In its varied spring program, “Once Upon a Musical Time,” at Symphony Space on April 30, the Lesbian & Gay Big Apple Corps (LGBAC) Symphonic Band, under the Artistic Direction of conductor Brian P. Worsdale, considered music associated with “stories, myths, and legends,” as guest MC Raphael Miranda, WNBC-TV meteorologist and weather producer, put it, encompassing ethnic music, Broadway melodies, tunes telling timeless tales, a piece written for children, and a composition about the, for some, national pastime.
From Johan de Meij’s Symphony Number One, “Lord of the Rings,” inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s books, we heard “Gandalf,” about the wizard, fittingly full of grandeur and pomp, power and mysticism, with one section evoking the galloping of a steed and crack of a whip. Nolan Dresden, LGBAC Assistant Conductor, led “Sunrise at Angel’s Gate,” composer Philip Sparke’s musical response to the Grand Canyon, in all its awesome majesty, with the bustling of tourists and growling of tour buses also given their due.
Special guest Steven Reineke, Music Director of the New York Pops, led his own “Casey at the Bat,” with Broadway’s Tituss Burgess reciting Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s poem, and musical quotations from “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” “Sidewalks of New York,” and “Beautiful Dreamer” helping to limn the fateful day that there was “no joy in Mudville” because “Mighty Casey has struck out.” New York One Producer Frank DiLella presented Reineke with LGBAC’s Profile in Leadership award, and Maestro Worsdale brought out a framed Proclamation from New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn for Reineke and the Corps. Another honor, LGBAC’s Golden Apple award for community service, went to Marketing Chair and clarinetist Andrew Favreau.
The outcast-makes-good story of the misunderstood and much ridiculed “Tubby the Tuba,” by George Kleisinger and Paul Tripp, featured Marcus Rojas, guest tuba soloist, and Burgess, singing Tubby’s lament, “Alone am I,/Me and I together,” as well as the bullfrog’s song, taken up by the tuba and then by the whole band, under Worsdale’s baton. In John Mackey’s “Undertow,” the Corps captured the countercurrent’s several moods and dynamics, from flashing and crashing to calm and dreamy, pulling against one another.
Beginning under the glow of blood red lights, the band turned to Stephen Sondheim’s beloved and evocative “Sweeney Todd” selections, including the opening “Ballad of Sweeney Todd;” “Johanna;” “A Little Priest,” the macabre waltz that ends Act One; “My Friends;” and “Not While I’m Around.” The musicians then took to Anatevka for Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick’s “Tradition;” “To Life” (L’Chaim!); and other rollicking dances, laced with melancholy strains from the shtetl, from “Fiddler on the Roof.” The pentatonic scale, chanting by band members, and a wide-open-spaces feel marked the concert’s finale, David Gillingham’s “Council Oak,” telling a Seminole Native American tribal tale.