Melissa Colgin Abeln is known as one of the best flutists in the area. She's an associate professor of music at UTEP and principal flutist with the El Paso Symphony Orchestra.
She was so inspired by the May 8 performance of the UTEP Symphony Band that she wrote a review, unsolicited, and sent it in. Believe me, this doesn't happen very often.
So I'm posting her review of the band, which is conducted by T. Andre Feagin, who is an assistant professor of music, associate bands director and director of athletic bands at UTEP.
Here's her review:
Professor Andre Feagin's 61 undeniably energized musicians of the UTEP Symphony Band brought more to the stage in their final performance of the school year. Much more.
Known throughout the city as UTEP's Marching Miner Regiment's director, Feagin's challenging program for the second string included the opener, "Nobles of the Mystic Shrine" by Sousa. Calculated balance brought inner lines between brass and woodwinds into alternating focus, not to mention spot-on intonation.
The evening continued with featured soloist Don Wilkinson, the UTEP music department's 23-year veteran, on saxophone for Alfred Reed's "Ballade." Sensitive and beguiling, Wilkinson pulled on my heartstrings in a reflective, singing narrative. Thanks, Don.
Gustav Holst's "Second Suite in F," as I remember, is more difficult than it sounds. The SB brought out the English, folk-influenced suite's century-old loveliness without struggle. I tip my hat to Zake Rivera's euphonium solo.
But there is more! "Dakota Fanfare" (2009) rocked the house with undulating waves of powerful, yet controlled wind-band sonority. The back of the balcony, where I sat, felt like center stage.
After intermission, professor Feagin prefaced Percy Grainger's "Linconlnshire Posy" with onstage comments about the composer's intended tribute to the singers of the Lincolnshire folk songs, more than the songs themselves. In advance of each of the three movements selected — "Lisbon," "Horkstow Grange" and "The Lost Lady Found" — a sung version was played for the audience, the voice of an elderly, frail Brit, whom Grainger recorded from a hospital bed. It added poignancy to the precise, yet sincerely rendered performance of the SB.
Now a Feagin tradition, parts to the next piece, "Flourish for Wind Band" by R. Vaughn Williams, were distributed to the ensemble for a public "classroom" demonstration sightreading. Not bad at all.
The evening's finale, Reed's "Praise Jerusalem," projected a magnificent finish for the packed audience. Adding trombones and trumpets to the side balconies, this work featured bold contrasts in volume and excitement. Shout-outs to principals are in order; their cantorial solos were memorable — Jacqueline Reyes (clarinet), Clarissa Valles (oboe) and Caitlyn Collette (flute).
It was a remarkable performance for its energy, enthusiasm, polish and warmth. Congratulations to professor Feagin and his well-groomed wind ensemble.