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Navy Band finds warm holiday welcome

Navy Band Northwest’s percussionists keep the rhythm at Monday night’s performance.  - Liz Burlingame/Whidbey News-Times
Navy Band Northwest’s percussionists keep the rhythm at Monday night’s performance.
— image credit: Liz Burlingame/Whidbey News-Times

The teenagers were sprawled out on the banisters separating the upper walkway and floor for Monday night’s concert. As with most free shows, seating choices were limited.

But it wasn’t rock, hip-hop or electroclash that drew the high-schoolers. It was time-honored classics: big band music, brass choir, clarinet quartet and woodwind ensemble by Silverdale-based Navy Band Northwest.

Christopher Bourgeois, a French horn player for the band, was happy that the “packed house” at Oak Harbor High School’s Parker Hall included young people.

“It’s great to see so many high school students. That’s part of playing here, is getting younger people involved,” Bourgeois said.

Earlier that day, the Navy musicians had met with the high school band for one-on-one clinics to give tips and mini-lessons.

“They were great. I worked with three French horn players,” Bourgeois said.

Navy Band Northwest is one of 14 official Navy bands in the U.S., Italy and Japan. With a 34 member collection, they perform 400 shows a year in 12 states.

Their visit to Oak Harbor began the first of a series of free public concerts that will continue onto the winter holiday season.

Named “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” Monday’s show included mostly Christmas music such as “Sleigh Ride,” “O Holy Night,” and “Merry Christmas Baby.”

The high school ROTC members, who acted as chaperones, handed out sing-a-long lyrics for “Silent Night” and “Deck the Halls.” Patrick K. Sweeton conducted.

“I’ve seen the band three or four times and they’re always different for every occasion,” audience member Jackson Collins said. “Last year, they put on skits to go along with their songs.”

Bourgeois said the band typically plays during ceremonies at the Navy base, but they’d like to branch out to do more public performances.

“It’s good to show people that we do a lot more than ceremonies. We have a huge variety of talent,” Bourgeois said.

For their final song, the band played “Russian Christmas Music,” a four-section movement by Alfred Reed. The opening section, “Carol of the Little Russian Children,” introduced a slow, quiet opening, which grew more frenzied in the second and third section, and finally a crescendo in the percussion brought the rest of the band in for a sonorous finale.

While all generations can appreciate the music of the holidays, there were also patriotic reasons given for attending the concert.

“I come out to show my support for the military, the community and the band,” audience member Marie Minor said. “It’s very nice that they go out of their way to do this, and it’s good to show them that we appreciate it.”

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