In 1989, Red Wing became the home of Minnesota’s first modern British brass band. Thrity years later, that band is still playing.
Glen Newton, one of the original members , explained that the organization’s beginnings coincided with the refurbishments of the Sheldon Theatre. According to Newton, a group of musicians, many of whom played in a brass quintet together, thought:
“We need something in Red Wing because they’re just getting ready to open this new theater.”
A brass band was created because of the number of highly skilled brass players in Red Wing and the surrounding 50 to 60 miles. Since the start of the group, members have traveled from western Wisconsin and the Twin Cities to practice and perform.
The Sheldon Theatre Brass Band has played and competed at a high level for many years. The group’s accolades include participating in the North American Brass Band Association championship and hosting the championship in 1997. Red Wing, Newton told the Republican Eagle, is the smallest town to date to host the championship, which draws bands from around the United States and Canada.
Though the band has not participated in the championships for a few years, it still plays at a high level. During a rehearsal Monday, Aug. 5, the group perfected pieces for the concert scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 10. The Red Wing High School auditorium resounded with layers of melodies, harmonies and rhythm; creating waves of music that started on the stage, rolled down to the auditorium floor and washed over everything in the room.
While the pieces sound best when played as written, it is still worth it to attend a rehearsal to hear individual instrument groups practice a section of music or even a single note. The cornets alone play stanzas that require three or four part harmonies that are worthy of an entire concert.
This group of musicians play in the Sheldon Theatre band, but many of them did not attend school for their instrument.
“A lot of people in this band were majors in something other than music,” explained Newton, who holds a Ph.D. in computer science. His fellow euphonium player, Brian Borovsky, has his doctorate in physics.
The euphonium, which resembles a small tuba and is pitched like a trombone, is one of the instruments that is commonly found in brass bands but not orchestras or concert bands. Many brass bands also have cornets and alto horns, which are played instead of trumpets and french horns because they offer a more mellow sound that blends-in with the other instruments.
As the Sheldon Theatre Brass Band was taking shape 30 years ago, members who had traditionally played trumpets or french horns began looking for instruments in garage sales. Yamaha also helped the band supply musicians with instruments that did not have garage-saling luck.
The upcoming concert will feature the band (directed by Jim Kurschner, who has been the conductor since 2002) and tuba soloist Patrick Sheridan.
Sheridan has performed in over 50 countries and a variety of venues in the United States, including NBA half-time shows, the Hollywood Bowl and the White House. The tubist will have solos in two pieces and will also direct the band in “U.S. Armed Forces Medley.” This is an apt piece for Sheridan to direct because at the age of 20, he became a member of “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band. Though not on the program for the 30th Anniversary Concert, Sheridan plays a rendition of “Flight of the Bumblebee” on the tuba what is worth a visit to YouTube.
For more information about the Sheldon Theatre Brass Band and the upcoming concert, visit: www.sheldontheatrebrassband.org.
If you go:
What: Sheldon Theatre Brass Band 30th Anniversary Concert
Where: Sheldon Theatre
When: Saturday, Aug. 10
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Cost: $13 to $18