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River City Brass unwraps 'Christmas Overture'

Tribune-Review file
James Gourlay director of River City Brass, conducts the band.

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By Bob Karlovits
Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Amid some of the traditional musical wrappings of holiday concerts, River City Brass will present a new gift to its listeners.

The band will play Nigel Hess' “A Christmas Overture” in its “Christmas Brasstacular” holiday concerts that begin Dec. 5 at Beulah Presbyterian Church in Churchill.

The arrangement for brass band is a North American premiere of the orchestral work from 2012.

River City general director James Gourlay says the work was a big hit in the United Kingdom last year, and he is excited about presenting a new medley of holiday songs. He compares it to Leroy Anderson's oft-played “A Christmas Festival,” but is glad to present Hess' “own take on the Christmas songs.”

The shows will include a number of Christmas classics, but also will include a look at “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” that Gourlay says is “nationalized” to represent Santa Claus' trip around the world.

The concerts also will feature school and community choirs that Gourlay says provide a different sound and help to lure a different audience for the band.

“We get people who might not think about going to a brass band concert, but will go to hear the choirs,” he says. “But what can be more like Christmas than brass music and choirs?”

The concerts and the choirs at them are: Dec. 5 at Beulah Presbyterian with the Plum High School Choir; Dec. 6 at Carson Middle School, McCandless, with that school's choir and the grade 6-12 choir from Pittsburgh's Creative and Performing Arts School; Dec. 7 at the Palace Theatre in Greensburg with the Westmoreland Choral Society; Dec. 10 at Upper St. Clair High School with that school's choir; Dec. 11 at the Lincoln Park Community Arts Center, Beaver County, with the Central Valley High School Choir; Dec. 12 at Carnegie Music Hall, Oakland, with the Shaler Area and Valley Area high-school choirs.

All concerts start at 7:30 p.m. Admission: $19-$41. Details: 412-434-7222 or

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 412-320-7852.

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