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The Teddy Bear’s Picnic: A Musical Menagerie from America’s Golden Age
The New Columbian Brass Band – George Foreman
Dorian 93201
By Drake the Bandmaster

     Back in the January/February WWUH Program Guide I wrote of two recordings by the New Columbian Brass Band, entitled Thatsum’ Rag and A Trip to Coney Island. The first word of my review was simply this – "Delightful!" Well I’m afraid I’ll just have to repeat myself. Delightful, Delightful!! Thanks to the enterprising George Foreman and the Dorian label we new have a trio of CD’s whose music explores the long forgotten byways of what once was America’s foremost form of musical entertainment – Band music. Here Foreman has put together a stunningly performed and recorded program of 15 numbers with animal connections. Some tunes have survived the ages, such as the title tune, "The Whistler and His Dog" by banding great Arthur Pryor. (The Hartford Symphony recently performed this during one of their summer concerts in Simsbury.) Others you may recognize include "The Glow Worm," "Chicken Reel," "Turkey in the Straw," "Kitten on the Keys" and "Tiger Rag." Also included are a solo for tuba – "Elephantine Polka," a duet for cornets – "The Two Little Bullfinches," a great trombone ‘smear’ number – "Somewhere a Cow is Bawling," a longer descriptive piece – "A Morning on Noah’s Ark," (which includes lots of animal sound effects) and several other wonderful numbers. All numbers on the disc, except two, are played from historical arrangements. The whole disc is arranged in such a manner as to create the feeling of…. well, of a summertime band concert!!! Sorry, I had to get a plug in there for my summer programming, which I hope many of you caught during this past summer. Actually this disc inspired my 3rd summer program entitled "carnival of the Animals" and I played many numbers from this disc. As always in these productions, the program notes by conductor Foreman are exceptional. They include pictures of original sheet music, and wonderful stories on each of the pieces. The cover features an incredible painting from the New York Historical Society of a huge bear picnic, with bear musicians and all. I hope I can get a print of that. So get this disc and the first two and jump into the delightful and not so forgotten world of early 20th century band music.
     I am so glad that Foreman has chosen to explore other areas of band music besides Sousa marches, much as I love them. As a subscript to this review, here is a recommendation for two fabulous march discs of lesser-known march composers. They are presented by Matthew H. Phillips and His Circus Band. The band is a small one, 20-25 people, and is the proper size for an average circus band. Without a huge clarinet and flute section, the band has that scrappy and powerful quality of a real circus band. There is lots of sax sound and a very prominent first trumpet leading things on. This group plays with incredible excitement and enthusiasm. On the Vox label is the Band Music of Karl L. King. Well known in the band world, but not so well known to the general public, King was one of America’s great march writers. Highly prolific, he penned more than 180 marches. Long associated with the circus, many of his marches have a circus connection including his most famous march "Barnum and Bailey’s Favorite." It is a thrill to have this disc of 28 exciting marches, most only available on this CD. The second disc by Phillips and his band is on the Albany label. Entitled thoroughbred Thunder – Out of the Gate Gallops, Screamers and Patriotic Marches, I think the title says it all. Another fabulously played and exciting program featuring marches of 11 composers, most not so well known outside the band world. One final CD to contemplate purchasing – Frederick Fennell’s Eastman Wind Ensemble classic 1962 recording of circus marches for the Mercury Label entitled Screamers, is still available on a well done remastered CD released in 1991. By the way a screamer is what the old time circus bandsmen called those fast moving highflying circus marches. Good Listening.

Copyright©WWUH: September/October Program Guide, 2000

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