When the 55 members of the South Florida Pride Wind Ensemble take the stage of the Broward Center’s Amaturo Theatre on Sunday, they will celebrate a quarter-century of music making.
The group, originally called the Flamingo Freedom Band, was born in 1986 with just six members, the result of an impromptu meeting in one of the member’s living rooms. The small group began performing at pride celebrations and LGBT community events and steadily grew.
“Most of the ‘freedom bands’ got their start in the late ‘80s and were pretty much formed to march in pride parades,” says Dan Bassett, artistic director since 2005.
But the LGBT band movement, which boasts more than a dozen bands across the country, has grown to fill a cultural and artistic role that extends beyond the traditional pride function as ensembles like the Flamingo Freedom Band began tackling serious concert music.
Soon after Bassett took the baton, the organization changed its name to the South Florida Wind Ensemble to better reflect the standard of musical excellence and broaden the band’s audiences.
And, Bassett points out, the ensemble isn’t limited to LGBT performers any more. Several straight musicians have performed with the band because it offers opportunities to tackle challenging music while offering a diverse membership. He estimates more than 300 people have been members of the ensemble since its founding.
For the anniversary performance, Bassett called on members of the ensemble to suggest their favorites from previous years, resulting in an eclectic program that is sure to entertain audiences.
“We listened to recording of all our past concerts….We are going to pull out all of the stops on this one. Our audience will be treated to our usual fantastic visual effects, guest musicians and other entertainers and of course, amazing music,” he says.
The program will include performances by the Harling Irish Dancers dancing to The Irish Washerwoman, the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus singing highlights from the Broadway musical, Les Miserables, and operatic soprano Maria Denison recreating her role as Carmen. Six-time Grammy Award-winning vibraphonist Gary Burton will also perform with the South Florida Pride Jazz Ensemble, a personal highlight for Bassett.
The program will also include one of the band’s all-time crowd pleasers, Rossini’s Overture to “The Barber of Seville,” performed in sync with the classic Bugs Bunny cartoon, The Rabbit of Seville.
Bassett points out there will be one new work on the program, a commissioned work by local composer Robert Longfield, entitled The Road Less Traveled.
“Longfield took his inspiration from Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken,”” explains Bassett, who says the work is certain to become a standard in the band repertory. Longfield has been rehearsing the band on his work and will guest conduct at the concert.
As for the future, Bassett plans to continue expanding the musical horizons of the ensemble and presenting challenging and entertaining programs. He hopes to continue expanding the band’s audiences so each program might be performed twice, as the band nearly sells out the Amaturo Theatre for its biannual concerts. He also plans to continue close collaborations with the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus and Women’s Chorus.
South Florida Pride Wind Ensemble
25th Anniversary Concert
Sunday, June 12, 8 p.m.
Broward Center for the Performing Arts, Fort Lauderdale
Tickets $25 at BrowardCenter.org or 954-462-0222