Ray Wifler Memorial Concert Held Tonight

The Fond du Lac Symphonic Band will pay tribute to a community icon with its Ray Wifler Memorial Concert. The performance will take place in the Wifler Performance Center in Buttermilk Creek Park on Wednesday, July 21 at 7:15 p.m.

Dr. Ray C. Wifler was the band’s longest-term music director, serving in that position from 1974 through 2016. He passed away in May, 2020 after several months of declining health.

The concert program was planned by current Music Director Dale Shipe and Associate Conductor Jill Wagner to reflect various aspects of Wifler’s long tenure with the band. Featured clarinet soloist will be Matt Wifler, son of Ray and Carla Wifler, performing “A Tribute to Artie Shaw” and “Cinema Paradiso.” 

Matt Wifler is a full-time musician in and around Chicago, playing and teaching clarinet, saxophone and flute. A graduate of UW-Stevens Point, he has worked in pit orchestras in many theaters in Chicago and the suburbs and has performed with the Elgin Symphony Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.   He also plays jazz with The Bourbon Street Quartet and other big bands. 

The program will include “March ‘Seventeen Come Sunday’” from Ralph Vaughn William’s “Folk Song Suite,” which was performed at Wifler’s debut concert with the band in March, 1974. “Morning on the Lake” from “Winnebago Sketches” will be conducted by its composer, Dr. David Thompson, who was Wifler’s long-time colleague at Marian University. From the Band’s centennial year program in 1998, Associate Conductor Jill Wagner will conduct “Pickles and Peppers Rag.” Wagner began her collegiate studies in music with Wifler at the UW-Fond du Lac campus in 1974.

A German waltz, “Es War Im Bohmenwald,” represents Wifler’s long tradition of German and Old Vienna Night concerts, while Sammy Nestico’s big band-style arrangement of Borodin’s “Prince Igor” reflects his love of big bands and jazz. Echoing still more of Wifler’s favorite musical genres, the band will perform “Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral “from “Lohengrin” and “March of the Belgian Paratroopers. “
To represent Dr. Wifler’s love of classical music and opera,

Vocalist Elise Thelen Winkel will be featured singing “Je vuex vive” (Juliet’s Waltz) from Gounod’s opera “Romeo and Juliet.” Ms. Winkel will also sing “Time to Say Goodbye” (Con Te Partirò) to conclude the concert.

The Symphonic Band’s Buttermilk Creek Park concerts are sponsored by the City of Fond du Lac, along with free-will offerings that are received during each concert. In the event of unsuitable weather, the performance will be held at the Recreation Building at the County Fairgrounds.
Next on the Buttermilk Festival music calendar will be the Kids from Wisconsin on Wednesday, July 28. Their 7:15 p.m. show will be preceded with performances by the Lighthouse Big Band and Fond du Lac Childrens’ Chorale beginning at 6:00 p.m.