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A Celebration of the Music and Legacy of Mark Freeh

Westside Presbyterian Church
New Jersey
Saturday June 22nd

Salvation Army staff bandsman, military musician, studio trombonist, fine tuba player, award winning recording engineer and producer, founder of brass groups Manhattan Brass Choir and Imperial Brass and world class arranger and composer. 

For most people, any one (or perhaps two) of these attainments would be considered a wonderful career, but the man, whose passing was commemorated by this concert achieved all these and more during his musical life.

One of Mark Freeh’s enduring legacies (and there are many) is the Imperial Brass band, founded in 1991 initially as the Rutgers Alumni Brass Band, in which he played bass trombone.

Now conducted by Ronald Waiksnoris and tirelessly managed by principal trombonist Robert Tiedemann, it was they who hosted this tribute concert. The only disappointment was that due to his ill health Bramwell Tovey was unable to join in the event.


The evening opened with the scintillating Salvation Army quick march ‘Manhattan’ by Erik Leidzen, who was a great influence on Mark who studied under him, followed by a plethora of works that resonated with those who knew Mark well; from ‘What a Friend’ played by Philip Smith to the great jazz cornetist Warren Vaché in Mark’s sensitive setting of the Gershwin standard ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’.

‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy’ put a huge smile on everyone’s face, especially as there cannot have been such a distinguished line-up of bugle players as Philip Smith, Warren Vaché and Mitch Brodsky.

Warren was also heard on ‘April in Paris’ as well as in a duet with Joseph Alessi on ‘Here’s That Rainy Day’ – an arrangement made by Mark that that could have been taken right from the pages of the ‘Great American Songbook’.

Elsewhere the music flowed; from ‘Tonight’ from ‘West Side Story' to ‘I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face’ and the haunting ‘Elegy’ - a rendition he was working on at the time of his death. Musical tributes came in various styles and genres – from ‘Trombonology’ played by Joseph Alessi to the duet (joined by Philip Smith) of ‘Fandango’.

‘Prelude for Mark’, Mitch Brodsky playing the Ray Steadman-Allen setting of John Larsson’s ‘Someone Cares’ and an up-tempo ‘Ol’ Man River’ contrasted with Torgny Hanson directing ‘None other Name’ and a moving rendition of ‘Resurgam’.

Huge smile

After a stage reset, Imperial Brass were joined by about 20 former members for Mark’s delightful arrangement of Leroy Anderson’s ‘Belle of the Band’ and William Himes’ setting of ‘Amazing Grace’.

‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy’ put a huge smile on everyone’s face, especially as there cannot have been such a distinguished line-up of bugle players as Philip Smith, Warren Vaché and Mitch Brodsky.

The evening ended with Mark’s adaptation of the Ted Heath Band’s version of ‘Malaguena’ which led to a prolonged and heartfelt standing ovation - and a fitting tribute to a great musician.

Ralph Pearce

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