Kentucky’s longest-tenured English-style brass band will present a special concert Sunday, March 22, at Hanover College’s Fitzgibbon Recital Hall, Lynn Center for Fine Arts.
During its 31-year run, the Commonwealth Brass Band has performed at festivals and competitions throughout the U.S. and earned its reputation as the region’s top brass ensemble. From its formation in 1989 with rehearsals at a Louisville, Ky., high school, the band is now a financially self-supporting, non-profit corporation and an ensemble-in-residence at Indiana University Southeast.
The Commonwealth Brass Band’s current roster features 35 musicians, including Michael Raley, Hanover professor of history, who performs as first trombonist. J. Jerome Amend, former principal trumpet player with the Louisville Orchestra, is music director, and Anita Cocker Hunt is associate director. Shawn Roark serves as the band’s concertmaster.
The performance, which begins at 3 p.m., is open to the public, free of charge, though donations will be accepted. The concert will include selections ranging from Johannes Brahms and Gustav Holst to Klaus Badelt and William Conti.
The Commonwealth Brass Band’s appearance is made possible through support from the Madison Performing Arts Foundation, Indiana Arts Commission, and Hanover College Music Department.
English-style brass bands consist of only brass and percussion instruments. Today’s typical instrumentation includes Eb soprano cornets, Bb cornets, Flügelhorn, Eb tenor horns, baritones, euphoniums, tenor trombones, bass trombone, Eb tubas, Bb tubas, and percussionists.
Brass bands began in England with the mounted cavalry regimental bands and amateur town bands circa 1820. The first true brass band was formed in 1832 at the ironworks company of Monmouthshire, England. By the 1840s, brass bands were common across Europe and, at the turn of the 20th century, England boasted 40,000 bands including nearly 800,000 musicians.
The first American band to become an all-brass band was the Dodworth Band of New York, founded in 1834. Brass bands became popular on the U.S. frontier during the 19th century, and later, played an important role in the Civil War as adjuncts to the infantry and cavalry. By 1889, as the movement spread, there were nearly 10,000 such bands in America.
Within the last 20 years, there has been a resurgence of interest in the brass band across North America. Today, there are approximately 300 active brass bands in the U.S. and Canada.