Southern Oregon Concert Band

The community band celebrates Veterans Day and the fall season

Its annual tribute concert to America's veterans is a tradition for the Southern Oregon Concert Band. "It kind of amazed me the first time I attended it," says SOCB conductor Martin Behnke. "I was moved by the size of the crowd. It probably ranges between 300 and 600 folks who represent all of the conflicts this country has seen, certainly back to World War II."

The community band will present "In Praise of Freedom," a concert of patriotic and fall-themed music, at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 12, at the Medford Armory, 1701 S. Pacific Highway. Admission is $5. Call 541-708-0365.

If you go

Who: Southern Oregon Concert Band

When: 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 12

Where: Medford Armory, 1701 S. Pacific Highway

Admission: $5

Call: 541-708-0365

The show will kick off at 6 p.m. with an hour of '40s big-band music played by The Jazz Men, directed by Ray Holtz, and there will be plenty of room for dancing.

SOCB will open the concert with "The Star-Spangled Banner."

"We always open with that song," Behnke says. "It's a patriotic concert, though I'm not interested in celebrating war, only in acknowledging those who have defended the country."

The band will get down to brass tacks with Behnke's new setting of Henry B. Murtagh's "Oregon, My Oregon: Land of the Empire Builders." Behnke was commissioned in 1987 by the Oregon Army National Guard to rewrite the piece as simply "Land of the Empire Builders" while he was living in Salem, where he was chairman of the music department at Willamette University.

The band also will perform Sammy Nestico's "Greenbriars of Wexley" and Warren Barker's "In Praise of Freedom."

This year's concert will feature the Jefferson State Choral Coalition, directed by Kirby Shaw, along with members of the Siskiyou Singers and Rogue Valley Peace Choir.

Shaw and JSCC will present a set of three songs composed and/or arranged by Shaw: "900 Miles," "Mardi Gras" and "We Will Stand."

JSCC and members of the Siskiyou Singers and Rogue Valley Peace Choir will join SOCB to perform Shaw's arrangement of William Steffe's and Julia Ward Howe's "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and Behnke's "Empire Builders."

"Kirby's setting of 'The Battle Hymn' transforms the piece into a gospel- and funk-style song for choir and brass," Behnke says. "I transcribed the accompaniment for band."

The Rogue Ringers will present an arrangement of "America the Beautiful," joined by a brass sextet and timpanist from SOCB, while Cub Scout Pack 105 posts the colors.

"We'll also be celebrating the fall season with two movements from a piece I composed last year," Behnke says. "The piece is 'A Willamette Valley Suite,' and one of the movements is 'Fall Colors: Alma Maters,' and the other is 'Land of Milk and Honey.' The suite was commissioned by a band director at Western Oregon University."

The annual Veterans Day tribute will conclude with Bob Lowden's traditional "Armed Forces Salute."

"The arrangement we play includes music associated with each branch of military service," Behnke says. "We invite members of those branches to stand whenever the music specific to their branch is performed."

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