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Pops in the Park

Billtown Brass presents ‘A Summer Vacation Concert’

August 5, 2012
By BRIAN BUSH ( , Williamsport Sun-Gazette

The Williamsport Symphony Orchestra's Billtown Brass group will present "A Summer Vacation Concert" at 7 p.m. Aug. 19 in the Brandon Park Bandshell as part of the annual "Pops in the Park" summer concert series. In case of rain, the concert will be held in the Loyalsock High School auditorium.

Rick Coulter is the founding director and conductor of Billtown Brass. Now in its thirteenth year, Billtown Brass has become a favorite among local music lovers. As a traditional British brass band, the group features 28 players and produces a big, vibrant sound. "Our sound has a good deal of heft," Coulter said. "We make a sizeable, glorious sound that gets everybody's attention."

The group's sound will be all the more attention-getting during their Pops in the Park performance because of the venue. "Brandon Park is such a great venue and the bandshell is a very good place for the audience," Coulter said. "They hear us really well. The shell was well-designed and it projects our sound; it acts like a megaphone."

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The Williamsport Symphony Orchestra’s Billtown Brass group will present “A Summer Vacation Concert” at 7 p.m. Aug. 19 in the Brandon Park Bandshell as part of the annual “Pops in the Park” summer concert series. In case of rain, the concert will be held in the Loyalsock High School auditorium.

But it isn't just that the music will be loud or easy to hear. The nature of brass instruments means that brass bands can produce a range of sounds and moods, from subtle interludes to the rousing marches. "You put five brass players in a corner and they make a lot of noise," Coulter said. "People hear them, but it's also a pleasant sound. Brass, because of the nature of the tonality, is really a glorious sound. We have the potential to make a broad range of sounds because of the size of our instruments, from small to very large."

The instruments don't deserve all the credit, however. It's the musicians, after all, who are responsible for the sounds they produce. Fortunately, as Coulter said, Billtown Brass features some of the most talented musicians the area has to offer.

"Billtown Brass is a group that attracts the very best brass players in the region," Coulter said. "One of the reasons the band is so good is because of the dozen-plus people who just happen to live in this happy little valley of ours and are incredibly talented. We're blessed with a number of incredibly talented people in this region."

In terms of the show's theme, concertgoers should pack their bags and prepare to embark on a "summer vacation" across Europe and the United States. "When I was looking at the music, it occurred to me that we're going to take a musical vacation with this concert," Coulter explained. "We're going to take a musical getaway across the world."

This musical odyssey begins in Russia with a performance of "Festival Overture" by Dmitri Shostakovich, and continues through Spain with a Latin-flavored piece called "Valero"; Scotland and the Highlands with a traditional sword dance; England with a "Hymn for Diana"; France with military march by Camille Saint-Saens; and ends in America will a number of familiar favorites, including a jazz rag, a showtune, an Armed Forces Salute and, of course, John Philip Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever"-a must-have for any American brass band worth its salt.

Coulter said this program will be a varied and fun-filled show. "To put an hour-long program together for a brass band is different than putting together a symphony concert, where one piece of music might be an hour long," he said. "The Mahler First Symphony, for instance, is 54 minutes long, whereas this is 11 vignettes, each of which is four to six minutes long.

"We're going all over Europe and all over the range of styles. You may not like everything that's on the program, but you're going to like most of it. You're going to tap your foot and sing along in places. It's a program for summer enjoyment. The idea is for people to come to the concert and have a good time. You go out there and sit on your blanket and have something to eat and drink out in the park. It's a summer tradition."

As such, the Pops in the Park event has the potential to attract a greater audience than those who normally attend WSO and Billtown Brass concerts. Coulter said as many as 800 people have attended similar events in the past. Coulter hopes this year's Pops in the Park concert attracts at least that many people, if not more. He also hopes to see more concerts held in the Brandon Park bandshell.

"Since we have such a great venue in Brandon Park, it would be a shame to waste it and not use it," Coulter said. "We're always looking for program sponsors for both the WSO and the Billtown Brass so we can play more events like this. We'd love to play twice a summer."

In closing, Coulter spoke of the special moments that can only be experienced at live music events like the upcoming Pops in the Park concert. "There's something really special about live music," he said. "We need to continue that tradition. Unless you're at a live concert, you don't know when something special happened. Live music brings great enjoyment not only to me as a conductor and to the musicians performing, but also to the audience. That's a win-win-win situation."

For more information about Billtown Brass, visit .html.



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