On Sunday, Sept. 23 in the Christiansen Recital Hall (CRH), five senior members of the Concordia Band competed in a competition to be named senior soloist of the 2019 band tour. It was a stunning concert that featured the powerhouses of the band’s wind sections. Jordan Doely, clarinet; Rebecca Elliott, flute; Race Hoglund, alto saxophone; Alexandra Brouillard, flute; and Jack Fiskum, bassoon, were the competitors. Each played pieces that called for graduate level studies of technical play and each performer truly left me astonished with their ability to display a culmination of their hard work and dedication to their craft in their time at Concordia.
As this recital was a competition, there was a winner. Now, judging for musicians’ efforts is a long debated topic due to issues with individual preference and subjectivity playing roles in any judge’s decisions. However, there were two performers whom I preferred: Hoglund and Brouillard. This Feb., the band will perform in Minnesota, North Dakota, and Canada as a part of their tour and, as winner, flutist Brouillard will be featured playing “Carmen Fantasie Brilliante” by François Borne. Originally written by Georges Bizet, “Carmen” is one of the most performed operas of all time, and has some of the most instantly recognizable music ever written. That is to say that Brouillard had a very large undertaking when she chose Borne’s arrangement of Bizet’s epic, but Brouillard’s performance left nothing for want.
Technically, Brouillard had it all. Wonderfully connected phrases supported by a low breath, finger tripping passages played without a hitch, a dazzling tone that cut to the back of the hall and high notes that had the power to stupefy were just a few of the highlights of Brouillard’s brilliance. In Bizet’s “Carmen” the titular role is a stunning, cunning and sassy woman who drives everyone, the men, in town insane with her beauty and teasing. Brouillard captured the character of Carmen in her playing. From her bull-red dress to her bold, almost coy, performance she had the audience bouncing along to the more recognizable tunes from “Carmen” like the habanera and the toreador song. I am extremely excited to see this piece return in full, with winds and brass supporting when the Concordia Band comes home from their tour in Feb. 2019 and will await to see how Brouillard evolves in her physicality with her instrument and her character.
Hoglund was equally stunning in his performance on Sunday, but for very different reasons. Hoglund carries himself with a sense of coolness without trying, an almost lackadaisical calm, and a quiet confidence. This was what you could gather from him walking on and off of the stage, but when he played, Hoglund was alive. He shares recordings of and plays jazz saxophone almost religiously, so his playing “Fantasia of Alto Saxophone” by Claude T. Smith, a classical piece of music, was new territory for him and regular listeners of his music. Hoglund clearly has a lot of jazz performance under his belt, and the piece he chose to play let those influences shine through in the best way. Hoglund’s quiet confidence blossomed into a swagger as his playing started guns blazing. Up tempo and off beat, Hoglund’s first several notes kept the audience on their toes. After the bombastic opening, I wanted to hear a diverse profile from Hoglund’s playing, and at that moment, he began the second section of the fantasia.
When I was younger, about twelve, I would sit by the fire of a my grandfather’s home at two o’clock in the afternoon and listen to saxophone recordings. Hoglund’s performance brought me back to those days. I was reminded that saxophones could be tender and romantic. Now, to talk of his technical ability, he played a fair amount of this piece in the altissimo range of the instrument. A range that when played incorrectly simply cracks, or sounds shrill, the altissimo is not for the faint of heart to play in, but Hoglund made it seem easy. He carried his cool demeanor all the way home and ended the piece, crouched and shoulders back, on a gorgeous, passionate high note that left me breathless.
All of the performers Sunday morning were amazing, and like always, I suggest you spend an hour of your time this week listening to five outstanding leaders for this college by tuning into the archived performance via Concordia’s UStream account.