Call to Freedom: The Music of a Great Nation – Spirit of America Band/ Ray E. Cramer, conductor – Paraclete

by | Aug 25, 2009 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

Call to Freedom: The Music of a Great Nation – Spirit of America Band/ Ray E. Cramer, conductor – SOA 01, 76:28 ***1/2 []:

Spirit of America is a privately funded comprehensive band program out of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. It components include Field Band, Marching Band, Wind Ensemble, Fife and Drum Corps, and Winter Percussion. This release is of the Wind Ensemble, supposedly the best musicians of the group, a program which allows children, according to their website, from age 13, though the video on the site has one girl saying she is 11 and features as a musician profile of the month another girl who is 14 and has been there for six years, so I am not sure what the story is there. But it is a very kid-friendly and promoting outfit that has as it goals to be “dedicated to the pursuit of the ideals upon which our country was founded. Through the medium of music and marching, Spirit of America upholds the values of teamwork, patriotism, and excellence to inspire the youth of America and audiences of all ages throughout the world.” High goals, these, and really inspiring considering the day and age we live in.

Released for Independence Day this year, we have an album of standard and great American chestnuts. Most all of the service theme songs are included here, with a smattering of Goldman and Sousa (with a very correct performance of Stars and Stripes Forever), the mandatory Ives Variations and other fine and patriotic band compositions. Listening to this I was made aware of how great this music is, despite its patriotic associations (not that that is bad, it’s just that sometimes such things color our appreciation of pieces of music apart from their intrinsic worth). I enjoyed every moment of this recording, and the superb Ray Cramer (longtime member of the faculty of Indiana University of Bloomington, and a man both me and one of my sons played under) is as sterling a choice for this maestroship as anyone I can think of.

There are a few ensemble problems and a couple of moments of questionable intonation, especially on some of the solos, so this keeps it from a 5-star golden recommendation. But I honestly was not bothered by this, and kept gawking at how well these kids have assimilated the requisite styles for these pieces. And engineer Steve Colby has done a great job in capturing the sound of this ensemble, bright yet warm when needed, and nicely attuned to the glories of a full-out wind band. All should be congratulated on a superior job, and I hope there will be more to come in the years that follow.

The Chimes of Liberty (Edwin Franko Goldman), God of Our Fathers (George Warren), The U.S. Field Artillery March (John Philip Sousa), Colonial Song (Percy Aldridge Grainger), Anchors Aweigh (Capt. Alfred H. Miles & Charles A. Zimmerman), American Folk Rhapsody (Clare Grundman), The Marine’s Hymn (arr. David Bennett), American Pageant (Thomas Knox), American Salute (Morton Gould), Semper Paratus (Capt. Francis Saltus van Boskerck), The National Game (John Philip Sousa), Variations on "America" (Charles Ives), The U.S. Air Force (Robert Crawford), Heroes, Lost and Fallen (David R. Gillingham), Speak    (Michael J. Hale), America the Beautiful (Samuel Augustus Ward), The Stars and Stripes Forever (John Philip Sousa)

 — Steven Ritter

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