Billtown Brass Band celebrates Americana

In its 18th year of making music in the Williamsport community, the Williamsport Symphony Orchestra’s Billtown Brass Band will perform “A Celebration of Americana” at 7 p.m. Aug. 19 at Central Oak Heights, Milton, and 7 p.m. Aug. 20 at the Brandon Park Band Shell. The summer park concert, which is directed by Rick Coulter, will present a collection of American music with solos by band members and sections.

Coulter, the band’s founding director, said the performances are designed to be family and audience friendly events.

“One of the roles of the music director is to share anecdotes and back ground on the pieces, build rapport with the audience and hopefully add some additional fun to the concert experience,” he said.

Americana, he added, are defined as “artifacts, or a collection of artifacts, related to the history, geography, folklore and cultural heritage of the United States.”

“With 25 brass and three percussionists, the program features music that has been prominent in our history from the 1800s through today,” Coulter said. “The selections are all familiar tunes and will include Civil War songs that are still with us today, a Broadway show stopper, Big Band hits, a hymn, pop tunes, marches and patriotic favorites.”

The program will open with “Seventy-Six Trombones” from the Music Man, followed by “Barn Dance and Cowboy Hymn,” a piece inspired by the work of Aaron Copland’s western-themed ballets. Other favorites include “Children of Sanchez,” “Tijuana Taxi,” “Colonel Bogey March” and “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

Kevin Henry is an active trombonist and educator, with a background that includes having performed with the Boston Philharmonic, the Williamsport Symphony Orchestra and contemporary artists Aretha Franklin, Harry Connick Jr., Ray Charles and Natalie Cole. He will perform as a trombone soloist in Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust.” He will return for the Billtown Brass Band’s “Kick Off the Holidays” performance in November, as the leader of “Spencer and the T-Bones,” a nine-piece funk, soul, rock and rhythm-and-blues group.

Formed in 2000 to meet the need for a smaller and more “portable” ensemble within the WSO umbrella, Coulter said the ensemble is organized in the style of the traditional British brass band, featuring a full range of brass instruments.

The 28-member ensemble includes college-aged members through retirees in their 70s and, Coulter said, is a collection of the best brass and percussion performers in the region. Membership is through audition or recommendation from a member player, many of whom teach music at local schools or universities.

“Not to be overlooked, the band includes many players who have extensive musical training, but who went on to become computer programmers, scientists, financial managers, engineers, principals and nurses,” Coulter said.

The band publicly performs high-quality and entertaining music three to four times each year and is one of only two active British brass bands in the region — the other performing at Mansfield University.

WSO programs are free to the public.

For more information about the Williamsport Symphony Orchestra’s Billtown Brass Band, visit www.williamsport symphony.org.

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