British-style brass band pays homage at Amp



The British are coming, but they’re waiting until after July Fourth to storm the Amphitheater. Brian Stevens and the Brass Band of Columbus, a renowned British-style brass ensemble, will play at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the Amphitheater.

“We just love the setting,” said Stevens, music director for the BBC. “We love the audience — they’re fantastic. The performance venue, the Amphitheater, is a great summertime venue for us to perform in. We just really like sharing with the folks. They’re so enthusiastic about the type of music that it’s exciting for us.”

The BBC, which last played at Chautauqua in 2013, is distinctive in its sound, made possible by the substitution of cornets and E-flat alto horns for trumpets and French horns that would traditionally be found in wind bands.

“I don’t know how often [Chautauqua] gets to hear a British-style brass band,” Stevens said. “It’s just a different sound — a very unique sound — different than any type of concert band or orchestra that you’re going to hear.”

Paul Droste, who served as music director for 20 years, founded the BBC in 1984. The band belongs to the North American Brass Band Association, which allows the ensemble to perform in competitions, several of which it has won.

Stevens, who is also a director of bands at Dublin Jerome High School in Columbus, Ohio, acknowledges the rarity of a brass band in the United States.

“There aren’t that many of us around the country and … if you go worldwide, especially in Europe and even more so in England, you’re going to have a brass band around every corner in every town,” Stevens said. “In this country it’s kind of unique.”

The 45-person ensemble, with brass instruments that range from the euphonium to the flugelhorn, has altered its performances this season in accordance with the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War.

“American Civil War Fantasy,” which was rescored for a brass band by Bill Hines, and “Lincoln’s Portrait,” a work usually carried by a string outfit, will be played in the first half of the performance. During the latter song, a band member will read excerpts from the Gettysburg Address.

The rest of the performance will be played with patriotic anthems that the BBC regularly plays at venues in and around Ohio.

Stevens said the stop in Chautauqua, though, holds a special spot on the calendar.

“It’s one of our favorite places to come and perform,” he said. “We’re just really looking forward to Sunday.”