Monday, March 19, 2012

Virginia Grand Military Band - Concert dedicated to the memory of Gordon Bowie

contributed by Marlin Strand

I went to the February 18 concert of the very excellent Virginia Grand Military Band thanks to the courtesy tickets they provided to members of MVCB. I was very impressed with their mistake-free performance and intonation that was so precise that overtones swirled through the auditorium at Hayfield High School in Alexandria. Gordon had been a member of the band for several years and they presented his composition “Current Events” as part of their program.

Director Loras John Schissel took a few minutes to talk about Gordon and how his passing was like a loss in the family for the VGM Band, just like it was for many of us in MVCB. As his emotion showed, he called Gordon “a rare, great man” who was a fine musician, inspiring conductor, a talented composer and a true friend; characteristics that are exceptional and almost never possessed by a single individual. As he swung the band into the popular march that celebrates the Newseum here in DC and the hustle/bustle of gathering and publishing current events, the Bowie inspired writing of drums as printing presses and bells crowning melody lines brought the author to a new state of inspiration about the living legacy that Gordon has left behind for us; keeping him in our memories, souls and on our lips as we express his creations through our instruments.

The VGM band provided a splendid program, with Schissel’s precise yet intimate style (with and without the baton) drawing the audience into the band with a shared appreciation of and participation in the musical experience. This concert was a special salute to Karl King and Leonard B. Smith, two renowned and fabulous band directors and composers. Their rousing marches were only topped by two Sousa compositions, the “Imperial Edward “and the inimitable “Stars and Stripes Forever” that closed the concert with the audience standing and proudly clapping in time. The majestic sound of the band with solid bass foundation, proud brass leadership, lithe and exact high winds, and percussion leadership was phenomenal. Their next performance is March 31, 2012 in Alexandria where they will feature band pioneers Henry Fillmore and Edwin Franko Goldman.