The subject was Christmas carols outside the LSU Orchestra Room.
It’s where the Baton Rouge Concert Band meets Tuesdays for rehearsals, where Christmas-themed music has dominated the repertoire in the weeks leading up to Sunday.
That’s when the band performs its annual Christmas concert in St. Joseph Cathedral. Sheily Bell will conduct with assistant conductor Daniel Modenbach leading some songs.
“I’d say it’s one of our most popular concerts,” Mark Crochet says.
Crochet is a tuba player. He joined the band 20 years ago with clarinetist wife Trish.
“My wife and I played in the LSU Tiger Band, and we wanted to continue playing our instruments after college,” he says. “And we’ve been here since.”
So, with only 13 days left to sing — or play — Christmas music, what is Crochet’s favorite song of the season?
“I like ‘Greensleeves,’” Crochet says.
Christmas carolers will know this song as “What Child Is This?” The melody is taken from a traditional English folk song registered by Richard Jones in 1580 as “A Newe Northen Dittye of ye Ladye Greene Sleves” at the London Stationer’s Co. William Chatteron Dix adapted the melody to his song, “What Child Is This?” in 1865.
And the Baton Rouge Concert Band has included the song in its 2014 Christmas lineup.
“I love the song because it has a really pretty melody,” Crochet says. “I like Christmas music in general, because the tubas have better parts, and sometimes we’re even able to sneak in a melody or two.”
Fellow tuba player Gary Stewart, another 20-year band veteran, simply was looking for a place to play his horn when he joined the band.
“I wanted to be around like minded music people,” he says.
People from all walks of life donate their time to the band, which performs several concerts during the year, some on the steps of the Louisiana State Capitol.
“Christmas music appeals to me because it goes from light to deep, and brings the spirit of Jesus Christ to the forefront for people who may not think of Jesus,” Stewart says.
Flutist Denise Curwick has a definite favorite — the band’s traditional Christmas concert finale.
“I love ‘Sleigh Ride,’” she says. “I like its animation, especially the sound of the horses’ ‘clip clop’ throughout the song.”
Curwick is in her first year as a band member. She also is an LSU Tiger Band alumnus and was looking for a place to play music.
“I was also looking to expand my social circle,” Curwick says. “It’s been great, and now I’m dating him (Steve Boone).”
Boone, a clarinetist, has played in the band for five years. He’d played in other community bands in the past and joined the concert band when a job brought him to Baton Rouge.
“I like ‘Sleigh Ride,’ too,” he says. “I also like ‘Do You Hear What I Hear?’ I’ve loved the melody since I was a kid.”
Though Boone’s latter favorite isn’t on Sunday’s program, trumpeter David Wallace’s favorite, “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” will be featured.
“I like it because it’s so uplifting,” he says.
Williams has been a band member for seven years, joining the band after 35 years of not playing.
“I just put my trumpet down,” he says. “I’d just stopped playing all together, then I picked up my trumpet and came here. And I’ve been playing since.”
Percussionist Denise DeMouy looks to when she joined the band two years ago for her favorite Christmas song.
“We played a piece called ‘Russian Christmas Music,’” she says.
Alfred Reed combined traditional Russian songs when composing the piece in 1944.
“It’s not on our program this year, but I’d never heard it until we played it two years ago,” DeMouy says. “Now I listen to it every chance I get.”
Though the band will not be playing DeMouy’s favorite this year, it will be playing such selections as “Oh Worship The King,” “Good King Wenceslas” and a medley titled, “A Frank Sinatra Christmas.”
That’s not forgetting a sing-along toward the end of the program, which surely will be filled with favorite carols for everyone.