When Alex Vaver leads the La Crosse Concert Band June 6 in “Seventy-Six Trombones,” summer will officially arrive.
The calendar won’t declare summer’s arrival for two more weeks, but once you’ve sat in Riverside Park and listened to Meredith Willson’s ode to summer and small-town life, there will be no doubt that it’s summer in La Crosse.
“It’s so pure and simple and enjoyable,” said Chris Warner, who will conduct two of this summer’s concerts. “It’s so Americana. And it’s free, it’s outdoors, it’s along the Mississippi River. It’s very accessible music, and people enjoy it.”
Organizer Abbie Leithold-Gerzema predicts no-rain Wednesdays for this season’s concerts. She figures they deserve it.
“We’d like to play in the park, but we’re at the mercy of the weather,” said Leithold-Gerzema. “Out of six outdoor concerts last year, four were rained out or moved due to extreme heat. We paid our dues last year, so it’s going to be beautiful this year.”
For his two concerts, Werner was looking for unusual themes.
“People always give me grief about my titles,” he said, but who wouldn’t be curious about a concert called, “Jimmy, Do You Like Concerts About Gladiators?” which he will conduct on July 25. “That title is stolen from the movie ‘Airplane’ and is an homage to actor Peter Graves. Also, the Olympics start two days after that concert,” he said, so it seemed appropriate. “And there is a surprising amount of gladiator music. I even left off ‘Ben Hur’,” he said, which would have been an obvious choice.
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He also conducts the June 13 concert, “Welcome to the Jungle!”
“That started with “Seal Lullaby,” he said, which got him thinking about other animals. “Wouldn’t it be cool to do a concert all with animals? So we’re starting and ending with a circus band.”
Warner said having a variety of conductors means a variety of music, but the concerts also hold together well as a season.
“There’s a lot of variety. There’s a couple good tributes, including Jeff Krauklis’ tribute to the late Vicki Bigley. And Alex’s programs are always cool because he finds a lot of stuff people don’t know.”
IF YOU GO
The La Crosse Concert Band will present seven free concerts in its 72nd consecutive summer in Riverside Park on Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. In the event of inclement weather, concerts will be at 7:30 p.m. at Central High School. For more information, go to www.laarosseconcertband.org. Here’s this year’s schedule:
- June 6: Alex Vaver conducts “Let the Music Begin.” Featured vocalists from the La Crosse Chamber Chorale include Linda Zoerb, Jessica Wise, Dan LeFebvre and Mark Mattison. Guest conductor for Elgar march is La Crosse Symphony Orchestra Maestro Alexander Platt. Songs include Salute to American Jazz, “Golden Brass,” “The Prayer,” “Seventy-Six Trombones” and an Irving Berlin medley.
- June 13: Chris Werner conducts “Welcome to the Jungle!” Songs about animals including “Black Horse Troop,” “Seal Lullaby,” “Elephant’s Tango,” “Jurassic Park,” “Circus Days” and a medley from the “Lion King.”
- June 20: Jeff Krauklis conducts “A Lark in the Park.” Songs include Beguine for Band, Dixieland … Front and Center, Egmont Overture and “Funiculi, Funicula.” There will be a tribute to the late Vicki Bigley, former flute section leader, board member and the first female player in the La Crosse Concert Band. Former students of Vicki and former members of the Greater La Crosse Area Flute Ensemble will be featured in a piece by Mozart.
- June 27: Jeff Krauklis conducts “A Little Night Music.” Songs include the Impressario Overture, “Allerseelen” (All Soul’s Day), “The Waltzing Cat,” Broadway Showstoppers and “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Audience members are asked to bring a nonperishable food item for WAFER.
- July 11: Alex Vaver conducts “A Little Latin.” Variety of Latin styles with songs “El Camino Real,” “Oye Como Va,” “Malaguena,” “Amparita Roca” and the Best of Miami Sound Machine. CWO Rob Claggett of the 312th Army Band will be guest conductor on “Cielito Lindo.”
- July 18: Tammy Fisher conducts “Sousa Concert.” Soloists will be Tom Seddon on trumpet and Kathryn Skemp Moran.
- July 25: Chris Werner conducts “Jimmy, Do You Like Concerts About Gladiators?” Music inspired by the “Airplane” movies: Olympic Fanfare and Theme, “Entry of the Gladiators,” “Notre Dame Victory March,” “March of the Steelmen,” “Go the Distance” from Hercules and Danse Bacchanale from Samson and Delilah.