The Brass Band of the Western Reserve will round out Independence Day weekend at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the Amphitheater with a concert titled “From Sea to Shining Sea.”
After a weekend full of all-American entertainment and activities at Chautauqua, the performance is not intended to be “out-and-out patriotic,” according to the band’s director, Keith Wilkinson. But the band’s last album was titled “From Sea to Shining Sea,” and much of its current repertoire includes such American classics as George Gershwin, Scott Joplin, Henry Mancini and Glenn Miller.
“We’re not trying to imitate the Sousa band, although there will be some Sousa,” Wilkinson said. “We’re just trying to make it a North American feel.”
As an English transplant to Columbus, Ohio, as well as a seasoned brass conductor, Wilkinson has a unique perspective on what that means. He directed the award-winning Virtuosi GUS Band in Kettering, England, from 1978 to 1985, and the William Davis Band from 1986 to 1995. GUS won BBC TV’s Best of Brass on two occasions, and William Davis won the Edinburgh International Festival and the Grand Shield Contest.
Wilkinson moved to Ohio with his wife and daughters in 1996, and formed the Brass Band of the Western Reserve in 1997. The band has competed in the championship section of the North American Brass Band Championships and recorded six albums, ranging in style but holding fast to the band’s British roots.
“The instrumentation of the Brass Band of the Western Reserve is the British style, but having said that, it’s now an international style of brass band instrumentation,” he said, noting that the band’s repertoire is also “more or less international.”
He warned against confusing the Western Reserve with red-coated British marching bands.
“Sometimes, there’s a misconception about a brass band, that it’s a sort of marching-band style,” he said. “We’re more symphonic than that, like a symphonic band but without the woodwinds. It’s not loud and in your face all the time.”
Wilkinson recently retired from being a math professor at Capital University in Columbus. But the band should keep him fairly busy: he, like several of the band’s more than 30 members, travels more than 100 miles to attend their weekly rehearsals in Akron. Why travel so far? The band attracts members who want to play well, Wilkinson said.
“We keep a fairly consistent personnel and a consistent level of performances. We don’t allow the standards to fall,” Wilkinson said. “The goal of the members of the band is that they want to play with a band that’s striving for really high standards.”