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River City Brass Band to Play Along River’s Edge in Kittanning

July 10, 2008

By Rex Rutkoski, The Valley News-Dispatch, Tarentum, Pa.

Jul. 10–Down by the riverside is the place to be this weekend.

The River City Brass Band will perform a free concert at 6 p.m. Friday. The show will be the second offering in the new Arts On The Allegheny series in Kittanning.

Mary Ann Valasek, chairman of the Arts on the Allegheny committee, says the debut concert by Gaelic Storm June 1 was a “fantastic” success, drawing an overflow crowd to the John P. Murtha Amphitheatre off Riverfront Park.

“The River City Brass Band is another energetic group who always gives a lively and memorable performance. They have something for everyone,” says Valasek, who lives in Kittanning.

The Pittsburgh-based brass band works hard to ensure that the concerts are enjoyable for everyone, says Denis Colwell, the band’s conductor and music director.

Their goal is to deliver professional-level performances of American classical music, he says. Selections usually include marches, opera overtures and arias, Broadway showtunes, folk music, Big Band and swing music, and light classical selections.

“I love to hear from concertgoers who say that while it was the first time they’ve heard the band, it will certainly not be the last,” Colwell says. “This happens frequently, and I’d like to think it results from the band’s audience-centered approach to repertoire and onstage antics.”

Some ensembles, especially those that perform classical music, can seem aloof, says Drew Fennell, associate conductor and principal flugelhornist. “I enjoy the moment in any of our concerts when a new audience realizes they are just watching a bunch of regular people who just like to play music,” says Fennell, a Natrona Heights resident and native of Ford City.

Fennell describes the River City Brass Band as a “pops orchestra” made up entirely of brass and percussion.

“We play music that people want to hear. We listen pretty intently to the response of audiences and try to adapt to find the best mix of music possible in an attempt to appeal to as wide an audience as possible,” he says.

Colwell says the repertoire for Friday’s performance likely will include offerings from John Phillip Sousa, Dave Brubeck and Randy Edelman.

“There also will be a selection featuring Ford City favorite son Drew Fennell,” Colwell says.

Fennell appreciates the riverside setting in Kittanning, recalling a River City Brass Band performance there in June 2007.

“As we neared the climactic moment of ‘America the Beautiful’ (with the Kittanning Firemen’s Band as guests on stage), I looked to my left up over the bridge. The sun was just beginning to set. It was, for me, a sort of perfect moment,” he says.

The Arts On The Allegheny series will conclude Aug. 16 with a free performance by Pittsburgh rockers The Clarks.

Rex Rutkoski can be reached at rrutkoski@tribweb.com or 724-226-4664.

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Copyright (c) 2008, The Valley News-Dispatch, Tarentum, Pa.

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