By Neal Kirmer
On the evening of March 9, the Cameron University Concert Band and the 77th Army Band performed at the University Theatre.
The performance, titled Oklahoma Connections, showcased pieces either composed by native Oklahomans or pieces about Oklahoma. Those features ranged from Garth Brooks to selections from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma.”
The evening began with a piece composed by Earl Irons titled “Mount Scott Overture.” The piece conjured images of the open prairie in a time before the land was tamed. One could imagine a lone rider and their horse slowly making their way across the terrain with Mt. Scott as the backdrop.
The tempo and melody slowed as if the sun were setting on the rider, bringing images of a red and purple sunset. The tempo slowed as if the sun were dipping below the horizon. One could almost hear the coyote howling at the moon as the melody became tranquil and almost hypnotic.
Then suddenly the tempo increased as though the sun were rising again and came to a crescendo as the sun rose above the grasslands with a brilliant raise of light dancing out to bring forth a new day.
The intention of all of the selections was to have those in attendance imagine Oklahoma in their minds. It was a celebration of artists and composers from the state so the imagery it conjured was meant to reflect the state itself.
Warrant Officer Martin Johnston shared conducting duties with Dr. Lucas Kaspar. Johnston spoke about what it means to perform pieces with such a strong local connection.
“We always want to play concerts with meaning,” Johnston said. “It would be a waste of an opportunity to not give tribute to the amazing talent, skill and amazing people that are from the great state of Oklahoma.”
A member of the 77th Army Band, Justin McCall also created a piece that was featured during the performance. Being that McCall was a tuba player, the piece relied heavily on brass instruments.
One could imagine the piece being played during a main street parade in a small town in rural Oklahoma. The streets lined with spectators on both sides cheering on the band as they marched through the town.
Jeremiah Phillips was a member of the 77th Army Band during his time in the Army and now plays with the Cameron University Concert Band. Phillips spoke about what it meant to be a part of this concert.
“The whole program is specifically for Oklahoma,” Phillips said. “I have never been in a performance like that. It’s a lot of really good music. There is a mix of traditional classic music. Some of it sounds like spaghetti western music, which I love.”
Another featured artist was Louis Ballard. Ballard is known as “The father of Native American composition.” Ballard’s piece felt like controlled chaos. It evoked the feeling that something ominous was lurking just around the corner. Its haunting tones sent literal chills down spines.
The event concluded with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma,” much to the delight of the crowd. Many in attendance clapped along with the beat. The audience gave a standing ovation as the final notes were played.
The music department has several more events scheduled for this semester and all are encouraged to attend.
“Make it out to a show,” Phillips said. “Music has such a positive effect. It is a lot of fun and it is a nice break for people.”