By Anne Eickstadt


The Belvidere North High School (BNHS) bands came together on the evening of Tuesday, Nov. 15, to present a night of music and enjoyment. Held at the Performing Arts Center (PAC) at the Belvidere High School (BHS), Band Director Scott Aska led the concert.

“This is the strangest time to have a concert,” Aska said. “It’s not a fall concert. It’s not a winter concert. Welcome to our Finter Concert.”

The jazz band led off the evening with jazz from when jazz was first beginning – Dixieland Jazz.

The audience was treated to the “Basin Street Blues” written by Spencer Williams and made famous by Louis Armstrong. This was joined by “Little Brown Jug” by Joseph Winner. “Tuxedo Junction” was written by Erskine Hawkins in 1953. Glenn Miller and his orchestra brought this song into popularity in the same way he did “Little Brown Jug.”

The jazz band ended their portion of the program with a completely different style of music in the song “The Chant.” This song by Morton Feldman incorporates both swing music and funk within its tune. The stage was rearranged at that point to make room for the instruments of the percussion ensemble.

The 18-person percussion ensemble delighted the audience with a number known as “Chili Pepper” composed by Michael McIntosh.

“This music accommodates a wide variety of abilities from just beginning percussionists to those only a month away from graduating,” Aska said. “It was written for 18 percussion players.”

There was another swift rearrangement of the stage to make room for the concert band, and the evening continued with its excellent music.

Concert band started with lush harmonies of “Ghost Fleet” by Robert Sheldon.

“It’s about decommissioned ships on the James River, who break free to return to their glory days on the high seas,” Aska said.

The music reflects the journey of the long-forgotten warships as their spirits struggle to break free of their anchors. It becomes triumphant when they achieve their freedom and becomes martial as the spirits of the warships reenact their battles on the open seas.

Deja Sandkam then stepped away from the alto saxophone section to narrate Lincoln’s second inauguration speech while the concert band played “With Malice Towards Nonecomposed by James Swearingen.

The following portion of Lincoln’s address still resonates with audiences:

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations,” Abraham Lincoln said.

The concert band completed their portion of the evening with “Toccata For Band” as composed by Frank Erickson.

“This is one of his finest works and it stretches the band,” Aska said.

The difference between the concert band and the symphonic band which follows, is that in the symphonic band “these players are audition ready and are ready for college,” Aska said.

They have received a high level of training from Aska and are ready to audition competitively at the next level.

The symphonic band started with “Minor Alterations: Christmas Through A Looking Glass” by Davis Lovrien.

“This is one of my favorite pieces of literature,” Aska said. “It takes every major, traditional Christmas carol that you know and puts a twist on it.”

They continued with “Festivo” by Vaclav Nehlybel, another composer from the 1950s. This was a three-part conversation between the woodwinds, the brass, and the percussion sections of the orchestra.

“It gets peaceful for a while, then they start to argue,” Aska said.

The next musical adventure was “The Eighth Candle,” which concluded the evening’s entertainment. This was a symphonic treatment of a Hanukkah selection with themes that conveyed a sense of reverence and solemnity.

“I programmed it because it is a beautiful piece of music,” Aska said.

The Belvidere North High School bands will participate in the upcoming Hometown Christmas parade as well as other events which can be found by going online to



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