Big Horn Brass tunes in on Oregon history
Big Horn Brass, a local brass and percussion group, will hold its seventh annual spring concert this Saturday — and in addition to beloved classics like "An American in Paris" and "Appalachian Spring," it also will perform a piece of Oregon history.
From 1856 to the 1920s, the Aurora Colony Band was a main source of entertainment in Aurora, Ore., and around the state. The band rose out of the Aurora Colony, a Christian communal society comprised of German and Swiss immigrants, but continued to perform even after the colony itself ended in 1883.
Big Horn Brass will include original music written by the Aurora Colony Band in its upcoming show, which is titled "An American Portrait."
"Town bands were a very common thing across the country in the middle of the 19th century," said Ron Babcock, a professor of music at Portland State University and a board member of Big Horn Brass. "It was a main source of entertainment."
Babcock first discovered the Aurora Colony Band during a trip to the Old Aurora Colony, a historical museum in Arora. He then learned that fellow PSU music professor Andrew Willette had received a grant to take scraps of originally composed music from the colony band and transcribe it into modern music arrangements.
"It's a nice way to feature music that was created right here in Oregon," Babcock said. "We also have members of the band who will be playing instruments from the 19th century. So (the audience) will be able to get an idea of what it actually would have sounded like with the Aurora group."
Babcock credited the Old Aurora Colony museum with preserving so much of the band's history, allowing the music to live on today.
"It is not a unique band by any stretch of the imagination," he said. "I think what's unique is that they still have so much of the history there."
In addition to music from the Aurora Colony Band, "An American Portrait" also will feature a wide range of music from American composers. The concert will feature vocalists singing an original folk song and "The Man I Love" by George Gershwin, as well as classics like "An American in Paris" (also by Gershwin) and a special arrangement of "Appalachian Spring" by Aaron Copland.
"And then of course we're going to round it out with 'Stars and Stripes Forever,'" said Babcock, "because I don't think anything is more American than John Philip Sousa."
Babcock said that because of the great range of American music Big Horn Brass plans to perform, it should appeal to a wide audience.
"I think this year's theme is very nice because it has such a very wide variety of music in it," he said "I think just about anybody is going to enjoy it."
IF you go
Big Horn Brass presents
"An American Portrait"
7 p.m. Saturday, May 20
St. Matthew Lutheran Church,
10390 S.W. Canyon Road,
Tickets: $15-$25, available at http://www.bighornbrass.org/tickets.