Some history: Before the Festival began there was a Silverton Brass Band. The leader of the band got the idea of inviting other brass musicians (the conductor remarked that in this band there are no instruments that float or burn) to come to Silverton and play along. They recruited Paul Maybery, of McAlester College in MN, to conduct and there are now 45 invited musicians plus one operatic soprano who participate. They all volunteer their time and there's a waiting list to fill openings. The band practices for the first half of the week, then puts on four concerts over the weekend. The concerts are free, but buckets are passed for donations.
I went to the Friday night concert with Dick Reinert. We thought the concert would be too late and long for Jason, so he and Susie stayed in Tuzi and watched the Olympics. We all went to the Saturday noon concert.
The program listed nine numbers. It turned out that the same program was used for all four sessions, but Maybery adds and subtracts numbers to change the performances. Friday night he must have thrown in another nine numbers -- often Sousa marches, but other stuff, too. Scott says they start out with a huge stack of sheet music and they have to be ready for last minute on-stage changes.
The big surprise this year happened in the Saturday noon concert. Maybery decided Friday night that they needed to show they were up with current events. So, he got online, found piano music for the Olympics theme, took a screen shot, somehow ran it through orchestration software to produce the music for all the instruments, then handed it out just before the concert. As far as we could tell, the band got it perfect. Gave you a chill.
The Friday night concert had a lot of variety. Started with a long piece (an overture for you musicologists) by Wagner. Maybery talked about Wagner's music as being complex, but not beautiful ("makes you want to go out and invade Poland"). He quoted Mark Twain: "I have it on good account that Wagner's music is better than it sounds." It finally came to a stirring end. We had "O Danny Boy" and a novelty song about Teddy Roosevelt, the idea being that he was so taken with big game shooting, and so near-sighted, that he started going after farm animals. The band did a medley of H.M.S. Pinafore songs, attributed to Sullivan, only, Maybery said, because Gilbert wrote the words and the band wasn't doing words, so there was no reason to credit Gilbert. Maybery told a story that Sousa had arranged some Gilbert and Sullivan music for a concert in New York. After the concert a man asked him who did the arrangement. "I did," said Sousa. "Well, I knew it wasn't mine," said Arthur Sullivan. "It's better."
One of the evening's highlights for me, surprisingly, was the operatic soprano, Mona Kreitner, who has been singing with the band since 2002. Turns out she just completed a PhD and her thesis was: "A Splendid Group of American Girls: The Women Who Sang with the Sousa Band." Who knew? I was specially moved by the songs she sang because I was at the same time reading my book club's selection, "Bel Canto," by Ann Patchett. It centers around an opera star who has been invited to a South American country to sing at a birthday party for a Japanese businessman who the country's government hopes will build a plant in their country. Patchett writes very movingly and convincingly on the diva, her music, and her effect on all who heard her. I don't know opera, but I was primed to be moved by an operatic soprano and I was. Here's a picture showing soprano and conductor:
I'm not sure about the Cowboy designation in this banner. Overheard some other folks puzzled by it. As you can sort of see from this picture, band members dressed in a variety of ways. There were both Union and Confederate soldiers, and various bowlers, hats, and vests. The Johnny Reb soldier I could see was barefoot.
Back to the program. More numbers I greatly enjoyed included a Sousa arrangement of "Swanee" and related American folk songs, and "In the Mood." A Silverton electrician in the band played the xylophone ("Nola") and tap-danced -- not exactly Sousa-esque music. Things wrapped up with "Nearer My God to Thee," and the grand finale, "Stars and Stripes Forever."
Saturday afternoon I didn't mind hearing some of these songs again and Susie and Jason both enjoyed that day's program, too.
Here's a last shot of Silverton:
That's our RV park in the left center. I should add that the stream in the foreground was a favorite play area for Jason and Vanya Reinert, Scott and Terri's seven-year old son. Many rocks were thrown.
We drove home Sunday, the route to Durango being not as dramatic as the trip in from Ouray. Stopped in Farmington to pick up grandson, Tony Hinkle, who was coming to Albuquerque for his Dad's birthday, and got home in late afternoon.
The plan was to fly Jason home on Wednesday. Our route was through Orlando and we decided, because of hurricane uncertainties, to change plans and fly to Raleigh on Tuesday, via BWI, so that's what we did. I flew back on Wednesday through Orlando with no problem.
So, it was a fine two and a half weeks in Colorado for us all. This was the first time Jason had been away from his parents for an extended time and that went well. I should note that one of his memories will no doubt be swatting flies on our patio on Monday. Killed more than 100, he says, and with his statistical bloodlines (Mom and Dad, not just grandpa), I'm sure that's accurate. Same time next year? Perhaps so. When will Malia join us? Stay tuned.
Rob and Susie