The Bar Harbor Town Band is set to premiere the “Acadia Centennial Suite” by John Cooper on Thursday, July 7. ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

Band offers ‘Centennial Suite’



BAR HARBOR — A special Bar Harbor Town Band concert is set for 7:30 p.m. July 7 on the Village Green. It’s the eve of the centennial of the day President Woodrow Wilson signed the proclamation establishing the Sieur de Monts National Monument, July 8, 1916.

College of the Atlantic music Professor John Cooper composed a new march for the band for the occasion, “Acadia Centennial Suite.”

The three-minute piece, band Director Brian Booher said, has “the traditional aspects of a march, some very stately march sections. But also, John being a jazz musician and a very modern composer, it combines some of the traditional chord progressions of the marches with some more modern, interesting surprises.”

Cooper said the project has been a fun challenge for him, Booher, and the players.

College of the Atlantic music professor John Cooper was commissioned to compose the "Acadia Centennial Suite" for the Town Band.

College of the Atlantic music professor John Cooper was commissioned to compose the “Acadia Centennial Suite” for the Town Band. PHOTO COURTESY OF COA.

“To do a new piece like this is risky,” he said. “People are going to have a hard time tapping their toes to it. But we have a lot of good players, and they liked the challenge.”

Cooper has rehearsed with the band, many of whom also play in the COA orchestra in the fall, winter and spring.

“Just think,” he said in rehearsals “after you play this, all the other marches will be so easy!”

Cooper is very familiar with the story of Acadia, having worked on scores for documentary videos on the subject with Jeff Dobbs and Jack Perkins.

“There are some tense moments in the piece, because the founding of the park had some friction to it, too,” Booher said. “You’ll hear the tension, you’ll hear there’s pushing between the low brass and the woodwinds. You’ll hear it draw out an experience of what John’s trying to develop.”

Unlike a documentary score, Cooper said he has shied away from specifying which historical event is supposed to go with which section of the music.

“It’s not program music in that way. We’re gonna leave it up to listeners to figure out where everything exists in that regard.”

Dramatic, tense moments in the piece could be about the fire of 1947, he said, or they could be about the defunct cog railway. “It could be just the politicization of the early days where they couldn’t get funding. Or it could be the times they changed the name of the park. Everybody on MDI has their stories to tell.”

The rest of the program at the July 7 concert, Booher said, also will be a nod to history. “We’re diving into our repertoire to play mostly songs that you would likely have heard if you were right here in 1916.”

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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