Monday music medicine


Dr. Richard Sorenson receives applause from the Willamette Valley Concert Band as he holds up a musical compostion that was commissioned in his honor during a concert in April at Linn Benton Community College. (Jesse Skoubo | The Entertainer)

Albany Democrat Herald – The Entertainer

Albany’s Mondays at Monteith series has traditionally served as a relaxing respite from work-week drudgery, and as always, perennial opener the Willamette Valley Concert Band offers cultural cures for the summertime blues.

The 55-musician-strong ensemble launches the 2012 season, which runs weekly through Aug. 13, with a “Music for the Schools” program. The concert begins at 7 p.m. Monday, July 9, at Monteith Riverpark, 489 Water Ave. N.W. Admission is free.

“I always like to have a good variety of music,” explained band director and Western Oregon University emeritus director of bands Dr. Richard Sorenson. “The audience has diverse tastes. One of my goals is to program pieces where everyone will have one or more pieces they really like and remember when they leave the concert.”

Monday’s bill boasts a fine breadth of traditional and popular fare, as well as patriotic selections and several marches. Area band directors and students serve as guest conductors and soloists.

Highlights include West Albany High School’s Mitchell Hamann, set to interpret George Gershwin’s timeless “Someone to Watch Over Me” on alto saxophone, as conducted by the school’s band director, Stuart Welsh. South Albany band director Isaac Andrew will play Harry DeCosta’s ragtime classic “Tuba Tiger Rag.” Band percussionist Dennis Bierman, of Salem, tackles David Bennett’s sparkling “Calfskin Calisthenics.”

Among the evening’s guest conductors are South Albany student Tad Biggs (“Our Director”), Memorial Middle School band director Julie Buchert (“Athletic Festival March”), West Albany alumnus Erica Hall (“America the Beautiful”) and WVCB assistant conductor and retired Lebanon music teacher Christine Barreto (John N. Klor’s “The Billboard March”).

New Orleans jazz gets a second hot nod (“Dixieland Jamboree”) courtesy of a combo featuring North Albany Middle School band director Andy Nelson on clarinet, Barreto on tenor saxophone, Linn County sheriff’s deputy Steve Iverson on trumpet, retired Jefferson High School band director Mike Bevington on trombone, Andrew on tuba and Bierman on drums.

Other selections include Michael Kamen’s “The American Symphony,” from 1995’s “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” Edward Elgar’s “‘Pomp and Circumstance’ March No. 1,” Clare Grundman’s “American Folk Rhapsody,” Alfred Reed’s “A Festival Prelude,” selections from Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man” and John Walter Bratton’s “Teddy Bears’ Picnic.” A performance of John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” caps the evening on a rousing note.

The program also features a pair of movements from Dr. Martin Behnke’s “Willamette Valley Suite,” commissioned to commemmorate Sorenson’s 40th year at the WVCB helm. The band premiered the entire piece at Oregon State University’s LaSells Stewart Center in May; Monteith patrons will be treated to its “The River Runs North” and “Harvest Time, Fine Wine,” perfect for outdoor projection.

“It’s gone by so rapidly that it doesn’t seem that long,” Sorenson chuckled when asked about his four-decade tenure, “but I told the band that the main reason that I keep doing it is that I enjoy it. They’re delightful, dedicated people who come together every Thursday to rehearse and do some amazing things musically.”

The series continues July 16 with the Albany Swing Band featuring vocalist LeAnn Wind, followed by the 234th Army Band Oregon National Guard (July 23), The Midnight Serenaders (July 30), Ellen Whyte & Reflex Blue (Aug. 6) and The Knox Brothers Gospel Group (Aug. 13). All concerts begin at 7 p.m.

For more information on Mondays at Monteith, visit To learn more about the Willamette Valley Concert Band, go to

One comment on “Monday music medicine”

  1. To Dr. Sorenson:
    I so thoroughly enjoyed reading this article about your tenure as director of the Willamette Valley Concert Band. I remember driving to Monmouth with Dr.Doug Ritchie to invite you to be the next director of this band.
    I just retired two years ago after teaching music for 51 years. I retired from Pasco School District in SE Washington. I enjoyed my career very much as how can you not when you teach something you love! I remember teaching your children at the Campus Elementary in Monmouth. Great memories of my time there. Again, I enjoyed reading this article so much and learning what followed my time with this band! I am so happy to hear of your commitment to this group!

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