AVB variety concert brings the spice of life to the stage
By Janelle Fisher
City Pages Editor
After nearly two months since the last full-band performance, members of the AVB (formerly Allouez Village Band) are pulling out their instruments and preparing for the next big concert of the 2022-23 season — a season themed around positivity.
“With all the negativity going on and everything else out there, we decided that “we believe” would be our mantra this season,” AVB Director Mike Ajango said.
Following that mantra, the AVB has put on a number of concerts already this season, including “We Believe in Magic — Music for the Stage and Screen,” “We Believe in America — Music the Brings Us Together” and “We Believe in Good Times — Music of the Big Bands.”
Ajango said the band’s next concert, to be held March 20 at the Ashwaubenon Performing Arts Center, differs from the band’s previous concerts as its setlist includes a little bit of everything.
“With this one, rather than trying to pigeon hole into Americana or into jazz or classics or anything like that, this one’s going to be a lot of variety,” he said. “We’re kind of stepping a little bit out of our norm because we’re mixing in some things we don’t normally mix in there.”
AVB has a longstanding tradition of sharing music through free public concerts, and Ajango said he hopes the variety of music in this concert will help get new people interested in coming to see the show and the band.
“Variety, to me, is really important,” he said. “It should help attract new people coming to the concert. We have a little bit for everybody.”
And a little bit for everybody is no understatement — Ajango said the concert will include classic concert pieces, Broadway show tunes and everything in between.
“For this concert, we have something for fans of John Philip Sousa,” he said. “We have ‘The Liberty Bell’ which always gets a few people, along with the marches. If somebody is more classically oriented, we have the ‘1812 Overture’ by Tchaikovsky — at least the final movements of it. We have Broadway theater fans out there, so we’re going to do some selections from Chicago. We have something called American barn dance, which is kind of a lively dance type of thing, and in that same vein, the blue ridge, which is more Appalachian-type music. And then if you’re a purist for concert band music, we have the ‘Second Suite in F’ by Gustav Holst.”
Ajango said the selections represent a combination of old favorites and some new pieces for the band.
“A favorite piece, of course, is the ‘1812 Overture,’” he said, “I’ve got to love that and a lot of people know that one too. We actually have four brand new pieces that we’re playing,” he said. “Well, that the band has never played, anyway. They’re not new new, but new to the band and they should be exciting and I think I picked some pretty good ones there.”
Four new pieces is no small undertaking, especially when Ajango said AVB usually only gets about four rehearsals to prepare for each concert.
“Our normal schedule is playing a concert on the third Monday of each month and then we essentially have four rehearsals to get our next concert ready,” he said. “We typically run about 75 members, and a lot of them have been long term. I’ve been running the band now since about 2001 and I think a lot of the members that are with us now were members back then, even before that for a lot of them. It’s been pretty consistent and pretty gratifying that we don’t see a lot of turnover there.”
One thing Ajango said contributes to keeping band members around is picking music with the band in mind as well as the audience.
“One of the things that I try to do is have something that works for everybody, including the band members,” he said. “Not only is it important to have the music appeal to the audience, but it had better appeal to the band members too… So when there is a variety in there, it really helps with the band as well and making sure that they have substantial music that they enjoy playing.”
After the March 20 “We Believe in Variety” concert, Ajango said there are two more exciting concerts coming up for AVB this season.
“Our April concert is called ‘We Believe in Passion — Music that Inspires the Soul,’” he said. “That, to me, is a lot of music and songs that kind of tugs at your heartstrings a little bit. That should be a good one. Normally our May concert is our fun concert, ‘We Believe in Rock and Roll.’ We’ll have some very familiar music and it’s completely different from the two concerts before that.”
More details about AVB and its concert lineup can be found online at avbcommunityband.org or on AVB Community Band’s Facebook page.