Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘free concerts

Concert Prep for Sax Solo, 7/16/17

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Folks, a while back I wrote a blog about how frustrated I was that I couldn’t seem to do what I used to do, as a musical performer. I’ve mostly played the second part, since I started playing again five or six years ago, and that’s really tough on the ego; furthermore, because they’re lower parts that mostly blend in, only the other musicians and the conductor tend to even know I’m there at all.

I was always a soloist, you see. Trained as an oboist, played in bands and orchestras, had musical scholarships, then picked up the saxophone in high school because I wanted to play in jazz band. I picked up the clarinet as a senior in high school because I wanted to play the doubled parts in jazz band (sometimes, the sax parts also have a small clarinet part, where you “double” during the piece and play both instruments), and in every case, I ended up playing more solo parts than anything else.

So, to go from first chair anything to second parts has been very difficult. And while “we also serve who stand and wait” (only slightly mangling that phrase), I like playing things that actually showcase my abilities now and again.

Fortunately, when I asked my conductor for the Racine Concert Band, Mark Eichner, for a solo, he gave me one. And I’m playing it tomorrow, on July 16, 2017…the first solo where I’ve stood before the band that I’ve played in twenty-one years.

What’s the piece, you ask? It’s Isaac Albeniz’s “Tango,” for alto saxophone soloist and band. (Yes, it’s an arrangement. But it works.)

I’m not the only soloist tomorrow, mind you. Eric Weiss, a very fine trumpeter, will be playing Clifton Williams’s “Dramatic Essay.” And a master illusionist, Pinkerton Xyloma, will be also helping to entertain the crowd during four of our band pieces.

So, since I put “concert prep” in the title, you might be wondering what that entails. (I hope so, ’cause I’m going to tell you anyway.)

Mostly, what preparation means, in this case, is to be prepared to play the piece. This includes physical preparation (repetition, playing it many times), mental preparation, trying to get rest, eating well, and also trying not to stress out over it all.

And I have done all of this.

My hope is that if you live in Southeastern Wisconsin or Northern Illinois, that you’ll come down to the Racine Zoo tomorrow night and hear the band play. It’s a free concert; the show starts at 7:30 p.m., but the doors open about an hour ahead of time. (Park on August Street, or on Goold. The main doors are not open for the Zoo during RCB performances.)

If you do, be sure to listen hard to my solo, and come up and say “hello.”

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 15, 2017 at 8:36 pm

Action 2013 — Racine Residents Need to Support the Racine Concert Band

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Racine area residents, listen up: The City of Racine needs to hear from you that the Racine Concert Band is an important part of your lives.

Now, am I just saying this because I play in the band myself?  Hardly.  The Racine Concert Band (henceforth shortened to “RCB”) has been in existence for ninety years, playing free summer concerts and giving many hours of enjoyment to local residents.  There’s also been an emphasis ever since the late 1970s of playing concerts in the various high schools or at other public school functions as a way to show kids that music is worth learning for its own sake.

I cannot imagine Racine being remotely the same if we didn’t have the RCB available to play free concerts at the Zoo during July and August.   But, apparently, at least some Racine aldermen and Mayor John Dickert have yet to figure out how much good the RCB does for the City of Racine (partly because most of them have never attended one single free concert).  And this is a problem, because the RCB’s contract with the City of Racine runs out in December . . . but the budget for 2014 will be decided in the next few weeks.

It’s really irritating for me as a musician to know that a bunch of people who’ve never once been out to the Zoo to see or hear the RCB are going to determine its budgetary fate.  I know what good the band does; I’ve seen it.  Little kids dance on the grass over at the Zoo when we play Broadway show tunes or medleys from famous movies like “Star Wars”; older people bob their heads in time to the songs that were popular when they were growing up (or that were popular in their parents’ time).  The band plays all different types of instrumental music, so there’s something there to please just about everyone whether you’re six — or ninety-six.

But the Mayor and the Aldermen definitely don’t seem to understand how much good the RCB does.  Which is why I’m calling on everyone who reads my blog and lives in Racine to please get in contact with Mayor Dickert or your local alderman by phone, e-mail, fax, or carrier pigeon (the latter might really shock them, wouldn’t you say?)  Let them know that you, too, believe that the RCB should be fully funded.

Mind you, I do understand why at least some of the aldermen are balking.  Racine has a severe budgetary shortfall, partly due to Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s budgetary priorities (which seem to be to starve all the cities, mostly led by Democrats, and give to all the rural communities, which are run by Republicans).  Potholes aren’t getting filled, streetlights are being removed, and furlough days have been implemented for all public workers as a way of saving money.

Still.  The RCB has fewer concerts than it did when I was in high school because of these same budgetary issues.  But it remains in existence, does a lot of good to hearten Racine residents, and gives us a reputation for class and culture that, quite frankly, Racine needs right now.

Please let your local legislators know that music still matters by telling them to please fully fund the Racine Concert Band in 2014 and beyond.

And for those of you who don’t live in Racine but still want to help — if you’ve ever visited Racine or ever taken in a free concert, now’s the time to say how much you enjoyed it.  It can’t hurt, might help, and certainly will emphasize to the Mayor and aldermen that the RCB is indeed a selling point for the City of Racine.

Second Blog-i-versary . . . Some Quick Hits

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Folks, my second “blog-i-versary” passed on July 10, 2012, without comment, mostly because the weather in Wisconsin has been extremely hot.  While I’ve continued to blog here and there, certainly this hot and humid weather we’ve had — which has destroyed crops, damaged lives, and caused all sorts of financial problems, as our 2012 summer is being compared to other, difficult summers like the summer of 1988 and worse, the “Dust Bowl” summer of 1936 — has gotten in the way.

That said, I’m very pleased that my blog is still here, two years after I started it (two years and a week, to be precise).  I hadn’t anticipated this, but I suppose this blog still being in existence shows a good side to the Law of Unintended Consequences after all.

Here’s a few quick hits as to what’s going on right now in Wisconsin, aside from our dreadful weather:

Last night, the Milwaukee Brewers dropped a heartbreaker, 3-2, to their arch-rivals the St. Louis Cardinals.  Particularly troubling in this loss is the fact that the Brewers led, 2-0, in the top of the ninth; closer John Axford got the first two outs (though both were long fly balls caught close to the fence, meaning both hitters nearly hit the ball out of the park rather than made these long, loud outs), then loaded the bases.  Eventually, three runs scored, and Axford was removed from the game; Kameron Loe got the last out.

So, what happened to the Brewers in the bottom of the ninth?  The hitters put too much pressure on themselves, that’s what.  Corey Hart, who’d hit his 17th HR of the year earlier in the game, went to a 3-2 count before striking out.  The next hitter, Rickie Weeks, took a few pitches, but also ended up striking out.  And Martin Maldonado — well, he didn’t do anything, either.  So the Cardinals closer, Jason Motte, got the three outs he needed, while the Brewers closer, Axford, was wild in and out of the strike zone and didn’t pitch effectively.  Now, it looks like Axford may have been removed from his job as Francisco Rodriguez (K-Rod) has 19 holds and 1 save, and has looked far better than “Ax,” and no one can blame Brewers manager Ron Roenicke for wishing to try someone else at this point.

Oh, yes — the guy who started the game, rookie pitcher Mike Fiers, pitched extremely well (again), but didn’t get the win due to Axford’s meltdown.  (I like Axford a great deal, and believe part of his troubles with command of his fastball and breaking ball come down to the usual problems relief pitchers have from time to time.  But I have to call ’em as I see ’em.)

Otherwise, I’m continuing to work on AN ELFY ABROAD, and have some reviews planned this week at Shiny Book Review for Stephanie Osborn’s third book in her “Displaced Detective” series, and for Rosemary Edghill’s VENGEANCE OF MASKS . . . I may even review another book on economics, to keep my hand in the game.  So stay tuned.

Finally, I played a concert with the Racine Concert Band last Sunday; for the record, I played second alto saxophone, and didn’t have any solos, though I did have a few good parts.  I was glad I was able to play the concert despite the heat and humidity; the crowd at the concert (which was free, as it always is) was a bit diminished, possibly due to the heat, but we still had a couple of hundred people there and that’s encouraging.  This was my fourth service for the band this year; I have a few more planned later this month and into August, though I hope to be playing clarinet at that time (I say “hope” because originally I’d been scheduled to play my clarinet on the last concert).

But whether I’m playing in the group or not, if you live in Southeastern Wisconsin and love free, live music, you owe it to yourselves to get out to the Racine Zoo and take in the Racine Concert Band.  Concerts are at 7:30 p.m. on Sundays in July, and are at 7:00 p.m. on Sundays in August through August 19.  There’s a wide variety of music, including marches, show tunes, light operas/operettas, and more — and best of all, it’s free.

Now back to our regularly scheduled sweltering, already in progress.

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 17, 2012 at 5:28 pm