More About Raritan Valley Symphonic Band “40th Anniversary” Concert

Raritan Valley Symphonic Band
“40th Anniversary” Concert
William Berz, Conductor; Jerry Rife & Christopher Sumner, Guest Conductors
Sunday, April 28 @ 4 pm

The Raritan Valley Symphonic Band celebrates the 40th anniversary of their first concert at their annual spring concert on Sunday, April 28. Musical Director William Berz will lead the band’s performance of five works originally performed at the first concert in March 1984. Former musical directors Jerry Rife and Christopher Sumner have been invited to be guest conductors for two additional works. The concert will be held at Franklin High School, 500 Elizabeth Ave., Somerset NJ at 4 pm and admission is free.

The concert begins with “Procession of the Nobles”, the final movement from an orchestral suite that Rimsky-Korsakov adapted from his opera/ballet, “Mlada”. Originally titled “Cortege”, it was arranged by Erik Leidzen for the Goldman Band in 1938.

Erik Leidzen’s arrangement of “Italian Polka” was originally written by Sergei Rachmaninoff in 1906 based on a melody he heard in Italy played by an old street organ. Originally composed as a work for two pianos, Rachmaninoff asked Erik Leidzen to arrange the work for wind ensemble in 1939 and was first played by the Goldman Band in New York.

The first half concludes with “Russian Christmas Music”, composed by American Alfred Reed in 1944 for an event celebrating a successful war bond sale during World War II. As a member of the Army, Reed was directed to write a piece acknowledging the Soviet Union’s contribution to the war effort. He composed the piece in 11 days, and it was premiered shortly after by a small group of military musicians. He significantly revised the work after the war enlarging the number of instruments and it is now a standard piece in wind ensemble repertoire.

The second half begins with Gioachino Rossini’s short work for band “La Corona d’ Italia”. In 1858, Rossini had composed a piece titled Fanfare for piano two hands and then arranged it for band for Emperor Maximilian of Mexico. The version performed in this concert was recently rediscovered and arranged for modern band for this concert by RVSB musical director William Berz. The original title, “La Corona d’Italia: Fanfare per Musica Militare”, has been restored.

Guest conductor Jerry Rife will then lead “Victory at Sea”, the title of an NBC television series about naval warfare during World War II that aired on Sunday afternoons during the early 1950s and a subsequent movie adaptation. The famous Broadway composer, Richard Rodgers, composed the musical score to accompany the action writing 12 “themes” for piano that were only a minute or two in length. Composer/arranger Robert Russell Bennett arranged the pieces for orchestra along with composing a great deal of new music and transforming what Rodgers had originally written to fit the requirements of the movie.

Guest conductor Christopher Sumner will then lead Frank Ticheli’s setting of the famous folk song “Loch Lomond”. This simple yet charming work faithfully preserves the melody and adds interesting harmonic vocabulary. Loch Lomond tells the tale of two Scottish soldiers who were imprisoned at Carlisle Castle in England, following the Battle of Culloden Moor.

Audience favorite “Stars and Stripes Forever” by John Phillip Sousa concludes the concert.

Musical Director William Berz is Professor Emeritus at Rutgers University where he served on the faculty for 42 years, including 11 as Director of the Music Department. Dr. Berz returned to the RVSB podium in 2022 after previously serving as its Musical Director in the 2000s.

Jerry Rife is Professor Emeritus of Music at Rider University in Lawrence, NJ where he taught music history courses and was the Director of Bands from 1984-2018. He was the Chairman of the Fine Arts Department and has taught graduate-level musicology courses at Westminster Choir College. He served as the RVSB’s musical director from 1998 – 2001 and is currently director of the Blawenburg Band.

Christopher G. Sumner is the Instrumental Music Director at Piscataway High School. In addition, Dr. Sumner is also an active professional musician both as a conductor and clarinetist. He was musical director of the Raritan Valley Symphonic Band from 2014 to 2022. He is also the principal clarinetist with the Riverside Symphonia and has served as their conductor since 2000. He has performed with numerous orchestras and jazz bands across the country, including the American Repertory Ballet Orchestra, Allentown Symphony, Princeton Symphony, and Aspen Jazz Ensemble, as well as with Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville on their East Coast Tour.

RVSB comprises about 65 musicians from the northern and central New Jersey area. Band membership includes professional musicians and music educators, as well as amateur musicians ranging in age from high school through retirees.

This concert is funded, in part, by a grant from the Somerset County Cultural and Heritage Commission. For more information about the band please visit Click for Details.

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