New Orleans --
Hundreds from all walks of life nodded their heads, tapped their feet and even locked hands and danced during the “Swing in the Oaks,” performance, as Marine Forces Reserve Band New Orleans and the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra teamed up for the first time in a historic and harmonious duet at the Great Lawn in City Park, New Orleans, April 25.
“This is an unprecedented collaboration between these two New Orleans musical institutions. It is the first time to my knowledge a Marine Corps band has performed alongside a major American symphony orchestra, and certainly the first time the Louisiana Philharmonic has performed alongside the Marine Corps Band New Orleans,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Bryan Sherlock, MFR Band New Orleans officer-in-charge.
The “Swing in the Oaks,” concert was one of an annual series of free concerts by the LPO.
During this concert season, the LPO collaborates with and provides orchestral support for other organizations, including the New Orleans Opera Association, the Symphony Chorus of New Orleans, the New Orleans Ballet Association and Delta Festival Ballet. Now, MFR Band New Orleans is on the list.
“It is immensely satisfying to present something like this for the first time. For a lot of our musicians, I hope this may be one of the highlights of their musical experience,” said Sherlock. “Hopefully, we will also reach a large new audience of people who have not attended a Marine Corps band performance … and impress them with our professionalism and ability.”
The LPO and MFR Band New Orleans had only two combined practices prior to the concert, but in that short amount of time, a strong musical and personal respect had been formed, according to Dave Salay percussion, LPO.
“I think this is a great partnership, and I hope to continue our collaborations in the future,” he said. “It would have been nice to have more time to work with the Marines, because they are good players. And I noticed some stylistic differences that I would like to incorporate in how we do things.”
Sherlock agreed and said that the opportunity to partner with the orchestra is a very unique and unusual opportunity.
“Many accomplished musicians never get the chance to sit in a major professional orchestra, even after studying and performing for years. By the same token, only about 500 people on earth can say they are Marine musicians,” he said. “For the Philharmonic musicians as well as the Marines, it is a rare chance to interact through music with one another.”
New Orleans native, Robert Nunez, Tuba, LPO, found special meaning in this outdoor, evening concert. Nunez grew up listening to the LPO, then known as the New Orleans Symphony, and now to have grown up to become a part of it and play a role in this historic concert is a true honor.
“This has been a great experience, and I really hope to do it again,” said Nunez. “I have been at this business for 20 years now, and this is the first time I have ever done anything like this.”
Although this concert was mutually beneficial, it was also about connecting with the community; and it was a success, said Sherlock.
“As is always true, we hope to represent the Marine Corps and Marine Forces Reserve to the community and our neighbors here in New Orleans in a way that is positive and reflects the honor and dignity that Americans expect of their Marines,” Sherlock added.
The low chatter of the audience carried through the air, but it was quickly drowned out by the warm up notes of the combined musical force before them.
After a short introduction by the LPO conductor Carlos Miguel Pietro, the audience was asked to stand as the two music institutions performed the national anthem to open the event.
The concert playlist covered a wide range of genres, from classical to mamba, jazz and much more. Subsequently, the audience began seated at their selected patches of grass, but they ended on their feet moving to the various beats.
Early in the concert, Sherlock spoke to the audience saying the Marines hope to remind people of the service men and women that are currently, formerly and always in harm's way protecting their way of life and values.
In contribution to the American dedication, the LPO and MFR Band New Orleans ended the concert in patriotic fashion with John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes forever,” followed by the “Marine’s Hymn.”
There were concerns for the turn out of this special event, as it was originally scheduled for Wednesday, April 24th. However, due to poor weather it was postponed to Thursday, April 25th. Concern quickly turned to relief as the sun pushed through the clouds, and the Great Lawn filled with faces setting a grand stage for this momentous occasion.
In addition to the large audience of witnesses to this historic event in the City Park, the concert was broadcasted live through a webcast supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Louisiana State University College of Music and Dramatic Arts.
In the end, history was made at the Great Lawn in New Orleans’ City Park as the crowd cheered and the two institutions took a bow bringing the first collaboration between the LPO and MFR Band New Orleans to a close.
The MFR Band New Orleans is currently preparing for their upcoming Memorial Day weekend concert series. They will be performing at the National WWII Museum at the Louisiana Pavilion, Saturday, May 25th.
For more information contact them at 504-697-7861.