One of the world’s best known trumpet players Byron Stripling brought his charisma with him as he delighted a large crowd accompanying the Wichita Falls Symphony Orchestra during the “Holiday Swing” program last night, Saturday, December 12, 2015 at Memorial Auditorium. Stripling joked that he was depressed before he came out on the stage because no one gave him a flowery introduction mentioning all his accomplishments which were listed in the Wichita Falls Symphony Orchestra program. He continued the joke saying he was told, “No, you won’t get that in Wichita Falls.” Stripling’s and the symphony’s entertaining performance should make the job a lot easier for Jerry Gossett, Wichita Falls Symphony Fund Development Chair.
Stripling got the crowd laughing again when he told another joke, saying, “My wife’s sitting on the back row wearing a mink. She’s not wearing it to keep her warm. She’s wearing it to keep her quiet.” The audience responded with hearty laughter.
Stripling got yet another laugh from the appreciative crowd when he said he was “postulating” backstage. He joked, “That’s a word I got from Donald Trump.”
The fascinating Stripling told Examiner after the brilliant performance that he had played with legends Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn among many other famous singers. About Sinatra he said he would occasionally talk to Frank backstage before a performance. He was in groups that backed Sinatra up. He said Sinatra was pleasant to work with. He also complimented Fitzgerald and Vaughn saying they were also exceptionally nice people.
Stripling also played as lead trumpeter and soloist with the Count Basie Orchestra. His resume further includes stints with the bands of Woody Herman, Dave Brubeck, The Carnegie Hall Jazz Band and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.
Before performing “What A Wonderful World”, Stripling shared with the enthralled audience part of the inspiring story of Louis Armstrong. The Ohio resident said Armstrong started life poor and didn’t realize financial success until later in life. He said “What A Wonderful World” didn’t actually become a hit for Satchmo until after his death. Stripling is in a unique position to know about Armstrong as he starred in the lead role of the Broadway bound musical, “Satchmo,” according to the Wichita Falls Symphony Orchestra program. He also shared with the audience the fact Armstrong lived in a quaint, modest house in Queens, New York most of his life. Stripling further said that when Armstrong achieved financial success, his wife and agent searched Long Island for a bigger house. They found a large one in an upscale neighborhood. Stripling said when it came time for Armstrong to sign the papers he couldn’t do it, explaining he was comfortable in the world he already had living in the modest home in Queens. Stripling said people can still see Armstrong’s home in Queens today if they want to visit.
Stripling brought with him two other world class musicians in Bobby Floyd and Robert Brighthaupt. He told the audience “Floyd is the pianist and keyboardist most in demand in the world.” Floyd has performed with Ray Charles. Floyd showed his talent with a rendition of “Amazing Grace” on the keyboards.
Conductor Candler Schaffer led the symphony in joining with Stripling in the performance of the Irving Berlin classic “White Christmas.” Stripling sang and played his trumpet during a stirring performance of “Go Tell It On The Mountain.”
Shaffer, who is celebrating his twentieth anniversary as leader of the WFSO, came back after intermission and led the orchestra through a rendition of the “Concert Suite” from “The Polar Express.”
Stripling appeared at the Harrison House for a reception following his dynamic performance with the symphony. He told the symphony lovers who gathered there how important the WFSO is to the community. He urged everyone to support the symphony. As people were nibbling on their finger food and conversing in the beautiful newly remodeled house, he suddenly appeared and said, “All right. Everyone give me your full attention. You know I’m a performer, I have to have everyone’s undivided attention.” Once again he was laughing as he spoke and the crowd laughed with him. Stripling has the added gift of easily making others laugh.
He said he thought music had deeper value than entertainment. He said people have told him music helped them get through difficult phases of life such as cancer treatments and divorces. Stripling said he really believes music has a healing power inherent in it.
He then launched into an inspiring impromptu speech in which he implored Wichitans to support the symphony. He mentioned that there were a lot of young people who might never know what a trumpet or a bass clarinet was if it wasn’t for the symphony. He warned that certain types of music might disappear in the future if people don’t fully support the symphony. Stripling mentioned that many children don’t have the benefit of growing up in an environment where music flourished like he did.
Jerry Gossett, the Fund Development Chair, agreed with Stripling wholeheartedly following Stripling’s dramatic appeal for support.
Gossett wrote in the bulletin as follows: “Thank you for attending tonight’s performance of the Wichita Falls Symphony Orchestra with Byron Stripling. This season is off to a wonderful beginning with performances by Cirque de la Sympohonie in October and the incomparable Nick Beltchev on the tuba with the symphony in November. We are able to obtain this level of talent only because of your generous philanthropic support. Although we appreciate the purchase of tickets and sponsorships, they cannot cover all of our expenses.”
Gossett further wrote, “By donating to the Annual Fund Development Campaign, you impact our community in many ways, not the least of which is concert attendance and music education in our schools. Our annual fund drive accounts for 37% of our annual operating budget. Your support is vital to ensuring the Wichita Falls Symphony’s continued success as we rapidly move toward the end of 2015. This is a perfect time to make a tax-deductible donation to the Wichita Falls Symphony Orchestra.”
He said people may call the WFSO office at (940) 723-6202 or visit www.wfso.org to make donations.
The program last night also included “Silent Night”, “What Child Is This?” and “Blue Christmas”.
Stripling joked that before the performance began he was nervous and stressed because of a traumatic experience he’d endured recently in Fort Worth. He said he’d heard the worst sound a performer can hear. The sound of a man snoring reached him from the front row during the performance in Fort Worth. Stripling said he asked the man’s wife to make him quit snoring. She replied, “You wake him up. You’re the one who put him to sleep.”
The Wichita Falls Symphony Orchestra is certainly a worthwhile charity. If the symphony can attract transcendent performers such as Byron Stripling who have the ability to inspire audiences around the world the way he did Saturday night, then it is certainly worthy of one’s donation. As Stripling said, music is a powerful force which goes beyond entertainment.
Josh White and John Humphries, owners of the Harrison House, hosted the reception immediately following the concert. In addition to being able to meet with Stripling and Floyd, those who trekked to the reception were able to take a tour of the fantastic remodeling job that has been done to the historic house.
Stripling made his Carnegie Hall debut with Skitch Henderson and the New York Pops and has built a national reputation by soloing with the Boston Pops, National Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, Cincinnati Pops, Toronto Sympony and Dallas Pops and many more. He has also made a name for himself by being the featured soloist at the Hollywood Bowl as well as jazz festivals around the world.
Millions have heard his trumpet and voice on the Grammy Awards, television commercials, TV theme songs, CNN and the soundtracks of popular movies. The people of Wichita Falls that attended last nights awesome performance took with them memories worth much more than the modest price of their tickets.