For the past two months, Dawson County High School’s symphonic band worked on three challenging musical selections in preparation for their annual Large Group Performance Evaluation concert on Wednesday, March 15.
This time around, the ensemble — directed by Nicholas Gattis — earned Superior ratings for all three performances and for their sight-reading evaluation.
The clean sweep of top marks recorded another milestone in the band’s third year under Gattis’s direction.
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“The band did an outstanding job,” Gattis said. “Their performance Wednesday was done with more precision, control, and musicianship than before. This marks a new personal record for the band and we have set the bar higher for ourselves.”
To begin their performance, the band played “Coast Guards March”, a selection that required discipline and tact to leave a positive first impression on the judges.
As with many marches, this piece gave each musician the task of keeping tabs on volume control, with the brass and woodwinds often trading places playing the prominent sections.
By the end of the opening piece, Dawson’s band had established their strong cohesion and intonation.
The second selection the band played was “Intrada: Adoration and Praise”, a dramatic and majestic work based on variations of a hymn tune.
Each section of the band had the chance to display a wide range of skills in this selection, with resonance and swells of emotion at the forefront.
The early parts of “Intrada” involved a melodic section repeated by different instruments, with the percussion providing an impactful background for the band to work on.
By the end of the piece, the band came together in a harmonious manner that drew back to the religious roots of the tune.
“There are parts in Intrada where the entire band plays and then places with only small groups,” Gattis said. “The tricky part is to make the various combinations of instruments sound complimentary of each other so that when the scoring calls for a particular section of the band to be featured, those students perform confidently to sound just like the full ensemble despite the fact that they are more exposed.”
The final piece performed by the DCHS symphonic band was “Into the Raging River”, a tone poem that gave the young group of musicians their toughest test.
As a long and winding tone poem, this selection required the band to use their skills to tell a story and provide imagery to the audience and judges.
Based on the composer’s own experience of taking a rafting journey, “Into the Raging River” tasked each musician to apply themselves in a way that added depth and nuance to the story.
“We are painting a picture with our sound to create scenes along this journey,” Gattis said. This requires a very careful, intentional approach to manipulating our sound to contrast the gently flowing sections, intense rapids, and a triumphant finish. This was not easy, and we had to make constant adjustments to make it exactly the way we wanted it — that's where interpretation becomes a bigger factor.”
Overall, Gattis was pleased with the band’s efforts and praised their months-long resolve to make their LGPE performance as successful as possible.
“The path from the very start to the final performance on stage is a long one,” Gattis said. “These pieces were certainly challenging and required significant attention to detail, confidence, and a high degree of musicality. The kids know I have a habit of changing my mind to get the ensemble to sound just right, and they continue to follow me and let me push them to new levels.”