David Rodeback's Blog

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Another Pleasant Musical Evening in American Fork

In describing the last of the season's concerts in the park -- actually, in the amphitheater in the park -- I manage to use the words expatiate, toddlerhood, and Klingon. Beat that. I dare you.

A late summer evening at American Fork's amphitheater is a comfortable, picturesque setting for a free Monday evening concert. Last night's audience was about 100, much smaller than last week's, but that's okay. As before, it included elected officials Mayor Heber Thompson, Councilman Jimmie Cates, and MFCC, who seem to be putting their money, or rather lawn chairs and picnic blankets, where their mouths are, so to speak, with respect to the arts in American Fork.

The first of last evening's two acts was Vocal Works, a new, serious vocal enterprise led by local baritone and composer M. Ryan Taylor. Taylor and sopranos Clara Hurtado-Lee and Andrea Custer (perhaps she's a mezzo-soprano?) were joined for some numbers by accompanist MFCC at the keyboard. In rotation, they sang a program of short works by Puccini, Menotti, and Gilbert and Sullivan; some Italian folk songs; and a number of very short, delightful pieces from Taylor's own Thirteen for Halloween. Professional-caliber voices, a professional accompanist, and excellent pieces -- who could ask for more? (Actually, more would have been nice, but let's not be greedy.)

The second act was billed as the Utah Freedom Band, but also included some members of the Lehi Silver Band. Together, on this occasion, they totaled fourteen instrumentalists and one conductor. American Fork may have its excellent Wasatch Winds and its superb Utah Premier Brass -- both of whom performed last week in the same series -- and that's wonderful. But every small town should have its little band, too. They were a competent ensemble without being irresistibly inspiring.

They opened with a familiar finale, "Stars and Stripes Forever," making me wonder what they would offer to exceed it for their own finale. (Not enough, as it turned out.) At least the piccolo was up to Sousa's most famous march, which is saying something. They also played Sousa's "Washington Post," a favorite of mine which is lot more fun when you don't play it too slowly. They played some Glenn Miller, some patriotic favorites, and other pieces at least loosely on a patriotic theme. Attempts at involving audience participation were a bit awkward but welcome. Their one encore demonstrated that a good solo trumpet is not an adequate substitute for Lee Greenwood in the latter's "God Bless the USA," but you can't blame them for trying.

The Rodeback toddler was well-behaved but mostly indifferent to the music, with two exceptions. Once, when his mother was playing in the first half of the evening, he asked quietly (in his evolving language, which sounds like a hybrid of Pig Latin and Klingon) if he might join her. My answer was no, but he didn't protest. Then, in the second half, when the band played the theme from Hogan's Heroes, he was riveted. There's a long history there -- as long as toddlerhood allows, and too long to relate here.

. . . Which brings me to my final point. It's nice that these concerts are free, and happier still that the music is at least pleasant and sometimes very fine indeed. Perhaps best of all is that these are concerts to which one can take small children. The best place to learn concert manners is at concerts, after all, but you don't take a young child to Abravanel Hall. At free concerts in the park, however, performers, parents, and the rest of the audience can endure a bit of a learning curve. This way, when they're eight or ten years old, you really can take them to the symphony, the recital, the opera, the ballet, the theater, the jazz festival . . .

Note to self: I used to scoff -- or at least want to scoff -- when starry-eyed Arts Council types would expatiate on their vision of American Fork as a significant artistic destination in Utah County. Perhaps it's time to reconsider. Perhaps it is becoming exactly that.

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