Like many of our major holidays, the original intent of Memorial Day can quickly be forgotten in the rush of barbecues, car-dealer specials and the relaxation of a three-day weekend. But not for the Fresno Community Concert Band, which hopes to steer people back to honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.
Robert Nielsen conducts “In Remembrance” in two concerts Sunday, May 29, at Shaghoian Hall. One of the highlights will be an encore performance of Dan Price’s “Flanders Fields” for band, film and narration, which was performed last year to great acclaim. The piece was written in 2014 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of World War I. Also among the highlights: guest artist Brian Lummis, who will perform “Pie Jesu” from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Requiem and “Bring Him Home” from “Les Miserables.”
We caught up with Nielsen by email to ask more about the concert.
Q: “Flanders Field” is a film about World War I. Was it originally put together for the Fresno band?
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A: The film and narration were acquired through the composer Dan Price and from filmmaker John Michael. We first saw it on YouTube as we were programming last year’s concerts. We thought it so powerful that we contacted the composer and he said he was actually in the midst of adding woodwind parts to the brass band version. He granted us permission to perform it last year and this year. Since the music, film and narration all go together we are performing all as we did last season.
Q: Who did Price originally write the piece for?
A: The brass band version of the piece was commissioned by the Rossendale Scout Group (brass) Band, in England. The impetus for the work was a personal letter written from a father to a son posted on the front line. The great-great-grandson of the father writing the letter was a member of the scout band.
Q: The American Legion Auxiliary will be there with poppies. Tell us about that.
A: Since red poppies are an important part of the Memorial Day tradition, the Legion Auxiliary ladies came last year, distributing small red poppies for a small voluntary donation. The ladies enjoyed the concert and interaction with the audience immensely. The poppy movement was inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields” by Lt. Col. John McCrae in 1915. After World War I, the poppy became the official flower of the American Legion family. The American Legion Auxiliary has distributed the poppies on Memorial Day and Veterans Day to remember those who lost their lives serving their country. The funds collected are used to assist disabled and hospitalized veterans and also assist active-duty personnel and their families with medical and financial needs. The band wears the poppies proudly during the concerts.
Q: Another piece on the program is “A Hymn for the Lost and the Living.” What is it about?
A: Eric Ewazen was teaching his music theory class at the Juilliard school in Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001. The piece is his reaction to that event, the deserted streets the day after and the people coming out the next day. The piece is filled with many emotions – fear, anger, loss, hopelessness, then strength, sadness, patriotism and hope.
Fresno Community Concert Band
- 3 and 7 p.m. Sunday, May 29
- Shaghoian Hall, 2770 E. International Ave.
- www.fresnocommunityband.org, 559-225-0225
- $12 general, $7 children 12 and younger