Friday with friends offers up sweet music

By on June 18, 2015
Three-year-old Mya Martindale stole the show at the Merritt Community Band’s Friday with Friends concert at the Quilchena Clubhouse. The diminutive youngster took up the baton and boldly conducted the band in a rousing rendition of the “Colonel Bogey March.” Ian Webster/Herald

It was another packed house at the Quilchena Golf Course on June 12 for the Merritt Community Band’s annual Friday with Friends concert and social.

Thanks to the lovely weather, audience members were able to enjoy the sweet sounds (and delicious buffet) from both inside and outside the impressive new clubhouse facility located next door to the historic Quilchena Hotel.

The Merritt Community Band certainly did not disappoint. Under the capable direction of conductor Colin Kerridge, the local orchestra presented a delightful and eclectic array of songs guaranteed to please everyone in attendance.

The band began the evening with one of their signature tunes — the rousing “Gonna Fly Now” — more commonly known as the theme from the film Rocky. The 1977 composition by Bill Conti has become a part of American pop culture and a classic anthem of the underdog. Who can forget the scene from the film of pugilist Rocky Balboa running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art as the punctuating music swirls around him?

Next on the playlist was “Sounds of Spring,” a fresh and captivating march penned by a pair of Japanese composers — Shizuka Sato and Naoya Wada.

The community band then turned to the beautiful Welsh lullaby “Suo Gan,” which dates back to the beginning of the 17th Century. Featured in the Steven Spielberg film Empire of the Sun, it has also been performed by artists as diverse as the rock band Savatage and the pipes and drums of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. Merritt Secondary student Sarah Grund’s solo performance on flute and bells was delightful.

From soothing to swinging, the band got everybody tapping their feet with a rousing rendition of Sam Cooke’s “Twistin’ the Night Away.” Released as a single in 1962, the R&B classic has appeared in movies from Animal House (1978) to The Green Hornet (2011).

Arranger David Bobrowitz’s Hebrew Medley included “Hatkivah” — the stirring national anthem of Israel — and the more lighthearted “Artsa Alina,” a hora dance tune.

Few traditional folk songs have been covered more often than “Cotton-Eyed Joe.” Its origins date back to the American Civil War. Merritt’s community band did it proud, showcasing James Clark on clarinet.

The band closed out its first set with Steven Greenberg’s disco classic “Funkytown,” a pair of Irish rebellion songs called “Celtic Air” and “March,” and the immortal “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” by noted composer Irving Berlin.

The final selection was a major hit in the year of its release, 1911, and remained on the charts for another five decades. It has been performed by the likes of Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, Ray Charles, the Bee Gees and the Grateful Dead. On Friday, it highlighted the powerhouse playing of the community band’s trumpet section, consisting of Miles Kingdon, Desiree Dunbar, Tasha Zimmerman and Lauren Miller.

Zimmerman and alto saxophone player Kathleen Bloom took centre stage when the community band opened the second half of their concert with “Land of Make Believe,” a well-known Chuck Mangione jazz composition.

That was followed by undoubtedly the highlight of the night, as guest conductor Mya Martindale, age three, stole the hearts of everyone in attendance by flawlessly leading the band through the “Colonel Bogey March.”

With Kerridge back at the helm, the community band performed Canadian Kenley Kristofferson’s country-dance tune “Prairie Wedding.” That was followed by the troupe’s most ambitious undertaking: a five-song medley of Led Zeppelin tunes ending with the haunting “Stairway to Heaven.” Drummer Ian Lauder more than met the challenge, leading the group through a difficult series of transitions and tempo changes.

Saxophone solos by Bloom and John Russell highlighted George Thorogood’s “Bad to the Bone” and the Harold Arlen classic “Over the Rainbow” from Disney’s Wizard of Oz.

One final medley saw four songs performed from the much-loved film Mary Poppins. It was followed by “Big Noise at Winnetka” and finally the John Philip Sousa military march “The Liberty Bell.” The stirring number has been played at the inauguration ceremonies for the last six American presidents, and is also frequently associated with the British comedy group Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

All in all, a wonderful evening of entertainment, and a fitting Friday with Friends.

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