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SACD Review

Screamers (Circus Marches) & Marchtime

Eastman Wind Ensemble/Frederick Fennell
Mercury Living Presence Hybrid SACD 475661-9 66m ADD
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For all those of you who revel in the excitement of the 'Big Top', this disc is a truly compelling experience, but for those who are not acquainted with the word 'Screamers', some information on this special musical form will not be amiss. 'Screamers' are in fact marches composed to accompany the dare-devil feats performed by horsemen riding around the narrow confines of a track under the canvas of 'the greatest show from man to men'. They are not intended to serve as fillips to the excitement but to form an integral part of the magical world they belong to. Played at breackneck speed they are able to generate as much emotion in the audience as in the acrobats.

This disc includes 16 such 'Screamers' together with 12 normal marches that give it a quite unique balance of form relating to the same medium. Recorded by Mercury in 1957 and 1962 respectively, the sound quality is still a thrilling experience, and considering today's technology, the end product is as rewarding as anything you could hope for.

I wish to dedicate the latter part of this review to Frederick Fennell, who sadly died on the 7th December 2004 aged 90. This dedicated musician was a pioneer in putting music for wind ensemble on a firm musical footing. Fennell attended the Eastman School where he graduated in 1937. Later on he joined the faculty where he created, apart from other ensembles, the Eastman Wind Ensemble, a group of 45 wind players of the highest quality.

Together with this ensemble, Fennell recorded 24 discs for Mercury giving a huge boost to wind playing, particularly in America. This disc, apart from being huge fun, is also a fitting tribute to the art and passion of this quintessential musician, who left behind a legacy of joy and true craftsmanship. A must for all band lovers.

Copyright © 2005, Gerald Fenech