South Shore Concert Band

Sounds of the Circus, Vol. 1: Circus

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Sounds of the Circus is volume one of an ongoing series numbering 32 discs so far, issued by the South Shore Concert Band of Massachusetts and its director, Richard Whitmarsh. It's really quite a remarkable amateur enterprise in musical investigation. One complaint here is that there are no liner notes to speak of; check out the group's website to see just how much detail it has amassed about the uses of individual marches in specific circus routines over several decades. Even if you're just after one disc of circus marches rather than 32, this is a good pick. This inaugural disc includes a few pieces of circus music that have achieved a degree of general familiarty, including the Entry of the Gladiators by Julius Fucik, here titled Thunder and Blazes and also known as The Screamer. There are also several pieces by Iowa bandleader Karl King, a well-known figure in his day. The semi-live performances of the South Shore Concert Band have a few unedited fluffs, but that's no problem -- they have a brisk spirit that never flags, even in the face of some difficult writing in music of an age that presumed a high level of competence from wind-instrument players. The circus band was not quite the same sort of animal as the marching band; it has fewer brasses and more detailed woodwind parts. Hearing it from a group that has immersed itself in the music, you get a lighter touch than is heard on albums by marching bands that have ventured into this almost forgotten repertory. This is a specialized item, to be sure, but quite an enjoyable one.

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