01/18/02 symphony main

TSO to feature wind players, percussionists

Former IJC

band leader Bryan Herring to serve

as guest conductor.

By M. Scott Morris

Daily Journal

Violinists and cellists will be welcome at the next Tupelo Symphony Orchestra concert.

But they’ll have to take seats with the rest of the audience because the “Symphonic Winds” program Jan. 26 will feature only wind players and percussionists.

“We’re going to show people what wind band music is all about,” said Bryan Herring, guest conductor for the upcoming performance. “There’s going to be a lot for people to enjoy.”

If Herring’s name sounds familiar, perhaps that’s from his days as a trombonist with TSO. Or, maybe, it’s the time Herring spent as band director of Itawamba Junior College from 1976 to 1984.

He’s currently director of bands at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, where he conducts the symphonic band, directs the “Pride of South Texas” marching bands and teaches conducting.

“TSO called out of the blue and asked me to come back to conduct,” he said. “I was a little surprised, but I’m really looking forward to it.”

Looking back

David East, orchestra manager and current director of bands at Itawamba Community College, gives Herring credit for turning the junior college band into a musical force.

“It was the best community college band program in the state when he was there,” said East, who benefited from Herring’s instruction while the two of them were at Ole Miss in the fall of 1975.

While proud of IJC’s band, Herring is quick to share the credit with men like Floyd Stevens, Earnest Cadden, Bob Chase and Henry Shultz.

“I went to IJC straight out of school,” he said. “I don’t know what would have happened if they hadn’t taken me under their wings. Those guys in the very beginning really helped me and taught me a lot.”

The Jan. 26 performance will feature a bit of an homage to those days when the marching bands from ICC and Tupelo High School join the symphony for a special encore.

“It’s really exciting,” he said. “The audience will be in for a treat.”

Something different

East said the “Symphonic Winds” performance will be a twist for local audiences.

“This will be our fifth wind band in 12 years,” he said. “Every two or three years we try to give our subscribers different types of concerts.”

A regular TSO concert usually involves 65 players and 42 of those play string instruments. The wind band will double the number of trombonists and triple the clarinet and flute sections.

“With this, it’s going to be 60 wind players and percussionists,” East said. “It’s so much easier to get a band together for this just because there are so many wind players in the area.”

That’s partly due to the popularity of marching bands in Northeast Mississippi.

“Marching band is a popular form that has developed because of athletics,” Herring said. “Wind music has a history that goes back certainly as far back as music for strings. What we know as wind bands may have developed before the orchestra, but we’d have to go into a lot of history to prove that.”


Audience members will be able to judge the music for themselves, but Herring expects them to be highly entertained.

The diverse program includes music written to commemorate the Columbine High School disaster and General Montgomery’s defeat of Rommel as well as the best of cartoon and circus music.

“‘American Elegy’ was composed in memory of the Columbine disaster. It’s dedicated to the victims and the survivors,” Herring said. “It’s a lovely, lyrical piece that’s very moving.”

“The British 8th” is a march celebrating Montgomery’s triumphs in World War II.

“We’ll try to do it in actual British style,” he said. “European marches are somewhat slower than the traditional Sousa march, so it will be a different sound. It’s more stately.”

The program will go to opposite extremes with “Cartoon,” which was composed by Paul Hart, a popular composer of TV theme music in England.

“It’s cartoon music at its very best, and it’s packed into about 10 minutes,” Herring said. “I think the audience will enjoy it.”

“The Circus Bee” by Henry Fillmore will close the show on a light note. The title pretty much says it all.

“It’s based on the composer’s memories of the years he spent playing in circus bands,” he said. “It’s fun music.”

That’s only a sampling of what TSO and Herring have in store. As usual, everyone’s invited to sit back and let the music wash over them.

And, this time, that could be a violinist or a cellist in the next seat.

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