January 21, 2022

Trombones hail season in charity show

Ensemble delights crowd this weekend at Cortland church

Sarah Bullock/staff reporter

William Harris conducts Bones East, a 25-piece trombone ensemble, in a Christmas fundraising concert to support the Food Bank of Central New York on Saturday at the United Presbyterian Church of Cortland.

The chords of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” blew Saturday from the trombones of Bones East — an all-trombone ensemble — during a benefit concert at United Presbyterian Church of Cortland.

The volunteer trombonists received a standing ovation from about 200 people in the pews and balconies of the church after the serenades of Christmas carols and patriotic songs. The concert raised donations for The Food Bank of Central New York.

Jacob Dove, 18, from Owego, was in the audience with his family watching his elder brother, trombonist Jordan Dove. Jordan Dove recently graduated from SUNY Fredonia after studying trombone performance and music education.

“It’s just such a versatile instrument,” said Jacob Dove, who is following in his brother’s footsteps as a freshman trombone performance major at SUNY Fredonia. “It can play any genre.”

Unlike trumpets and French horns that have a limited range, trombones can reach as high as a trumpet and as low as a bass, said Tom Camp, the ensemble’s arranger and composer.

“It’s a pretty spectacular sound,” Camp said of the 25-piece ensemble. “That’s what drew me to the group.”

“It’s like a brass choir,” said Conductor William Harris. Harris retired as a Syracuse University music professor in June and, as a professor emeritus, is in his 53rd year of teaching at Onondaga Community College.

“It’s the singing quality of the trombone that’s appealing,” Harris said. “It can also bring down the mountains, as you can hear.”

The camaraderie, dedication and pure love of the instrument is what Harris said he loves most about the group.

“A lot of these are my students (or) former students,” Harris added.

The United Presbyterian Church of Cortland and Bones East connected through mutual friends, said Paulette Fry, the church organist.

A friend had taken Fry to a previous Bones East concert, while another friend knew an ensemble member.

“So ‘you get by with a little help from your friends,’” Fry said, quoting The Beatles. What stood out to Fry about the group was Camp’s arrangements and compositions.

“They have a guy that arranges and composes music specific to the group,” she said. “To have their own in-house guy is pretty dang impressive.”