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Billtown Brass to perform ‘Holiday Celebrations’

November 20, 2011
By APRIL LINE - Sun-Gazette Correspondent , Williamsport Sun-Gazette

In its eleventh season, The Williamsport Symphony Orchestra's Billtown Brass group is gearing up for its holiday concert, which will be held at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Community Arts Center, 220 W. Fourth St.

Billtown Brass is a 25-piece ensemble that combines horns and percussion to make a big, festive sound.

For an hour or a bit more, the band will stir attendees' imaginations with traditional brass band pieces that evoke seasonal zeitgeists spanning the late summer through winter holiday season.

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The Williamsport Symphony Orchestra’s Billtown Brass group will perform at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Community Arts Center, 220 W.?Fourth St.

Rick Coulter, a Williamsport resident and long-time WSO participant, directs Billtown Brass and said, "There's a theme to [the concert]. It's about the holidays, it's about Americana."

Billtown Brass has been under Coulter's direction from the beginning. His philosophy about the enrichment that comes from participating in the arts spans the facets of his life.

He's the supervisor of the essentials for the Williamsport Area School District - that means that he oversees the district-wide programs for music, art, drama, gifted, health and physical education. He also teaches at Duquesne University in the masters programs for arts administration.

The concert will begin with "American Overture," which is evocative of late-summer patriotism a la the Fourth of July, and moves into an arrangement of "America the Beautiful" that was arranged to commemorate 9/11.

"It has some dissonance," Coulter said.

"Hometown Miniatures" is the third piece on the program and is about Thanksgiving.

After the intermission, the concert will include winter holiday pieces, like "March of the Toys," which features an arsenal of percussion "toys" - things like whistles and gongs and slides and other small, novel, percussive instruments.

"Rhapsody for Hanukkah" is part of the program because Coulter thinks Hanukkah music doesn't get the air time it deserves.

He said, "It's a wonderful set of four Hanukkah tunes. There are some great melodies, really pretty stuff."

For a multi-national penult, there will be "Russian Christmas Music."

The concert will close on a fun and festive note with "The Twelve Days of Christmas." Audience participation is encouraged.

Two regional musicians will be featured during the concert: Dr. William Ciabattari and Tom Shellenberger.

Dr. Ciabattari will be the instrumental soloist for the "Concerto for Tuba and Brass Band" during the first part of the concert. He is an accomplished tubist and director of bands at Lycoming College and performs with the Blossom Festival Band among others.

Shellenberger will perform as the vocal soloist during "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town." Shellenberger is originally from Juniata County, and has had a career of singing and directing in many musical settings. He is the co-founder of the Vocal Jazz Quartet.

The concert will be a treat for the players and for the audience. Comparing the experience of being a brass musician in an orchestra (which consists of lots of waiting punctuated by big, dramatic, musical moments in which the players have to be at the top of their games) to playing in the brass band. Coulter said, "In a brass band, you're always playing. You're busy all the time doing something because there's no one else to take your place."

The band is made up of folks with a high level of musical experience and expertise. According to Coulter, a majority of the players have degrees in music. Those who do not have a lifelong relationship with it, having grown up playing and maintaining their abilities through other careers.

When asked why the tickets are so affordable, Coulter said, "It's meant to be a gift to the community."

Coulter promises good fun for everyone.

He said, "The program is chosen to be fun for the band and the audience."

Tickets for the show are $10 and student tickets are $5 and may be bought at the door or by calling the WSO office at 322-0227.



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