United States Coast Guard Band

Kenneth Megan, Conductor

Conductor Richard Wyman

Richard Strauss (1864-1949)Serenade in Eb, Opus 7
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791)Serenade No 12 in C Minor K 388
John Harbison (b. 1938)Music for Eighteen Winds)
Robert Kurka (1921 – 1957)Good Soldier Schweik Suite

The United States Coast Guard Band has recently built up the reputation of perhaps being the country's leading professional military ensemble, and their concert of chamber music  certainly did much to reinforce this impression. Perhaps they were stronger in the second half than the first, and arguments raged over their Strauss and Mozart as to whether the performances were absolutely outstanding, cool, poised, classical and perfectly balanced, or whether a lack of phrasing and architecture limited the music and led to a certain dullness. When I first took the job at RNCM of Head of Wind and Percussion, I had the great Sidney Fell as Senior Tutor in Woodwind, and in those early days I never quite understood how he could turn down what I thought excellent players because of their lack of forward movement. I think I understand better now, we do not need an over-romaticised sentimental approach to this Harmonie repertoire, but a seeking out of harmonic and melodic movement so that phrases always have Sid's forward movement.

The Harbison I have always found an enigmatic piece, but here conducted by the Assistant Director Richard Wyman it made more sense for me than before. Finally we had a sparkling performance of  Kurka's ironic witty Good Soldier Schweik Suite clearly and incisively directed by Commander Megan, and excellently played, as was the whole concert. There are rumours of severe cuts in the US military bands; they are our role models, so I hope these are unfounded and do not affect the Coast Guards.