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Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

“Travelin’ Music” - Ketchikan Community Concert Band's Performance

By Christopher Wilhelm


January 16, 2017
Monday PM

If you stayed inside Sunday afternoon because of the dark and windy, rainy-as-heck weather, then you missed the best of the best from Ketchikan’s musical talent pool. Roy McPherson led his forty-odd member band through a dozen pieces of rhythmic complexity and melodic variations. What this audience member did not expect was the level of performance skill that was displayed. You didn’t go? You really missed something. When they finished, I thought “What just happened??”

I’ve been to many of the KCCB’s concerts over the years since it was established in 2002, and so many of them in the years leading up to then as well. The various incarnations of Southeast Symphony and so forth met the expectations of a group arising from a pool of 14,000 people. This time was different. Commencing the show with absolutely no introduction, the band led off with Alaska’s state song as it often does, “Alaska’s Flag”. Roy walked in unannounced and away they went. So far, so good. This piece ought to sound good. They should be able to play this one from memory.

I was picked up off of the high school seating level by “Inventions from the Sacred Harp”, the second piece. About 2 or 3 minutes into the piece – I’m not sure, because time made its reluctant appearance later – I realized these musicians were the ones making the beautiful noise, and my leg was falling asleep. Looking around at them, I saw retired music teachers Tanya Antonsen, Dale Curtis, Rob Holsten, Mary Kurth, and saw that it was a good start. Throw into that mix current music teacher Jamie Karlson and veteran timpani skin-slamming dentist George Shaffer and percussion/rhythm meister Kim Kleinschmidt and you’ve got the making of an industry standard-revising group. They were off and running.

A bit later, Ketchikan’s own Principal Trumpet of the Juneau Symphony Orchestra, Jeffrey Karlson, a graduate of the Interlochen Academy and the Manhattan School of Music in NYC, delivered several solos that were the equal of any trumpet player performing in America today. Listening to his tasteful phrasing and dynamic performance, I realized that this man was making America great again in a way that many need to hear. His soloing was quite truly the best trumpet playing I have ever heard.

A Norwegian composition, a Copeland compilation, and a Camelot piece later, and it was time for them to take a break. I checked my watch and was astonished to see an entire hour had passed. I could not leave my seat!

The second half was just that, half as long as the first half. The composition “Earthdance” used unconventional devices to make sounds from the earth, I don’t know what they were playing in the percussion section but it really sounded like thunder and rain. It made the storm outside seem an afterthought. The Henry Mancini compilation near the end was a bundle of familiar pieces, including one I used to sing to my daughter as an infant. There she was playing in the band, I wondered if she recognized the tune. Finally, Kathleen Light led the band in a rousing Irish melody in unison that flattened any remaining doubt. The Ketchikan Community Concert Band has arrived!!

I’ve seen the Seattle Symphony play as well as this, I thought. If you can get a ticket, you should see their “One Big Incredibly Awesome Concert” that the KCCB will perform at their next show. See you there!

Christopher Wilhelm
Ketchikan, Alaska

Received January 15, 2017 - Published January 16, 2017




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