Celebrating With the Wind Ensemble

A little after four o’clock at Kirkland Fine Arts Center, it was time for commemoration. Millikin’s Wind Ensemble kicked their concert off with a heroic blast of Ellen Taaffe Zwilch’s Fanfare.

Originally created to honor the Ruby Diamond Hall’s opening in Florida, that Sunday afternoon, it served to celebrate being together at KFAC. The ensemble’s sound echoed the space, with a few trombones and trumpets playing in the wings, bringing the audience in with its exuberant, blaring sound.

Then the house lights dimmed, and the chimes came rolling in, making its way for Steven Bryant’s Radiant Joy. Its upbeat, whimsical, and feel-good vibe gave a feeling of how great it is to be alive. Best part was, the song celebrates for no other reason than how much joy it brings. Even Dr. Seapy’s conducting had more of a pep to it than it already did.

Before the ensemble continued, Dr. Seapy took the mic and said a few words about the pieces everyone had heard.

“It’s been a real journey so far,” Dr. Seapy said. “And I’m looking forward to whatever comes next.”

Eric Whitacre’s October signaled a new beginning. The harmonic sound gave regal elegance to changing leaf colors and cool breezes that the month usually has. It also brings a sense of adventure, like one may have when going to an apple orchard or smelling cinnamon or something in the air that isn’t soy. (Or maybe it’s very personal because it’s my birth month, and hearing it almost brought tears to my eyes because it was so beautiful.)

And of course, what else could be more fitting than following a celebratory song with another one? Norman Dello Joio’s Variants on a Medieval Tune took the audience on a musical journey. A festive theme of jubilation plays throughout.

A brief intermission comes and goes. With a program that has a celebratory repertoire by design, there’s little to no time to rest.

The ensemble proceeds to take on Bach’s Fantasia in G Major. As this song is based around a hymnal “In Dulci Jubilo,” or “In Sweet Rejoicing,” the musicians intended to create a hearty organ-like sound. Even ignoring that, the song gives off vibes similar to a wedding prelude where the bridesmaids and groomsmen walk down the aisle as the mass starts, very regal and joyful.

Mentioning of which, Joaquín Turina’s La Procession du Rocio takes the audience to Seville, Spain, for an annual festival, complete with nice weather and plenty of time to dance, eat, drink, and be merry. With a resounding shout to close the concert with a bang.

However, the ensemble had one more song up their sleeve.

Among the audience members, one of the most esteemed people attending was Millikin professor, and the Wind Ensemble’s former conductor, Dr. Gary Shaw. Dr. Seapy explained since Dr. Shaw liked trombones and pieces written by John Phillip Sousa, it would be only fitting that they close the concert out with a piece that honored a composer, an instrument, and a professor at the same time: “The Thunderer.”

But that wasn’t all. Dr. Seapy invited to the stage Provost Aper, who carried a trombone that his wife Sandy had given him. He had a chance to not only play with the ensemble but also to perform in public for the first time in a while. He couldn’t thank Dr. Seapy enough for the opportunity to do so.

Together, they ended the show with the exuberance and celebratory energy it deserved. As the song ended, the audience erupted in applause. Dr. Shaw applauded the ensemble as Dr. Seapy applauded Dr. Shaw. It was a good time had by all.

If that was what that group can put together in a month or so, I could only imagine how they could raise the bar anymore.