At 2:30 p.m. this Sunday, the Buffalo Silver Band will take the Amphitheater stage for the first time. There are hundreds of brass bands around the world, but only one in western New York.
“If they haven’t had a chance to hear us, there aren’t other bands or orchestras around like ours to hear,” said Larry Thompson, a cornet player with the band.
Thompson has been playing with the band for more than 25 years, though the band has been active since 1915.
Originally called the Hungarian Baptist Band, the ensemble performed during Sunday evening services at a Baptist church in Buffalo, N.Y. In 1981, after a few name changes, it became the Buffalo Silver Band.
The brass band genre was approaching extinction in the United States before the 1980s, though it is considerably more popular in the United Kingdom and Canada. But today, the North American Brass Band Association counts 40 member bands in the U.S.
“Brass bands in the United States are going through a new renaissance right now,” Thompson said. “They’re becoming more and more popular.”
Thompson grew up listening to Salvation Army brass bands. He credits those bands for inspiring his love of the music and for keeping the brass band tradition alive in the U.S.
“The Salvation Army just recently, in the last 10 years, opened up its music to us,” Thompson said. “We do play some Salvation Army pieces, which are beautiful, sacred works.”
The Buffalo Silver Band will play one or two Salvation Army pieces at their concert Sunday, but will also play Sousa marches, jazz, light classical and pop numbers.
As a true British brass band, the ensemble plays cornets rather than trumpets and alto horns rather than French horns. The result is a more mellow sound.
“The sound will be very loud when we want it to be loud,” Thompson said, “but we can also play very softly when the music calls for [it].”
The band primarily plays at charity events and outdoor festivals. Its ranks include both amateur and professional musicians, though none are compensated for their time; they play out of a love for the music.
“All of our players have a love of performing, playing the music and getting the satisfaction of seeing an audience that we’re performing for having a great time,” Thompson said.
The youngest members are high schoolers, who only play in the band’s summer series, and the oldest range from 70 to 80 years old.
“I’ve been there with certain members of the band who have become lifelong friends over the last 25 years,” Thompson said. “We’re constantly meeting new people all of the time, too. It’s a great community experience.”