An enthusiastic crowd of parents and music lovers gathered at the Claremont Opera House Saturday night to hear performances from four area middle school bands. Keene’s St. Joseph Regional School and Kurn Hattin (Westminster, VT) joined jazz bands from the Charlestown and Claremont Middle Schools to showcase their advanced student music programs.
The night also provided an opportunity for many of the young musicians to play in a theatre setting for the first time.
St. Joseph brought the evening’s largest ensemble – nearly 40 musicians, with percussion, bells, electric guitar and drums complementing the ample brass and wind contingency. Director Vicki Moore led them through the Bossa Nova flavored “Mucho Gusto” and a smooth take of John Edmonson’s arrangement of “Jazz Cat.”
An energized version of “Jump, Jive and Wail,” made popular by former Stray Cat Brian Setzer, closed out St. Joseph’s set.
Kurn Hattin added inventive touches to their three numbers, which included the rousing opener, “Old Time Rock and Roll.” Vocalist Shania Caswell soloed ably on “New York, New York,” even if she might be a bit young to ‘wake up in the city that never sleeps’.
The KH Jazz Ensemble’s final number brought smiles to the baby boomers in the house, as they rollicked through the theme song of “Scooby Do,” complete with cool shades and a dancing dog.
The Charlestown Middle School band conducted a mini-symposium on the history of music, from 1918 – Bob Carleton’s Dixieland chestnut “Jada” – to 1970, with Chicago’s jazz rock thunderbolt “25 or 6 to 4.” Their five-song set included Fifties rock from both the East and West Coasts – the Drifters’ “On Broadway” and Richie Valens’ “La Bamba,” respectively.
Led by Julie Armstrong, Charlestown ended their set with a buoyant version of Louis Prima’s “Sing, Sing, Sing.”
Closing out the night was the host Claremont Middle School band, which stuck to a cool cat groove for their four-song set. They led off with “Soul Bossa Nova,” the Quincy Jones number most people know from the ‘Austin Powers’ movies. It was a night for saxophones to show off, with a solo each from tenors Kai Kelyensteuber (on the opening number) and Sarah Porter (Mike Story’s homage, “Basie-Cally the Blues”) and alto Dylan Metcalf, who had fun with another spy movie theme – James Bond.
But it was drummer Dan Seaman who grabbed the spotlight during the final number, with a drum solo at the end of “Go Daddy-O” whose deft ferocity appeared to surprise even CMS band director Seth Moore.
Between sets, the young at heart Firehouse Six Dixieland Band won over the crowd with ageless standards like “Won’t You Come Home Bill Bailey,” You Are My Sunshine” and “Hello Dolly.” They nearly stole the show, with Ed Evensen on clarinet, Gerry Grimo on vocals and squeezebox, along with a spirited tuba solo from Don LaPlante. Vaughan Hadwen (trombone) and Rich Brown (trumpet) rounded out the brass, with Andy Buchan on the marching drum.
The event was a benefit for Keene-based Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Western New Hampshire, Kurn Hattin music director Lisa Bianconi commented that their student population “is very involved in the program, so it was an extra special night for them.”
The even both raised awareness and money. In addition to tickets, a fudge sale in the lobby did brisk business after the show.
Information on Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Western New Hampshire can be found online at www.bbbswnh.org or by calling 603-352-9535