The InterSchool Orchestras Symphonic Band will play the 14th annual Memorial Day concert in Green-Wood Cemetery on Monday afternoon. We caught up with the band’s 37-year-old founder and conductor Brian P. Worsdale to hear about gazebo times, the concert, and how he programs it to showcase the students as well as the cemetery’s many famous “permanent residents.”
How did the Memorial Day concerts at Green-Wood start?
The Memorial Day concerts have a rich history that began with the historic Goldman Memorial Band, followed by the Band of Long Island, and now the ISO Symphonic Band—which, it should be noted, was the first time a youth symphonic band played this historic event. And add to that the ensemble is Brooklyn-based.
How have the concerts changed?
Well, the change of going from a professional ensemble to a youth group was met with some hesitancy at first. That was the first major change. From the get-go I will say the Green-Wood community—President Richard Moylan, VP Nicholas Pisano, and operations’ Kenneth Taylor—has been very supportive. They heard a recording of the ISO band and were amazed that these were young people who give of themselves once a week for up to three hours to create a wonderful life-changing and positive music-making experience.
After our first year I wanted to add some other elements. We invited the Brooklyn Youth Chorus to sing, Borough President Marty Markowitz has narrated, and we have had the great Yamaha performing artist James Adler perform major piano works by Gottschalk and Gershwin. This year we will have some narration and guest vocalists.
What do you take into consideration when programming it?
I hope to offer our listeners an eclectic mix of music that the students are working on for concert programs in NYC—known as “contest pieces”—as well as music from the “permanent residents,” notably Leonard Bernstein, Fred Ebb, Louis Moreau Gottschalk—there is a huge drive to dedicate his new monument—and this year Paul Jabara. Additionally, I like to throw some Pops in as well as patriotic music that recognizes the special day that Memorial Day is.
Do Brooklyn audiences respond differently than those in other parts of the city?
Of course they do! Being a native, I have seen the band audience grow. Bands bring you back to a time when people sat outside to hear Sousa play or their local band playing in the gazebo.