GREEN BAY AREA REGIONAL NEWS: Brown County

Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: AVB Christmas concert A Veritable Beauty in Green Bay

Critic At Large

AVB Community Band

Finale scene for Christmas concert of AVB Community Band with Santa at right near the stage at Weidner Center. (Warren Gerds)

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – The tap dancing was a bonus.

AVB Community Band – 78 players and two special guests strong for the evening – did up Christmas in a big way Monday in front of a large audience in Cofrin Family Hall of the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts.

Among 14 selections, including the band’s theme music, somewhere around 60 Christmas selections were stuffed in the program because of a bunch of medleys. Pick an emotion for the season – reverent to festive – and it was covered with flair.

And there was the tap dancing by do-all guest performer Corrie Beula Kovacs. The biography in the printed program short changed her. Among her substantial performance credits in the Fox Valley and widely, she has written for and performed with Northern Sky Theater professional company of Door County. Monday night, she applied her lustrous voice to “Mele Kalikimaka” – “the thing to say on a bright Hawaiian Christmas Day” (Merry Christmas) – and then switched gears to a flashy splash of limber tap dancing.

She also soloed beautifully in “Grown-Up Christmas List.”

Also featured was Ben Cahall, who has sung and acted on a slew of area stages. Notable among his solos was “Thankful,” a work of thought and handsome, sensitive singing.

Together, Corrie Beula Kovacs and Ben Cahall teamed well in two medleys of popular songs and in leading the closing audience sing-along.

It probably was a feather-in-the-cap night for them – playing the Weidner stage.

Cofrin Family Hall is special for what it delivers for performers – dynamic clarity, especially for those not amplified. Monday night, that was the band. From the first notes of its theme tune, it was clear the band would take command of the hall and all the gusto and brilliance the space gives for such a colorful collective.

The living, breathing “surround sound” – what the hall was built for, and what the musicians play for – radiated from the stage.

Adding to the congeniality were director Mike Ajango and announcer Bruce Deadman in introducing selections and bits of byplay between each other.

In conducting, Mike Ajango and associate director Paul Oleksy drew the best from the players in a teeming array of styles covered in the program – simple to hair-pin-turn music.

In a crummy year dominated by continued COVID-19 concerns, the concert was one of the things that turned out right. It was a “Yes” for its aura of celebration and warmth of its Santa Claus.

***

Program: “Christmas with Our Friends: A Weidner Wonderland”

Director:Mike Ajango

Associate director*: Paul Oleksy

Announcer: Bruce Deadman

Part I

+ Band theme

+ “Santa’s Journey (Joy to the World)” – Roy W. Kaighin

+ “Christmas from the ‘50s” – Arranged by Douglas E. Wagner

     Featuring Ben Cahall

+ *“A Touch of Christmas – Suite 2” – Arranged by Stan Applebaum

+ “Grown-Up Christmas List” – David Foster and Linda Thompson-Jenner, arranged by Michael Brown

     Featuring Corrie Beula Kovacs

+ “Minor Alterations” – David Lovrien

+ “Selections from The Polar Express” – Glen Ballard and Stan Silvestri, arranged by Paul Murtha and Audrey Snyder

     Featuring Corrie Beula Kovacs and Ben Cahall

Part II

+ “Irving Berlin’s Christmas” – Irving Berlin, arranged by Mark Brymer and Michael Brown

     Featuring Corrie Beula Kovacs and Ben Cahall

+ “Go Tell It on the Mountain” – Arranged by Jay Dawson

+ “Thankful” – Carole Bayer Sager, David Foster and Richard Page, arranged by Tom Fettke

     Featuring Ben Cahall

+ *“A Festive Christmas” – Kenny Bierschenk

+ “Mele Kalikimaka” – Alex Anderson, arranged by Jason Scott

     Featuring Corrie Beula Kovacs

+ “Carol of the Night” – Richard L. Saucedo

+ “Christmas Finale” – Arranged by Paul Jennings

     Audience Sing-Along

***

Band members

+ + Flutes: Becky Fronek, Chris Kelley, Kathy Lieburn, Theresa Mergener, Shirley Paul, Lori Schilke

+ + Oboe – Susan Arias, Emily Buffington

+ + Bassoon – Mary Rehberg

+ + Clarinet – Nancy Barthel, Marge Boulanger, Erica Errer, Linda Goerl, Kathy Myrick, Carol Osgood, Phil Stangel, Barb Varney, Steve Waugus

+ + Bass clarinet: Tammy Deppe, Debra Kinne, Diane Martin

+ + Alto saxophone – Kellie Beno, Gary Hassel, Sharon Hassel, Cindy Swain, Dave Thaldorf

+ + Tenor saxophone – Bill Daleiden, Dale Pearson, Kimberly Smithson

+ + Baritone saxophone – Chuck Larscheid

+ + Trumpet – Tim Bader, Gene Burmeister, Mike Cegelski, Bob Dietz, Jim Eckerle, Margaret Eckerle, Connie Fellman, Christopher Forbes, Brent Hussin, Tom Nachtwey

+ + French horn – Barbara Fondow, Paul Hying, Carolyn Johnson, Mary Killian, Bill Klumb, Theresa Pelkey, Pat Scasny, Jodi Strnad, Sara Wanek, Caitlyn Wheeler

+ + Trombone – Ruth Douthitt, Linda Kelley, Dick Nocenti, Becky Paul, Ken Petersen, Rachel Rabas, Bob Wampler, Joe Wingerter

+ + Baritone – Janet Ajango, Bruce Deadman, Mary Nickel, Jay Snow

+ + Valve trombone – Hank Wallace

+ + Tuba – Keegan Andersen, Russ Nau, Mark Schroeder, Doug Youra

+ + Bass trombone – Jerry Chenot

++ Bass – Jerry Kruse

+ + Percussion – Thomas Killian, Ted Ludolph, Robert Nickel, Glenn Niessner, Paul Oleksy, Angela Stiles, Carmen Youra

+ + Director – Mike Ajango

+ + Manager – Brent Hussin

+ + Announcer – Bruce Deadman

***

NEXT: “Big Band Bash,” 2 p.m. Feb. 13, Riverside Ballroom.

THE VENUE: Cofrin Family Hall is one of three performance spaces within the Edward W. Weidner Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. At its maximum capacity setup, the hall seats 2,021 over its three levels of maple-and-burgundy seats. Opened Jan. 15, 1993, the hall was built to adapt to the needs of orchestra concerts, operas, musicals, plays and organ, band and choral concerts. For acoustical properties, wood is emphasized on the seats, mezzanine and balcony surfaces and walls near the stage. Many surfaces are curved to help shape the sound. Wood is featured for an aesthetic reason, too – a “from here” aura of woodsy Northeastern Wisconsin.

THE PEOPLE: The name Cofrin relates in great degree to A.E. Cofrin, founder of Fort Howard Paper Co., and his son, Dr. David A. Cofrin, who was instrumental in building the Weidner Center through multi-million-dollar donations. A friendship developed between David A. Cofrin (1921-2009) and Edward W. Weidner (1921-2007), the beloved founding chancellor of UWGB. Weidner spoke slowly and carried a big idea. Weidner arrived when there were no buildings on the present-day campus on rolling hills near the shore of Green Bay. His interests ranged from academia to birding to sports. He loved building projects. It was in his blood. He guided the building of the Weidner Center, so named from early on in construction. Weidner admitted his eyes welled once when driving to a performance and seeing a green sign along the highway: WEIDNER CENTER.

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