Crowds swell for Portland Metro Concert Band concerts

Find out why concerts by this really ‘big band’ attract more and more music lovers from all over the metro area …

Co-director Jack Mahoney leads the first half of the Portland Metro Concert Band’s Winter Concert.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
What was once one of outer East Portland’s best-kept entertainment secrets now appears to be public knowledge: There’s a darned good band out here.

When co-director Jack Mahoney’s baton down-stroked on January 14, at 7:30 p.m., there was a substantial audience in the Horner Performing Arts Center at David Douglas High School, ready for another great concert by the Portland Metro Concert Band.

The Winter Concert kicked off with The Star-Spangled Banner, followed by Marche Lorraine.

Baritone horn musicians Glenn Lowe and John Murdoch add a bass-line to the Hooray for Hollywood medley.

The Portland Metro Concert Band provides the “big sound” one expects from a polished big band.

Next up was Irish Tune from County Derry for Military Band, and then the concert took a classical turn with the Overture to Prince Igor.

The audience was treated to a medley entitled “Hooray for Hollywood”, featuring Tara’s Theme, 42nd Street, Born Free, Merrily We Roll Along, the High and the Mighty, Theme from A Sumer Place, Swanee, Days of Wine and Roses, Theme from Lawrence of Arabia, As time Goes By, and – of course – Hooray for Hollywood.

An Alpen Fest Medley and the rousing Emblem of Unity Concert March closed out the first half.

They say they come for the music – but clearly, the audience members do enjoy the coffee and cookies brought by the band’s personnel.

During the intermission, members of the audience were treated to cookies, cakes, coffee, and beverages. Even though there is no charge to attend the concert, tables laden with treats are set out. In addition to playing in the band, each band member is also tasked to bring at least dozen cookies to the event.

Co-director Jack Burchak reminded us that the big band began in 1992 when members of the Milwaukie Elks Lodge Big Band found themselves with a fine collection of concert band music.  They formed as the Elks Concert Band, with Jay Burchak and Fev Pratt as the co-conductors. Not long after they changed their name to the Portland Metro Concert Band, to better reflect membership and mission.

The Co-Director of the Portland Metro Concert Band, Jack Burchak, conducts the second half of the Winter Concert.

Jay Burchak has more than 30 years of directing experience, including service in the David Douglas School District. Jack Mahoney, named Co-Director in 2009 after Pratt stepped down, is a graduate of the University of Oregon, and taught instrumental and vocal music for 20 years – the last five at Centennial High School.

Cookies consumed, conductor Jay Burchak picked up the baton and started off the second half of the concert with March Gloria.

Following came “The Wizard Oz Meets the Wiz”, a mash-up of tunes combined those originally from the classic 1939 film with those from the Broadway musical that debuted on Broadway in 1975.

All of the musicians in the band – many of them professionals – donate their time to the organization.

Next on the bill was the West Point Bicentennial March, followed by a medley from “The Producers” featuring I Wanna Be a Producer, Prisoners of Love, King of Broadway, Der Guten Tag Hop-Clop, That Face, Along Came Bialy, Keep it Gay, and the famous toe-tapping tune, Springtime for Hitler. If you haven’t seen the film – it’s a Mel Brooks comedy!

The audience was treated to a song written in the style of an authentic British folk song, entitled The Lords of Greenwich. The show closed with a patriotic concert march – presenting majestic themes in a variety of styles – entitled Victory Spirit March.

The crowd clearly enjoyed the West Point Bicentennial March.

By the way, all of the musicians, including the directors, are volunteers.  The band is a non-profit organization, and welcomes donations to help defray its operating costs.

Check our Community Calendar for details about their next concert, coming up on June 10.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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