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A British Christmas 

by Mike Corrigan

News flash: The Spokane British Brass Band is not British! It's true. Nevertheless, the local 30-piece brass and percussion ensemble reproduces in theme, makeup and execution the look, feel and, most significantly, the sound of a classic British-style brass band.

Featuring a large collection of conical brass instruments (including cornets, flugel and tenor horns, English baritones, euphoniums, trombones and tubas), British brass bands are celebrated for their mellow, rich tones and powerful dynamics. The music's roots extend into early 19th-century England, when, in an effort to boost morale, local collieries and foundries formed their own bands as a type of after-hours activity for their workers. Unlike many other forms of music, the medium has always remained an amateur endeavor. The notion of playing music for the love of it, rather than for pay, is considered a key element of a traditional British brass band -- and one not lost on the SBBB.

A member of the SBBB group since its inception in 1995, conductor and artistic director Mark Williams has been a part of the local arts scene for many years as a member of the Spokane Symphony, the Spokane Civic Theatre, the Spokane Jazz Society and the 560th Air Force Band. He took over the top brass band slot from SBBB founder Michael R. Warner in 1999. He's also an educator, currently spending most of his time composing and arranging music for school bands and orchestras.

On Tuesday, December 11, the Spokane British Brass Band will present "A Very Brassy Christmas," an evening's worth of stirring holiday fare featuring works by Handel, Debussy, Berlioz and Faure. The program also features several soloists, including Spokane Public Radio's chief engineer Jerry Olson performing an "Impromptu for Tuba." The second half of the performance focuses on familiar music of the holiday season, including a jazz Nutcracker (entitled Nutcracker "Sweet") that is reputed to swing -- hard.

So come on over, holiday music lovers, and help the SBBB celebrate a centuries-old, very English tradition. Just leave your reeds at home.

-- Mike Corrigan

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