You don’t need to take the “A” train to see this concert this weekend, and even if “you don’t get around much anymore,” there’s a local event that should be enough to put you in a sentimental mood.
Just caravan on over to Cheshire High School on Saturday, Oct. 8, for the annual Music In Motion marching band competition. Performances begin at 6 pm Yes, you may have guessed that this year features a theme dedicated to the music of the great Duke Ellington, according to Cheshire High School Chorus Director and interim Band Director Greg Bell. Bell has stepped in for Director John Kuhner, who has taken a leave of absence.
Ellington was a legendary jazz musician and pianist who rose to fame in the early half of the 20th century, particularly for his appearances at the world-renowned Cotton Club located in Harlem, New York. His career spanned several decades until his death in 1974, and many consider him one of the most influential jazz composers in history.
With Ellington at the center of the performance, local band members will be looking to ensure that they “got that swing” for this weekend’s audience, and as a former associate director of the Cheshire High School Marching Ram Band from 2005 to 2011, Bell is no stranger to the event.
“Our show this year is entitled ‘Last Train Home,’ and it loosely depicts the story of our main character, Peggy, who grew up in a rural town and studied to become a teacher. Always fond of singing, she needed to know if she could have ever made it big. Peggy travels to New York City, taking odd jobs as a waitress, looking for her big break, which comes when she has the opportunity to sing with the Duke Ellington Orchestra at The Savoy. She travels the world performing with the Ellington Orchestra, but slowly realizes that fame is nothing without family and a place to call home,” Bell explains.
To put their performance together, the band dedicates four days a week to practice, including around 20 additional hours out of school, to rehearsals and competitions each Saturday. All these extraordinary efforts will culminate in the USBands Open Class National Championship, to be held on Nov. 5 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Of course, cheering for the home team is always recommended, but the annual Music In Motion event also features performing bands from around the region, including high schools from East Haven, Meriden, Wallingford, Naugatuck and Southington. In addition, bands from three colleges will be showcased: Worcester Polytechnic, the University of New Haven, and the University of Connecticut.
One of the main draws of the event, says Bell, beyond seeing the various bands perform their music and choreography, is a so-called “full retreat” that will take place just prior to the awards ceremony.
“This means that every student of every band will be playing together,” says Bell. He estimates that “around 1,000 high school and collegiate musicians will be playing at the same time.”
Also adding some special meaning to this year’s Music In Motion is the impending retirement of legendary UConn band director, Dr. David Mills, who has led the school’s marching band program since 1990.
He will lead the full ensemble retreat with a performance of “America the Beautiful” to end the performance.
Parking for the event is available at the high school. Tickets are $12 for adults, $6 for seniors and students, with children under 6 attending for free.