The band played both pieces with precision, and either piece could have been the highlight of a normal band concert. But if the St. Olaf Band has ever performed a normal band concert, Saturday's homecoming performance was not one of them.
The piece de resistance was far and away Johan de Meij's Symphony No. 1, "The Lord of the Rings." In five movements, de Meij depicts key characters and moments from Tolkien's epic trilogy, creating not a musical retelling but an audio portrait of Tolkien's world.
Raucous percussion evoked the hooves of Gandalf's horse Shadowfax striking the ground. Chirping woodwinds sang the ethereal bird calls in the Elvin forest of Lothlorien.
Jostein Reiners '06, who plays the soprano saxophone, charmed and terrified the audience with a solo that depicted the inner turmoil of Gollum, corrupted by the power of the one ring. The ensemble punctuated Reiners' restless chattering with a march theme that became progressively more twisted with each repetition.
The band played with remarkable polish for having rehearsed only three weeks since school began. Majestic blend and theatrical phrasing made de Meij's monumental work thoroughly effective.
The instant the piece ended, every audience members leapt up to give a standing ovation, even though one piece remained on the program.
When the applause died down, the band performed The Jig is Up, an entertaining tune by Northfield composer Daniel Kallman, whose only downfall was its unfortunate placement in the program.
The audience sat in polite attention, but when Oles young and old stood for a second standing ovation, their hearts were still frolicking and dancing with the hobbits of the Shire.