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Mid America Freedom Band Celebrates 10th Anniversary with JSEF Support!

posted Jul 7, 2013, 11:58 AM by Doug L   [ updated Feb 10, 2015, 10:03 PM by matthew novotny ]

On April 20, 2013, the Mid America Freedom Band (MAFB) of Kansas City celebrated its 10th Anniversary. A spectacular concert took place at Unity Temple on the Plaza and featured the world premiere of a work commissioned by the MAFB entitled Sapphire. This composition, by MAFB Artistic Director Dr. Lee Hartman, was partially funded with a grant from the JSEF. Additional funds were raised from 34 donors to a Kickstarter online campaign.

Describing the concert, Executive Director and trumpet player James Henry had this to say: “Mid America Freedom Band's 10th Anniversary concert was a truly champagne-worthy occasion with a greatly varied musical display ranging from the intimate and glorious with Robert Jager’s To Music; to the lively and light-spirited with several popular tunes released 10 years prior; to the intellectually stimulating with Lee Hartman’s Sapphire, the composition of which employs subtle techniques celebrating MAFB; to the proud and patriotic, celebrating our openly gay veterans with Armed Forces Salute.

Echoing those comments, clarinetist Christopher Gibson added “The 10th Anniversary Concert allowed me the opportunity to play with a terrific group of musicians, all who have been playing much longer than me and who are so encouraging to me. The concert had all types of music from classical to pop. In the middle of this collection of music was Sapphire. While it was a great, challenging piece of music, it pushed me to do better, allowing me to grow as a musician. It is always fun to perform music that has been created for you and that you get to premiere.”

Focusing specifically on the world premiere of Sapphire, oboist Stacy Davidson offered that “Sapphire reflects the diversity and camaraderie within the Mid America Freedom Band. Sapphires are a form of the mineral corundum, and these stones are naturally found in every shade of the rainbow. Like gemstones, each of Sapphire’s four movements is multifaceted, echoing the diverse range of ages, occupations, musical backgrounds, gender identities, and romantic preferences of the band members. Dr. Hartman crafted this work specifically for the Mid America Freedom Band, going so far as to weave the band members’ names in musical code within the piece. The musical legacy of Sapphire and the band it was commissioned for will live on far into the future, inspiring other composers and musicians to proudly and boldly write, perform, and nurture a sense of community.”

The composer's program notes for Sapphire contain the following excerpts:

  • Sapphire is the gemstone of tenth anniversaries, but more important, that brilliant blue represents “harmony” in the pride flag. What a perfect combination!
  • The piece itself is built off of a four-note motive representing MAFB. 
    “Fanfare” is a strident display of fast trills and runs with a brief respite of solo woodwinds. A quartet of solo brass players leads back into a restatement of the original material and the trombones close the movement in a blaze of glory.

  • The middle two movements, “Chorale (for saxophones and brass)” and “Dance (for woodwinds, percussion, and bass),” are played back-to-back without a break. A band is only as strong as its members and so I used the names of the all the MAFB members playing in the premiere as the basis for these two movements. The “Chorale” uses a musical alphabet in which every letter of the alphabet is assigned a pitch; of course some have to repeat as there are more letters than pitches available. The ‘Dance” is a quirky off-kilter quasi-waltz.
  • I used a modified system of Morse code to embed the member names in this movement. With talented piccolo and contrabass players, I could not resist the urge to end the movement with a demented duet between the two extremes of the ensemble. 
  • “Finale” is a Latin-spiced party. It is pure fun and the rhythmic drive of the movement is taken from the natural rhythm of speaking, “Mid America Freedom Band.” Luckily for this rhythm fit perfectly over Latin dance patterns. 

To listen to the first movement of Sapphire, click HERE.

To listen to the last movement of Sapphire, click HERE.

Based on its successful experience with JSEF, the Mid America Freedom Band is giving serious consideration to raising additional funds locally for the purpose of endowing them under JSEF management. This will help assure the long-term future of this important LGBT arts organization.

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