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DCHS symphonic band scores superior at LGPE
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The DCHS Symphonic Band warms up before their LGPE performance.

The Dawson County High School Symphonic Band received overall superior ratings following their GMEA District 9 Large Group Performance Evaluation concert on Wednesday, March 16.

Under the direction of Nicholas Gattis, the band performed three pieces that are considered level 5 — the second-most difficult level of music available to high school ensembles at LGPE.

The band opened the night with the march “Queen City”, which presented an opportunity for the band to display its discipline with tone and balance.

“The march was performed with great technical accuracy and style,” Gattis said. “The element of balance was achieved by carefully listening for the moving parts.”

During the march, each section actively adjusted their volume to match one another so that no part was either too conspicuous or covered up. This allowed the woodwinds to be as prominent as the brass instruments that typically anchor marches.

The next piece performed by the band was “Russian Sailor’s Dance”, an emphatic composition that allowed the band to explore wide variations of tempo and emotion constructed around one central melodic idea.

While the piece began simply and slowly, the speed gradually increased and the complexity of the music grew with each added layer of sound.

“For a piece this complex it takes a heightened level of sensitivity and awareness of what is going on at all times,” Gattis said. “Lots of trial and error went into rehearsing this piece to get the volume balance just right.”

Though the music grew more frantic as the piece neared its climactic end, the band maintained a focused energy that allowed each section to execute its role with accuracy.

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The French horns and a bassoonist warm up before the first piece begins. The band received superior ratings for their efforts. - photo by Rio White

The final performance of the day by the band was “Psalm 46”, a piece based on the chorale melody from Martin Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress is our God”.

This final challenge required an element of bitonality — where the brass and woodwind sections played in separate key signatures.

That was just one of many considerations that both Gattis and the performers had to keep in mind while playing a composition that involved both melancholy and serenity.

“We really had to study the composer's intent for this piece and dive deep into how the harmonies were constructed by analyzing the chord structure,” Gattis said. “The band had to learn how to perform this one [with] confidence because of the complex chord tuning, intricate rhythms, and constantly changing styles.”

The band was able to successfully display the ideas of conflict and triumph in “Psalm 46” through the shift from dissonance to resolution, finishing with a resonance that stood firm for several seconds.

For those three performances, the band received a superior rating from judges — the highest rating given to bands at LGPE.

After that, the band performed the sight-reading portion of LGPE adjudication, where they had just minutes to learn a composition and show their abilities. They received a score of excellent in that section, showing cohesion and trust in one another.

With the three pieces each scored as superior and the sight-reading section scored as excellent, the band was given an overall score of superior.

Prior to the high school symphonic band playing on Wednesday, the Dawson County Junior High School Concert Band and the Dawson County Middle School 7th Grade Band performed. 

Both bands received ratings of excellent — the second-highest rating given to bands.

Overall, Gattis was proud of his band’s performance and how each individual player performed.

“I thought the group’s performance was phenomenal,” Gattis said. “Everyone is truly a valuable member.”