Saturday, April 05, 2014
Legends of Brass with the Humboldt Bay Brass Band
With the brass band classic “California Legends” as its centerpiece, the Humboldt Bay Brass Band’s April 5 concert continues its romp through musical history during Humboldt State’s centennial year.
This time five separate brass quintets awaken musical nostalgia with radio hits of the 1920s through the 1960s. In addition to familiar tunes from Hoagy Carmichael to Dave Brubeck and the Beatles, there’s a song by Humboldt County composer Joseph Byrd about “Cockeyed Florence,” a town character in Trinidad.
Then the full 25-member brass band plus three percussionists perform Brahms’ “Academic Festival Overture,” which he wrote to acknowledge an honorary degree from the University of Breslau. “We like to start with an overture,” HBBB director Gil Cline said. “We very much like that Brahms wrote this music for a University, and that it was first performed in that setting.”
The band continues with the Scottish tune “John Peel” (It’s just simply a beautiful song” Cline commented) and the second local work on the program, “Redwood Highway,” written by Professor Frank Flowers and arranged by Cline. “It was an effort deciphering Flower’s handwritten manuscript,” he said. “We have new percussion parts and basslines, and polished counterpoint by internal instruments. But we preserve the beautiful cornet solos in the trio, and the bass solo. The bass and baritone instruments play the melody, a la Johann Sebastian Bach. The final result is a very, very good march.”
“California Legends” by Bruce Broughton the major work on the program, is conducted by Audrey McCombs, a recent HSU graduate just returned from a year studying in England. “She was able to immerse herself in the highly competitive but also highly social world of UK brass bands,” Cline said. “She performed with a number of top bands in the west of England which during her time won contests.”
According to Broughton’s dedication, this piece was inspired by a literary work published in Spain in 1510. It recounts fictional adventures in the New World that included visiting a “Terrestrial Paradise.”
"Broughton was a highly successful American composer who wrote this for the standard Brass Band found in the UK,” Cline said. “HBBB follows that standard instrumentation, so we can tackle works like this one.”
Rounding out a reflective evening is “25 or 6 to 4,” a tune recorded by the legendary 1970s jazz-rock group, Chicago. “I enjoyed arranging it, “Cline admitted. “It reminds me of playing all around Humboldt County in a cover band in the 70s called Open Road. We did lots of hits by Chicago, Tower of Power and Blood, Sweat & Tears.”
The Humboldt Bay Brass Band performs on Saturday April 5 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus in Arcata. Tickets are $8/$5, free to HSU students with ID, from HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door. An HSU Music Department production.