The leadership of two prominent Nashua, New Hampshire music organizations share an interesting connection.
Those organizations? Spartans, the 2023 DCI Open Class World Champions, and Symphony New Hampshire, often referred to as “Symphony NH” which celebrated its 100th anniversary a year ago.
The connection? Paul LaFlamme, a longtime staple of Spartans’ leadership and the corps’ current president, has also served as production manager for Symphony NH for five years.
“It was (LaFlamme’s) idea to bring the two organizations together in a unique collaboration,” Symphony New Hampshire music director Roger Kalia said.
Ultimately, more than a year of planning brought the two organizations together for a joint concert, as performers of each took the stage together January 13 at the Keefe Center for the Arts in Nashua for “Brass to the Max!”
“It was October 2022 when we started chatting,” Kalia said. “That's when we initially started to come up with the concept about what this would look like.”
“Brass to the Max!” was presented in three parts with an array of recognizable musical titles. The first featured percussion and brass players from the symphony, the second featured Spartans members, and the third featured all of the above in unison.
With arrangements for the corps written by Spartans brass caption head Don McTaggart, Spartans and Symphony NH performed the likes of Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” “Amazing Grace,” and more.
The two ensembles also brought a medley of songs by The Beatles to the symphonic stage, and performed Spartans’ theme song, Dmitri Shostakovich’s “The Fire of Eternal Glory.”
💕What a memorable weekend! A portion of our brass line and staff performed with Symphony NH in Brass to the Max! It...Posted by Spartans Drum & Bugle Corps on Monday, January 15, 2024
“It's going to be one of the things that I remember about the 2024 season,” Spartans brass arranger Aaron Goldberg said.
In addition to entertaining, the January 13 performance afforded Spartans and Symphony NH the opportunity to educate audience members on what the drum corps activity is and who the Spartans are.
“We showed a video before the Spartans came out about who they are as an organization, what they represent, and it was on a screen above the orchestra,” Kalia said. “It was about a five minute video showing clips from their show, which won them the DCI Championship, and there were some interviews with corps members.”
In advertising the performance, Symphony NH made a concerted effort to clarify one thing for ticket purchasers — it would be loud.
“We warned our patrons,” Kalia said. “This is going to be unlike anything they've ever experienced. Be ready.”
Luckily, it wasn’t too loud.
“I'm still getting emails every now and then from patrons saying how much fun they had, how they didn't know about the Spartans,” Kalia said. “And now, they want to support both organizations, which is really fantastic.”
The timing of the event worked perfectly, as it allowed select Spartans members to leave the corps’ January 13-15 rehearsal camp to practice and perform with Symphony NH. Preparations were truncated, but the end result was worth it.
“It was an incredible experience,” Spartans horn sergeant Natalie Cormier said. “It was a very quick turnaround, but we made it happen, and I was very glad to be part of it.”
“We only had one rehearsal,” added Kalia, “But it came together beautifully in the end.”
And in the process, members of the symphony got to inspire the young Spartans musicians, as part of an exciting fusion between two local organizations looking to create meaningful experiences through music.
“The overarching concept was to bring the two groups together because they have different audiences,” Kalia said. “So we wanted to bring the audiences together, and we also wanted to have the symphony New Hampshire musicians, who are all professionals, serve as mentors to the students in the Spartans. That was really exciting to see it come together.”