Tacoma Concert Band bids farewell to founder Robert Musser

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Tacoma trumpet guru Morris Northcutt dazzles the audience with a cornet solo during the April 28 concert in which the Tacoma Concert Band bid farewell to founder Robert Musser. Photo courtesy of Tacoma Concert Band

On Saturday, April 28, the audience in the palatial interior of Tacoma’s Pantages Theater was treated to a scintillating end-of-the-season spectacular by the Tacoma Concert Band. The show marked the end of an era as TCB’s founder, music director and conductor of 38 years, Robert Musser, will be retiring from the band after this season.

This is a second retirement for Musser, who retired from University of Puget Sound after a 34-year career as director of bands, professor of oboe and saxophone and chairman of winds and percussion.

During the concert, Musser introduced each piece of music with discussion of the work and anecdotes about the band. He noted that many of his former students are now members of TCB. Five members have been with the band since its beginning in 1981. Others have been with the band for more than 20 years.

Musser stated that his idea for starting the band was to gather some of the finest musicians in the south sound region and give them an outlet to play and perform. He began to call people that he knew and they all said “yes” to the idea. The band kicked off with a bang and has been going strong ever since, having gained a reputation as one of the finest musical groups in the region.

At the very beginning of the show, and after the intermission, the trumpet players pulled off an affectionate insurrection by standing up and playing surprise fanfares in honor of their departing leader.

The concert started off with a John Philip Sousa composition, the “George Washington Bicentennial March,” which the band had started with 38 years ago at their very first concert.

Much of the concert was a trip down memory lane, a visitation of favorite moments from TCB’s past.

Clarinet soloist Lawrence Bradley performed Carl Maria von Weber’s “Concertino” and, later, trumpet wizard Morris Northcutt played a creamy cornet solo in Philip Sparke’s “Song and Dance.”

The band played the world premiere of Joseph Turrin’s “Pacific Crest Overture,” a composition commissioned specifically for TCB. The band has commissioned a number of composers to write music for them through the years.

During a playing of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Memory,” from the musical “Cats,” there was a slide show of images of Musser and the band through the decades.

The show ended with a rousing rendition of John Williams’ “Star Wars” theme. Following that – in response to standing ovations – the band played two encores: Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever,” and “Auld Lang Syne.”

While the April 28 concert marked the end of TCB’s 2017-18 season, it is not quite the end. TCB will perform a free “Bon Voyage Concert” at Clover Park High School Auditorium at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 24. After that, the band will travel to Scotland and Ireland for a 12-day tour of performances.

After Musser’s departure, Gerard Morris will take over the helm and the band will continue the next phase of its history. Then Musser will be truly retired. He stated that he and his wife would like to spend some time traveling.

For more on Tacoma Concert Band visit www.tacomaconcertband.org.

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