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City band offers 9/11 tribute

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Columbus City Band Director Steve McGrew frequently notices the signs and symbols of endings within fall.

“It often is a very melancholy time,” he said.

So he views the season as the perfect time for his 65-member volunteer ensemble to present composer James Swearingen’s somber and gripping “Flight of Valor,” highlighting the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 in the Pennsylvania countryside on 9/11.

“This piece is reflective, intense, somber and inspiring,” McGrew said of the 10-year-old work.

The band will feature the composition at its free concert including songs ranging from marches to show tunes at 2 p.m. Sunday at Asbury United Methodist Church, where the group regularly has attracted 300 to 400 people. It has drawn more than 500 at The Commons.

McGrew also will conduct the Swearingen song at today’s Brown County Band concert in Nashville.

“I was fascinated with it from the first time I heard it,” he said. “And I wanted to give our musicians a crack at it.”

Trombonist Ted Sharpe noted that an early segment of the piece includes the strains of the classic hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul,” written after composer Horatio Spafford lost four daughters to a sinking ship in 1873.

“It really struck me not just because of the work’s subject matter, but how it’s written,” Sharpe said.

The nod to the hymn about finding God’s peace in the aftermath of tragedy surfaces before Swearingen’s score gives notice that chaos has come.

“It is a kind of foreboding,” said Sharpe, who also will perform the piece today in Nashville.

Sharpe also is a fan of a George Gershwin medley on tap Sunday.

Even as a youngster, Sharpe fell in love with the pianist’s “beautiful and very musical” works, as he labels them.

“They are something that can cause you to break stride,” he said.

Apparently, the city band’s audiences appreciate its varied offerings. McGrew mentioned that the group’s roster of players is growing. And the ensemble has been seeking a new concert venue since last season when it was outgrowing Asbury’s space. It is considering new locations such as Mill Race Center but will stage its biggest performance — the annual Christmas concert Dec. 9 — at The Commons.

“All this,” McGrew said, “is a great problem to have.”

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