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Stripling Brings Artistry to the Fox Valley Symphony Performance

Jan. 22, 2011

The air was filled with the sounds of gospel and jazz Saturday night as trumpeter and vocal artist Byron Stripling performed with the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra in a program of spiritually uplifting music.

Joined by sidemen Bobby Floyd, organ and piano, and Robert Breithaupt, drums, Stripling worked his way through a series of gospel classics demonstrating both the artistic quality of his sound, and his gifted improvisatory skills; throw in a few good jokes, and a good time was had by all.

The evening started with a quick opener as the orchestra performed an arrangement of the ever popular song, "Tequila." Upon its completion, Stripling made his entry on stage while improvising on his trumpet. From this moment and throughout the program, the audience was made aware of his effortless and free sense of improvisation.

Festive arrangements of "Down By the Riverside" and "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" followed. Bobby Floyd's skill playing the Hammond B3 organ truly came to the fore.

William Grimes' beautiful arrangement of "How Great Thou Art" was the cornerstone of the first half. Not only did this piece show off Grimes' scoring skill with the symphony orchestra, it also allowed the soloists an opportunity to show off their abilities in a more soulful number. I was particularly moved by the eloquent string and wind writing in this arrangement, and the way it was played by the orchestra.

An upbeat arrangement of "Get Right Church" brought the first half to an exciting close.

The second half opened with the appearance of a new young conductor, Max DeMay, who represented the highest bidder of a recent auction, for the honor of conducting the FVSO. The composition performed was the popular Radetzky March of Johann Strauss Sr.

Bobby Floyd's piano improvisation introducing the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" opened the next set and was, simply put, an astonishing tour-de-force of keyboard skills while running through a multitude of different keys. It drew great applause from the audience.

Regional jazz artist, composer, and arranger Marty Robinson’s "Mahalia Jackson Tribute" was the feature work of the second half. It was well written, while giving extensive freedom to the improvisatory work of both Stripling and Floyd.

Arrangements of Duke Ellington's "Come Sunday", along with spiritual favorites "Go Tell It On the Mountain", "Amazing Grace" and "When The Saints Go Marchin' In" closed out the program.

- James Chaudoir, Post Crescent

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