‘Annual Pops Concert’ at University of Maryland by Tiffany Draut

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In general, Pops Concerts are a refreshing change of pace from the usual classical fare of orchestras and bands, and tonight was no exception. Tonight was the University of Maryland’s Annual Pops Concert as presented by the UMD University Band, Maryland Community Band, and the UMD Wind Ensemble, with special guest Ivan Rutherford, with selections largely gleaned from movies and Broadway musicals, to the enjoyment of the audience.

Ivan Rutherford

The concert kicked off with the University of Maryland’s University Band, under the direction of Eli R. Osterloh. Their selections were a lot of fun, and definitely in keeping with the spirit of the evening. They played a medley of songs from the movie Aladdin, and a medley of songs from the musical Into the Woods, as well as a few other fun, lesser-known pieces including the crowd-favorite Fuego Del Alma by Carl Strommen. The students’ enthusiasm for the pieces was clearly evident.  However, the band lacked balance in their sound – many times certain sections of the band overpowered other sections, entrances and exits were not as clean and clear (although they played much cleaner after the entrance), and it became hard to hear the melody. Yet their clear enthusiasm endeared them to the audience.

Following the University Band was the Maryland Community Band under the direction of John E. Wakefield. According to the program, the band was “formed in 1995 as a special community outreach effort of the Band Program of the University of Maryland at College Park. It is made up of qualified musicians from all over the greater Baltimore, MD/Washington DC area. I was very impressed by their technical proficiency and the clear emotion behind their playing – they were playing for the sheer love of making music, and it made their performance greatly enjoyable. The crowd loved the “Tribute to Irving Berlin” piece that they played, which included such gems as “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and “God Bless America.”  Some of their other pieces seemed a bit out of place at a “Pops” Concert (such as 3 movements of Bizet’s L’Arlesienne Suite) but the crowd seemed to enjoy them and the band’s passion for the music was clear.

The highlight of the evening though, was the performance of the UMD Wind Ensemble under the direction of Dr. L. Richmond Sparks, with special guest, Ivan Rutherford.  Ivan Rutherford is a glorious tenor, most known for playing Jean Valjean in Les Miserables on Broadway. He joined the UMD Wind Ensemble for a few songs from Les Miserables, including “Bring Him Home,” “Stars,” and “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.” His voice was clear and smooth and intense, and wonderfully supported by the UMD Wind Ensemble. He also sang a piece entitled “You’re Nothing Without Me” from the musical City of Angels with Ethan Watermeier (PhD student at the University of Maryland) which was hilarious and very enjoyable – both for the singers and for the audience.

University of Maryland Wind Ensemble. Photo by Alison Harbaugh.

Similarly enjoyable was Laura Gepford and Kathryn Pace’s rendition of the duet “For Good” from the musical Wicked. However, the highlight of the night was the closing piece titled “Here’s to the Heroes,” sung by Rutherford, Watermeier, and five other tenors. The sheer power and beauty of their voices, with the emotion and power of the Wind Ensemble behind them made for a very moving tribute to the heroes in our lives.

While the concert did go on for rather a long time, due to extremely long breaks between bands for seating rearrangements, the enthusiasm these bands had for the music made for a fun night out.

Running time: Two hours and 45 minutes, with a 15 minute intermission.

The Annual Pops Concert played its only performance Saturday, May 5, 2012 at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at University of Maryland – at the intersection of Stadium Drive and Route 193, in College Park, MD. For tickets to future events, call (301) 405-ARTS (2787), or order them online.

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Ivan Rutherfod’s website.