. Though the work presents other mysteries that continue to baffle scholars to this day, it only serves as a reminder of the incredible creative possibilities that exist all around.
The Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall at Northern Virginia Community College is located at 4915 East Campus Drive in Alexandria. The concert is free, no tickets are required, and free parking is available in the adjacent garage.
Program and notes
Directions and parking