Casual concert a hit on the ‘Rive Gauche du Chenango’

Reviewed by David L. Schriber

A brass quintet from the Binghamton Philharmonic played the first in a new series of “Casual Concerts on the River” Friday, Sept. 2, at the Peacemaker’s Stage on the Binghamton river walk. From Court Street to the stage, the promenade of the Chenango’s rive gauche (left bank) was comfortably filled with folks who took advantage of a beautiful evening to enjoy a delightful free, hour-long concert in a modern but elegant outdoor venue in the heart of downtown.

The quintet consisted of BPO second trumpet Ben Aldridge, third trumpet Joe Spena, tenor trombone Don Robertson and bass trombone Chris Mann (playing on short notice for an ailing tubaist), joined by horn player Ilze Brink-Button from Syracuse, who occasionally plays with the Philharmonic.

The first half of the program featured short classical pieces by Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713), Viktor Ewald (1860-1935), and Charles Collier Jones (1957). Proving that classical instrumentalists play more than classical tunes, the group shifted in the second half to more popular fare:  George Gershwin’s second piano prelude (1926), “Under the Boardwalk” (1964), and “Laura” (1945). The music of quirky 20th century American iconoclast Charles Ives was in evidence:  “On the Counter” (1920), “The Side Show” (1921), “Slow March” (1887 – Ives’ first composition, at age 12, a funeral march for a family pet) and “Slugging a Vampire” (1902, written for some lines of Rudyard Kipling). The Peacemaker’s Stage is more modern than a New England village gazebo, but the BPO brass managed to capture a little of the spirit of Norman Rockwell by ending with John Philip Sousa’s “Washington Post March” (1889, written for the newspaper of the same name).

Mayor Matt Ryan was quietly present, showing personal interest and pride in his city. The Binghamton Economic Development Office and its business and civic partners have scored another hit in the revitalization of downtown Binghamton. The Casual Concerts on the River, like the Collier Street Farmer’s Market Brown Bag Lunch concerts, which concluded their season earlier that same day, serve to showcase some of the myriad performing artists in a city which has become a center of art and culture in the region. It’s a chance for performers to be exposed to new audiences and for the public to broaden their artistic horizons. It also brings non-city residents like me downtown (twice in the same day) to become familiar and comfortable with the businesses and venues downtown Binghamton has to offer.

Like First Friday and the recently inaugurated BiziNight, Casual Concerts on the River reflects a growing spirit of new life and energy in downtown Binghamton. We look forward to next Friday’s casual concert (Sept. 9) with Binghamton University’s Crosbys.