May 21, 2011

The River City Brass Band 2011



     Last Sunday afternoon, May 14, 2011, my husband Monte and I drove over the mountain ridge to Johnstown, Pennsylvania. We made it just in time to run between raindrops to purchase a ticket to a presentation of the River City Brass at the University of Pittsburgh: Johnstown.



     At an earlier point in my life, I didn’t particularly like brass instrumental music. Then I heard a Christmas song played on the trumpet, and I was won over. Today, the River City Brass band is one of my favorites.

     During the show I recalled my experience with a trumpet. When I was in fourth grade, my mother took me to rent an instrument. I wanted the clarinet, but there was none to be had. I ended up with a trumpet.

     At the time my older sister and I lived in a duplex apartment with my mother. Out of respect for the neighbors I had to practice my tunes by placing the trumpet opening in a pillow so as to mute the sound (actually, I was probably so bad at it that it was a good idea). I would rearrange my twin bed, plop myself down, position the trumpet, and blast away. If you’ve ever practiced playing a horn into a pillow, you know it is challenging.

     That wasn’t my only challenge. I lacked both the breath for the instrument, and the musical ability for any instrument. I am tone deaf.

     I didn’t last long. Music thereafter slid into the background of my life. All in all, the world may be a better place because I didn’t push on.


     Back to Pitt Johnstown and the River City Brass band. The horns were shiny bright—brass, silver, and copper colored. They ranged in size from the small soprano trumpet trumpet to the huge tubas.

     It happened to be the director’s last concert in his first season with this brass band. James Gourley reminded the audience of that fact several times.

     The first half of the show contained tunes such as Candide, Manhatten Beach, and Flowerdale—the latter being reminiscent of a country garden, according to Gourley. A xylophone player, Phil Webster, did a marvelous performance to the tune Gee Whiz. The final tune, Espagna, had a familiar melody throughout. It was the basis of Perry Como’s 1982 hit song Hot Diggety Dog Diggety. It was fun to sing along under my breath.

    The brass band played Here’s that Rainy Day after the intermission. I changed the title in my program to Here’s Yet Another Rainy Day. Some members of the band did a comedy act to the tune Play that Country Tuba Cowboy.  The tune Surfin’ U. S. A. brought to mind a piece I just wrote on body surfing at Wallis Sands Beach in Rye, New Hampshire, while Georgia on my Mind was reminiscent of the three years our family spent in Stone Mountain, Georgia.

     Gourley had the audience practice shouting Ole’ for one tune.

     “Shouting Ole’ is very therapeutic,” he proclaimed, explaining that if we are cut off in traffic enroute home we can open the car window and shout Ole’ and Ole’ to You, Too to the offending driver.

     According to Gourley, the most requested march piece is Stars and Stripes.

     The program ended with an encore, Hey Ho Silver (the William Tell Overture).

     I can strongly recommend the River City Brass band concerts as a delightful way to spend a Sunday afternoon…



Hoop-De-Doo 2: A Rockin’ Hoedown

Mad Hatters, Johnny Depp, and Alice in Wonderland

My Childhood Home: 29 Spring St., Portsmouth, N. H.

Have Visions. Dream dreams.

Enoch Arden and Louis des Isles: Story Plots


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