December 15, 1995 in Seven

The Same - But Different - Christmas Concert

William Berry Correspondent

Putting together an annual Christmas concert presents its own particular dilemma. Usually groups do not want their programs to be identical to performances past, but Christmas is different. Christmas is about tradition and warm memories, so novelty gets short shrift. Going out on a limb for the holidays means finding new ways to bow to tradition.

The Spokane Falls Brass Band has achieved the status of a local tradition with their annual “Christmas in Old Spokane.” Since 1982 the show has become a pivotal event on the yuletide calendar, expanding to four performances as of last year.

Horn player and spokesman for the group, Verne Windham, addresses the quandary of “how to stay the same and be different” with a theory of evolution.

Windham says, “It has to do with the personality of the group, five brass players and a singer, developing back into the identities of six individuals. Years ago we began by doing what lent itself to being performed by the group. But over the years, what we do has evolved into more of a personal statement about Christmas through our arrangements and our plans, which just happens to use the resources we have on hand.”

For “Christmas in Old Spokane,” the traditional resources have expanded to include not only soprano Ann Fennessy and five of the top local brass players, but pianist Sara Logan and percussionist Martin Zyskowski as well as the musicians’ talents on guitar, recorder and penny whistle.

One of the things which will be the same this year as last, and which can honestly be called “back by popular demand,” is “The Snowman.” This enchanting 28-minute animated children’s film by Raymond Briggs tells the story of a snowman who comes to life and his escapades with the boy who made him.

The Spokane Falls Brass Band introduced their accompaniment to this film at last year’s concert and fell in love with it. Windham says, “Yes, it’s popular demand - the band’s popular demand.”

New for this year will be a collection of Appalachian folk tunes arranged for the group by hornist Roger Logan. John Jacob Niles set out in the Appalachian Mountains with a tape recorder in the early 1930s and captured many wonderful folk songs which might otherwise have been lost.

Logan has selected “Lulle Lullay”, “Jesus the Christ is Born”, “Jesus, Jesus Rest Your Head” and “Jesus Born in Beth’ny” for inclusion in his medley.

Several of John Rutter’s Christmas compositions have also been arranged for the band by trumpeter Larry Jess. Rutter is the director of the Cambridge Singers and has penned such recent classics as “Shepherd’s Carol”, “Donkey Carol” and “The Very Best Time of the Year.”

The solution for the Christmas concert dilemma? Expect the same only different. The Spokane Falls Brass Band keeps some of the best, and replaces what has been good with what might be better.

xxxx The Spokane Falls Brass Band Brass Band with Ann Fennessy Locations and time: The Met, Thursday at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 22 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 23 at 2 p.m. Tickets: $14, $12 and $9

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