So what is a Concert Band?
The modern Concert Band is a development of the American Military Band and is essentially an orchestra without the strings, although Double-Bass players are also welcome! The instruments include Flutes, Clarinets, Oboes, Bassoons, Trumpets, Trombones, Baritones, Horns, Tubas, Saxophones and Percussion.
It slowly started to develop during the turn of the last century (C1900) as brass bands became enriched with woodwind instruments, and began to play other tunes rather than the marches that they had originally played. The concept grew until the military band was a unit in its own right. But things came to a head when the late, great Big-Band director Glen Miller (and everyone knows him!) was drafted into the Army during World War II, as Captain (and later Major) G. Miller, Bandmaster. He had been instructed by his immediate superior (a very straight-laced Colonel) to play only marches during the march-past under pain of death!
Miller stood it for as long as he could, but then finally could not take it any more. In the middle of a very important parade, and right in the middle of the march-past, he made – as they say in the forces – a Command Decision, brought the current march to an end, and instructed his band to get out one of his most famous arrangements. To the delight of the whole parade the band suddenly broke into a beautiful march version of 'St Louis Blues', and this was in the days when jazz was king! The platoons were almost swinging by the podium and there was a delighted grin on every face as the wonderful music poured out! The salutes had never been given with such aplomb!
Of course, after the parade, the Colonel hauled Miller into his office and was just about to start tearing strips off him, which would probably have led to Miller's court-marshal (!!!) when the General who had taken the salute entered.
"Who authorized the blues for the parade!" he asked.
"Captain Miller sir!" shouted the Colonel.
He was just getting ready to open up when the General cried, "Well done Major Miller! That was one of the most delightful parades I have ever taken! Gave the men a lift and made them think of home! My kids listen to your music all the time!"
Miller then asked for his own band – and was granted it! He went on to perform for the troops, with some of the most endearing and enduring pieces of his career, including 'In The Mood' (under fire outdoors in England!) 'String of Pearls', 'Pennsylvania 6-5000' (his wife's telephone number), 'Chattanooga Choo-choo' (with the beautiful Francis Langford and the Modinairs), and one that was first performed in Paris as his obituary, 'Little Brown Jug'.
(For the full story, see the film: 'The Glen Miller Story'© starring James Stewart)
And the rest, as they say, is history! The Concert Band as a fully realised concept was up and running, and is now part of the musical backdrop of the world.
The Concert Band has a far wider range than the Brass Band, and has a mellower tone. It can play anything from rock to classical and everything in between. It is also very versatile, as it can play indoors or out, on podiums, stages, on the ground and even at the march, although most CB's now-days do not!
And by the way – we actually play a version of 'St Louis Blues' as performed by the band on that fateful day which changed the course of musical history!