Aug. 14, 2015 --
The Marine Band’s program for this week’s Summer Fare performance is a band lover’s dream with Assistant Director 1st Lt. Ryan J. Nowlin conducting John Philip Sousa’s marches “Our Flirtation” and “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” Morton Gould’s “American Salute,” John Williams’ Star Wars Suite, and George W. Warren’s “God of Our Fathers.” But patrons are in for a special treat since the concert features the world première of two of Marine Band staff arranger Staff Sgt. Scott Ninmer’s arrangements: Xylophone Rags of George Hamilton Green, with soloist Gunnery Sgt. Jonathan Bisesi, and Ol’ Blue Eyes: The Hits of Frank Sinatra, sung by baritone vocalist Master Sgt. Kevin Bennear.
Bisesi has been experimenting with improvising material with Green’s rags in the Chamber Music Series and in pre-concert performances for the past two years. “In past performances I’ve been able to see what ideas work better than others, and what ideas need to be changed for a better effect,” he said. Once he had enough of these pieces in his hands, he reached out to Marine Band Director Lt. Col. Jason Fettig and proposed the idea of a medley of Green’s rags with xylophone solo and band accompaniment. “To the surprise of both of us, a medley such as this does not exist, and who better than the Marine Band to premiere such a work!” Bisesi said.
Fettig put Bisesi in touch with Ninmer and the collaboration began. “We met up a few times while I was working on the medley to discuss which rags we would use, the order of the pieces, and transitional elements,” Ninmer said. They narrowed it down to “The Ragtime Robin,” “Log Cabin Blues,” “Cross Corners,” “Chromatic Fox Trot,” and “Rainbow Ripples.” Ninmer said that Bisesi tends to use quite a bit of improvisation in the pieces, so they deliberated how much and where to incorporate those various elements in the medley. “Once we had discussed the tunes and had an order set, I decided on which parts of each rag to use in the medley to create a cohesive and engaging piece,” Ninmer said.
For both medleys, he arranged all of the tunes included in each medley separately, and then spent time working on the transitions between the songs. “There are often key changes and tempo changes between tunes that have to be navigated, so writing transitions in a medley is always a particularly fun challenge for me in that I get to flex my creative muscle quite a bit,” Ninmer said.
The Sinatra medley was also a collaboration, this time between Ninmer, Fettig, and Bennear. Ninmer said he felt at home writing in the big band idiom. “I have a great deal of experience in writing and performing jazz and big band music, so writing the Sinatra medley was particularly fun for me,” he said. After he and Bennear bounced ideas back and forth they brought their final list to Fettig to discuss what would make the best set. “We ended up using ‘For Once in My Life,’ ‘I’ve Got the World on a String,’ ‘All the Way,’ and ‘Come Fly with Me’ in the medley,” Ninmer said and added that with some help from the audience, they will get to hear another Sinatra favorite with “My Way” as an encore.
Summer Fare performances are at 8 p.m., Wednesdays and Thursdays through August. Wednesday concerts take place on the west terrace of the U.S. Capitol and Thursday concerts take place at the Sylvan Theater, on the grounds of the Washington Monument. Limited street parking is available. For concerts at the Capitol, patrons may take the red line to Union Station or the blue, orange, or silver lines to the Capitol South station. For concerts at the Sylvan Theater, take the blue, orange, or silver lines to the Smithsonian station. The concerts are free but weather permitting and programming is subject to change. Inclement weather announcements will be made by 6 p.m. on the band’s Concert Information Line at (202) 433-4011, www.marineband.marines.mil, and social media pages.
Program and notes