Northport Band out in full force for Sousa finale
The annual Sousa Concert, which often attracts sell-out crowds by featuring a variety of “audience friendly” music, is the season finale.
According to Wilcox, the concert will pay tribute to “The March King” John Philip Sousa by featuring several of the conductor and composer’s famous marches while incorporating other popular music from around the same period.
“It’s kind of a look back at the good old days,” 76-year-old conductor said. “We play music that people really enjoy listening to.”
Aside from Sousa marches, the band will play selected waltzes, overtures and even some ragtime. Rather than focusing on the latest, “hot-off-thepress” pieces, the Sousa Concert features century old classics.
And don’t expect slow strings either. The performance is strictly concert band music, emphasizing brass and woodwinds.
“It’s music that’s fast-paced, no lecture,” he said. “We’re not trying to teach anybody how to love great music.”
The all-volunteer NCB will swell to around 50 members for the finale. The nucleus of the band is composed primarily of local musicians with summer residents joining in for the band’s 11-performance season. The band added a half dozen new members this year. According to Wilcox, fresh blood is always welcome.
The NCB participates in three large shows each year with smaller shows filling out the rest of the schedule. Members do not receive any compensation for their performances and instead participate simply because they like to play, something Wilcox believes adds to the bands personality.
“Everybody’s doing it for fun,” Wilcox said. “When everybody is there for the same reason it makes it a whole different ball game.
“That’s hard to beat.”
The band’s made up of individuals from various walks of life and the ages range anywhere from people in their teens to their 80s. Some haven’t played in years, while others perform professionally.
“We have a very difficult entrance requirement,” Wilcox said jokingly. “Anybody that wants to play is welcome.”
A variety of skill levels doesn’t pose any problems for Wilcox when trying to put together great sounding performances. If a certain section proves to be too difficult for someone, the retired West Virginia University Director revises the piece, tailoring it to the individual.
The program kicks off under the direction of Wilcox himself. After intermission, the band returns with guest conductor Col. John R. Bourgeois.
Bourgeois, a long time friend of Wilcox, served as conductor of the U.S. Marine band in Washington D.C. through five presidencies. Fittingly, he will end the concert conducting the band in Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever,” the National March of the United States.
“John is possibly the best known and one of the most respected band conductors in the country,” Wilcox said. “We’re very fortunate to have him joining us on stage.”
The concert will be held at the Northport Community Arts Center and will begin at 8 p.m. According to NCAC executive director Norma Neve, there are usually around 50 walk-ins the day of the concert but it’s important to purchase tickets to guarantee a seat. With only 140 tickets remaining at the time of this writing, it’s likely the venue will again sell-out.
Wilcox says those attending won’t be disappointed.
“It’s a very popular concert that everyone seems to enjoy,” he said. “If you come you’ll see everyone on their feet by the end.”
Tickets for the concert cost $20 for adults and $5 for students through grade 12. They can be purchased at the NCAC’s office located at 104 S. Wing St. in Northport or by calling the NCAC’s office at 231-386-5001.