Sumter Community Concert Band to play Christmas music Sunday

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If you're tired of the same old canned Christmas music everywhere you go, Sunday night's concert by the Sumter Community Concert Band may be just the remedy you're looking for. Live music by some of the area's most talented musicians will fill Patriot Hall with the sounds of Christmas at 7 p.m. Sunday, and while much of the music will be familiar, there will be different arrangements and some less-familiar works.

Director James H. "Jimmy" Mills continues to conduct the band and select the programs for its concerts. He will also introduce several of the selections.

Rick Mitchum, who plays trumpet and serves as spokesman for the SCCB, said that although Sunday's concert comprises Christmas music, "We will open with the 'Star-Spangled Banner' as we always do."

The program should be pleasing to all audience members who "love Christmas and Christmas music," he said, noting that "there's a good mix of traditional and more contemporary pieces."

Among the more modern songs that have become mainstays of the season is the Carpenters' "Merry Christmas, Darling," written in 1970 by Richard Carpenter with lyrics by Frank Pooler. Mitchum said the arrangement for the band "has beautiful harmony, just like Karen and Richard Carpenter's vocals."

Also among contemporary selections are "Believe," from the film "The Polar Express," in which Josh Groban sang the Grammy winner.

Longtime SCCB member Joni Brown, who plays clarinet and is a former director, will conduct the band in playing "Candlelight Carol," written by the renowned English choral composer and conductor John Rutter in 1984. Its focus is on the birth of Jesus and his mother Mary's love for him.

The clarinet section will open "A Carol Triptych," Pierre La Plante's medley of three familiar Christmas melodies, one each from France, England and Germany, including "Silent Night," the most popular Christmas carol ever.

"Pat-a-Pan" is an early18th-century French carol, whose sound mimics the beat of a drum.

Several medleys will be played Sunday, including Kenny Bierschenck's arrangement of the traditional carols "March of the Kings," "Greensleeves (What Child Is This?)," "I Saw Three Ships," "Lo, How a Rose" and "Bring a Torch" in his "A Christmas Celebration." This medley will feature the woodwind and brass sections of SCCB.

Jerry Nowak arranged the piece titled "A Christmas Portrait" that weaves together "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas," "Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)" and "We Need a Little Christmas" into a pop-jazzy medley.

SCCB will also play the sacred piece Sergei Rachmaninoff's "Ave Maria," one of the composer's best loved works, and "Chanukah Celebration," a medley of five traditional songs, among them "The Dreydle Song" and "Rock of Ages."

Several other works will be played during the approximately 75-minute program, which will also feature a surprise guest.

Mitchum said SCCB will resume regular 7 p.m. Thursday rehearsals in the Patriot Hall band room. The band welcomes new members, who do not have to audition but must be at least 18 and able to read music. Especially needed for the 40- to 45-member band are clarinets, French horns and percussion, he said.