Another fine turnout of lovers of great music, performed by the Bel Air Community Band Sunday afternoon. This was a special ‘spring concert’ that concluded with a masterful arrangement, “Anthem” composed by Patrick Burns, who was on hand for the first ever performance. Anthem is dedicated to the life and talent of the late Ray Dombrowski, who’s career at Bel Air High School and throughout the state are legendary.
His wife, Esther, was on hand to receive a large ovation from those present who remember all the contributions by Ray Dombrowski…also known as “Mr. D.”
It was my pleasure to meet Mr. Burns, a most personable chap who actually ‘really never met Mr. D.,’ but accepted the commission to compose the tribute piece.
Accompanied by his wife, Patrick enjoyed the concert with me and gave me a chance to share some observations about the band.
Today’s concert began at 3 p.m. With Carlisle (March), which was rousing. Gemeinhardt Suite emphasizing the flute section and soloist Phyllis Fowler who played an assortment of flutes for the three movements.
The third movement, Ceremony for Flute and Drum reminded me of an army of butterflies marching off to war. Funny how a band as good and finely tuned as Bel Air’s is, can take you miles from the seat you’re in. Sometimes just closing your eyes will allow the symphonic images to take you miles away to far off and unknown lands.
At this time Assistant Director, Ron Burke, took the podium to conduct two pieces. Jubilant Overture, a celebration of Spring and youth, is considered by some to be composer Alfred Reed at his best. The melody line passes from the clarinet section, to the low brass and then through out the band to create a delightful escape to a warm gentle Spring Day filled with activity.
The romp through space and time recalls another of Reed’s creations, “El Camino Real” a gem performed at the previous concert christening the new Bel Air Auditorium.
Obviously Mr. Reed has the material to win over both the members of the band and audiences as well.
The second piece, Pursuit by Matt Conaway, tells the tale of a convict on the run, the band carrying us along with the pursued, fast and slow, ponderous and prompt. Again the conductor was Ron Burke who did a lively, animated job with the baton.
Following intermission Patrick Burns took the stage and conducted the band in Flight of Years…a pristinely moving work recalling the fleeting life we have in terms of the grand scheme of things. “Tempus fugit” took on new meaning as I listened to this score.
The grand finale of the day of course went to ‘Mr. D.’ with the first ever performance of “Anthem” with the composer conducting. Mr. Burns scoured musical influences that harken the life and times of the late Bel Air High School musical director.
“I combined my composition with influences from Mr. Dombrowski’s background and the Polish national anthem,” Burns noted before presenting his work. It was beautiful, and complete in the circumference of paying tribute in a memorial composition, trying not to miss or misinterpret any of the images those who knew Ray Dombrowski already had in their own realm of experience.
“Anthem” had humor and seriousness about it, tackling the life and times of a talented and dedicated musician, which there is no doubt Ray Dombrowski was in spades.
For many years it was my pleasure to work with Ray and various combinations of his musicians at wedding receptions and other significant family celebrations. Many times he would play in a little combo, other times he strolled among the guests with his violin. His band was The Regents, four pieces. Today Mark Leppo carries on the work of The Regents, keeping the same name which pleases Mrs. Dombrowski immensely.
Ray Dombrowski never ceased to amaze me with his musical virtuosity and great attitude. He was perfectly serious about his music on those jobs where we worked together.
After ending the memorial tribute, a standing ovation showed the audiences approval both of the band, and Mr. Burns’ work as a composer and conductor.
Nearing the end of today’s program, Jim McMahan, recited ‘Casey At The Bat’ to band accompaniment. From where I was sitting it was hard to understand the words, as they seemed competing with the ‘baseball themed’ music but Jim’s animation carried the message of the mighty slugger striking out. Perhaps the sound ‘mix’ was not the best for ‘Casey’.
Prior to the recitation McMahan presented Conductor Burns with a Harford County proclamation of appreciation for his tribute to Mr. Dombrowski, which was signed and read into record by the entire county council.
After Casey struck out is was time for a fast encore…The Rooster Lays Eggs in Kansas…funny, with all sorts of instruments staggering in and out of the melange of sounds…really a creative piece of fun and high spirits…especially to rally the audience to a finale and prod each one to head out into the world with a smile and a positive feeling of this wonderfully produced music.
The Community Band’s next performance is set for Memorial Day, May 31, 10:30 in the morning at the Humbert Amphitheater. A small suggestion to aid the fund raising efforts of the band…a ‘Ladies of the Band’ calendar…not only are many of these performers talented they are outstandingly beautiful.
Do yourself and your pals a favor and take in this wonderfully talented band of volunteer musicians who enjoy nothing more than performing for the community.