Aug 27, 2013
01:38 PMArts & Entertainment
Connecticut's Best Kept Musical Secret, And Force in Fight for World Peace, Has Special Concert Sunday
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Asked if the Coast Guard Band is Connecticut’s best kept musical secret, Chief Musician Stephen Lamb, who plays the tuba, said that while there’s some truth to that perception, “We do have a pretty good following already.”
“We are the only band in the Coast Guard and, by Congress, we are considered a premier military band,” he explained. “We are hired by the Coast Guard to be the musical representatives of the United States Coast Guard. … We travel around and take part” in spreading “the manners of our profession.” That can involve, in part, helping to provide the pomp and circumstance at ceremonies, the launching of ships and changes of command.
In all, Lamb said, our nation has a total of six premier military bands—one each for the Navy, Air Force and Marines, and the Army has two, one that stays stateside and another touring band stationed at bases.
Like those other bands, the Coast Guard Band might get pigeonholed as playing only the types of marches and programming John Philip Sousa was doing with the Marine Band 100 years ago—and like most labels, this one has some truth but is also off the mark.
Lamb said the band offers the equivalent of a symphony’s pops style concert, in this case dealing largely with Americana. But the page on the Coast Guard’s Band website where you can listen to music shows the band can also handle Broadway tunes and music inspired by Shakespeare, for example, and can also be quiet, subtle and even sublime. And the band has a fulltime vocalist who performs in 90 percent of the concerts, currently Megan Weikleenget, a soprano from Buffalo, N.Y., who made her Carnegie Hall debut with the Composing Song workshop in 2009 and joined the Coast Guard Band in December 2010.
“We [also] have a couple breakout groups,” Lamb said, referring the Dixieland Jazz Band, Masters of Swing ensemble, Saxophone Quartet, Woodwind Quintet and Chamber Players Recital Series.
Altogether, it’s a life and career for band members filled with music, and branded by a patriotic feel and mission, but no—in case you’re wondering—members of the Coast Guard Band don’t go out on boats and rescue people. Their job is the band.
That said, Lamb noted that they contribute in other ways. After the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Lamb said, “A few of us who literally wanted to get our hands dirty went down and volunteered.”
As for a standout moment, he cites the tour of Japan in 2008 for 60th anniversary of the Japanese Coast Guard. “It was really just an amazing experience for everybody, not just touring the country but working as a musical ambassador,” said Lamb, who has a Bachelor’s Degree from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., and a Master’s Degree from the Shepherd School of Music of Rice University in Houston, Texas.
Megan, who is being honored with this weekend’s concert, led the band on that tour of Japan. In addition, his bio says, he has led several performances of the band in Carnegie Hall, and under his direction the band has performed with opera superstars Nicole Cabell and Elizabeth Futral, pianist Makoto Ozone, clarinet virtuoso David Shifrin, and renowned trumpeter Philip Smith, among others.
“In addition, he invited legendary conductors Donald Hunsberger, Frank Battisti, H. Robert Reynolds, Leonard Slatkin, and Mallory Thompson to lead the Band in unforgettable performances,” the bio says. “Under Megan’s stewardship, the band has released nine critically acclaimed disks: Strauss to Stravinsky; Holiday Fanfare; Gershwin Remembered; Russian Connection; American Landscapes; South; Baby, It’s Cold Outside!; Gardens of Stone; and Live in Japan.”
To see how all of that translates into satisfying music in the concert hall, head to New London Sunday for the concert. Leamy Concert Hall is located at 15 Mohegan Avenue, and is accessible to the handicapped. For more information about the Coast Guard Band, visit www.uscg.mil/band or call the Concert Information Line at (860) 701-6826. Or see the band's Facebook page.