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"People don't often get the chance to hear a classical baritone sax," William Barbanera says of his favorite worn-in woodwind.
Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011 6 years ago

Concert band sets the stage for romance

by: Heidi Kurpiela Contributing Writer

William Barbanera isn’t a particularly mushy guy.

Other than listing the romantic repertoire audiences will hear Feb. 12, at the Sarasota Concert Band’s Valentine’s Day-themed performance, the music director has a hard time rattling off his favorite love songs.

Off the cuff, that is.

After thinking it over for 24 hours, Barbanera, 54, who will also serve as the show’s conductor and a soloist, was able to provide an impressive medley of moving ballads. (See sidebar.)

“I listen to a tremendous variety of music,” he says. “It’s hard to recall only the love songs on the spot.”

Barbanera, an East County resident and longtime woodwind music instructor, is now in his 14th season as conductor and music director of the Sarasota Concert Band.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, Barbanera will lead the 40-piece Sarasota Concert Band in a program dubbed, “A Time for Lovers.”

The song selection includes favorites from “My Fair Lady,” “Gone With the Wind,” Bellini’s “Romeo and Juliet” and the second movement of a classical suite by Gustav Holst.

“It’s a variety of great music with a romantic theme,” Barbanera says. “I tried to pick what the audience would like to hear and the band would like to play.”

The second-oldest musical institution in the area, the concert band is celebrating its 57th season this year.

The organization puts on about 10 concerts a year in Sarasota and Manatee counties. This Saturday marks the group’s second performance at the Glenridge Performing Arts Center.

Barbanera hopes the new venue will help snag more patronage.

“Most people are familiar with only symphonic bands,” Barbanera says. “They don’t realize that we’re like an orchestra — just without strings.”

The band, which draws its musicians from Tampa to Naples, typically plays an assortment of pop-style concerts, classical marches and, occasionally, Broadway jazz.

For this performance, Barbanera will do something he hasn’t done in several years: play a solo.

A classically trained saxophonist, Barbanera says audiences are always surprised to hear the sound of a classical baritone sax.

It takes them by surprise.

“People are used to hearing it in the jazz context,” Barbanera says. “But the sax was invented 50 years before jazz. It’s original intent was to be a classical instrument.”

He plans to perform a three-movement solo piece by Bach, in part because he wants to set a good example for the dozens of music students he teaches each week.

“I can’t nag them to practice if they don’t see me practice,” Barbanera says. “Many of them haven’t heard me play in a while. I figured it was about time.”

As for whether his solo is dreamy enough for the concert’s schmaltzy February lineup, Barbanera is ambivalent.

“It’s a beautiful piece,” he says. “But I don’t know if I’d call it romantic. Lyrical, yes. Romantic? Well … you’ll have to see for yourself.”

‘Something’ by The Beatles
“It’s a sweet love song with a nice, pretty melody. I just have so much respect for The Beatles and the way they furthered pop music.”

‘You’re My Home’ by Billy Joel
“Everyone knows ‘Just The Way You Are,’ which is fine, but ‘You’re My Home’ is one of my favorite Billy Joel songs. It’s the idea that it doesn’t matter where you are. If you’re with that special person, you’re always home.”

‘Unforgettable’ by Nat King Cole
“A lot of people don’t know that Nat King Cole was an incredible jazz piano player and not just a singer.”

‘Affairs of the Heart’ by Emerson, Lake & Palmer
“It’s about how people fall in love and get hurt, but it’s still worth it if you’re careful.”

“It’s an old jazz standard that so many people have covered. The melody is so beautiful. You hear it sometimes with words and sometimes simply as an instrumental.”

Contact Heidi Kurpiela at [email protected]

The Sarasota Concert Band will perform “A Time for Lovers” at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 12, at the Glenridge Performing Arts Center. For tickets, call 552-5325 or visit


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