Dr. William Ciabattari has been busy. Besides the standard academic duties that come with the closing of a semester, he's been practicing two bands - bands that will play within two nights of each other in early December.
At 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 5, the Lycoming College Concert Band will perform at Clarke Chapel. Two days later, at 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7, the Lycoming College Jazz Ensemble will perform at the Mary L. Welch Honors Hall.
"I don't necessarily like to have a theme for my concerts, so both will have a variety of tunes," he said.
At 7:30 p.m. Dec. 5 the Lycoming College Concert Band will perform at Clarke Chapel. Two days later, at 8 p.m. Dec. 7 the Lycoming College Jazz Ensemble will perform at the Mary L. Welch Honors Hall.
Seeing as the college's Concert Band will be performing in the larger, more open Clarke Chapel, Ciabattari has organized a program that will lend itself to the venue.
"Since this hall tends to ring a lot, I've chosen more sonorous pieces that sound good in this type of space," he said.
That doesn't mean it will be a concert of sedative ballads and lullabies.
"This [concert] is evenly balanced between things that are just lush and beautiful and things that are cookin' and active," he said.
A piece that is perhaps all of those things and "historically-speaking, the most important piece from the concert," as Ciabattari put it, will be Vincent Persichetti's Divertimento for Band, Op. 42. When the piece was written in the early 1950s, it came as a reevaluation of both concert band music and the often less-mature (though not necessarily less-capable) musicians who performed it. Persichetti held both in a higher regard than was common at the time and elevated the level of music that would be written for concert bands after him.
The Dec. 7 Jazz Ensemble concert will see a standard selection of songs for Ciabattari and more specifically, the Jazz Ensemble, with one variation: the introduction of holiday music.
"We have some funk, some traditional jazz, vocalist Rob Rinaldo will be singing a few tunes with us, and we have some holiday music added in this time," Ciabattari said.
He went on to say that these concerts are almost never held this late in the year, but that scheduling issues forced the shows back past Thanksgiving. The bonus of having the concerts a bit later in the semester is the introduction of those holiday songs.
Concert-goers can expect to hear Christmas songs like "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "Christmastime is Here," as well as standards like "Don't Get Around Much Anymore." The vocalist on all three song will be Lycoming College senior Rob Rinaldo.
One gets the impression that Rinaldo was born singing; he started in kindergarten, continued through elementary and high school, and sang with the Paoli Presbyterian Children's Choir in his hometown.
At Lycoming, Rinaldo has been a four-year member of the college's Concert, Chamber and Tour Choirs, and is the secretary of The Other Guys, Lycoming College's all-male a cappella group. Singing jazz has offered up some interesting challenges for Rinaldo as a vocalist.
"There is room for a little experimenting and [taking] liberties ... ," he said. "It really allows me to perform more than I could in a choir setting. This, of course, also becomes one of the more difficult aspects of this style of singing. It's one thing to hit the pitches and rhythms right, but there's more to it than just singing well. If I'm not actively engaging in my performance, then it will come off as boring. The key for me is to find the blend between the two."
Rob credits much of his singing success at Lycoming College to the support of Ciabattari and his (Rinaldo's) voice teacher, Emily Wertz.
"She's really helped me improve my performance styles and singing immensely," he said.
Performing with both the Concert Band as well as the Jazz Band will be Lycoming College senior and alto saxophonist Bryan Stillman. Stillman will perform solos in both performances. Of particular interest to him will be the funeral march by 19-20th Century Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg (famous for, among other things, a piece he came to absolutely loathe: In the Hall of the Mountain King).
"[The Grieg Funeral March], for me at least, is of the highest caliber," Stillman said. "Because of its emotional impact and its structure, it has a depth that the other pieces don't."
He'll also be featured on a solo piece for saxophone by German and American composer Bernhard Heiden, called Diversion for alto saxophone and band. Stillman has confidence in not only his own playing, but in his peers' performances as well.
"The challenge with either of these concerts won't be a matter of technical proficiency, but really finding the camber and the balance between the soloist and the rest of the band, or between the various sections of the band," he said.
You can hear Stillman and the Lycoming College Concert Band at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 5 at the Clarke Chapel. To hear more of Stillman, plus the singing of Rob Rinaldo, you can see the Lycoming College Jazz Ensemble at 8 p.m. Dec. 7 at the Mary L. Welch Honors Hall. Both concerts are under the direction of Ciabattari and will be free to the public.
For more information, call the college's music department at 321-4016 or visit www.lycoming.edu/music.