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James Gourlay tapped as new music director of River City Brass Band

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Friday, April 30, 2010
 

James Gourlay has been named new music director of the River City Brass Band.

He and band administrators see the move as way to keeping the band's current audience and to develop a new one.

"It's a two-pronged thing," said Gourlay, currently director of the northern England-based Grimethorpe Colliery Band, one of the most famous brass bands in the world. "But Mercedes-Benz makes more than one car and they all work well."

Carolyn Tuminella, associate director of the band, says that kind of thinking was one of the main attractions to Gourlay, who also is a tuba soloist and has held the tuba chair in orchestras in Britain and Switzerland.

"He has so many ideas that are working for him," she said. "It is an exciting time for the brass band."

Gourlay, 53, will assume the post at the beginning of the next season in September. He will have a five-year contract, details of which are not being released. He replaces Denis Colwell, who had been director for 15 years and succeeded Robert Bernat, who founded the band in 1981.

Paul Furiga, a member of the band's board of directors, says he too is encouraged by Gourlay's desire to create a fresh look for the brass band while not abandoning its current audience.

"We have got to grow the audience," Furiga said. "But we have to make our current audience happy."

Bernard Black, cornet chair of the band, believes the hiring of Gourlay will create international links for the brass band. He said Gourlay was the musicians' favorite of the three conductors who were finalists for the position.

"I was surprised someone of his stature would be willing to give up what he had and move here," Black said. "But that's great. It's all good for us,"

Black said Gourlay was "demanding" in his three weeks conducting the band in March, but "he has been doing this so long, he knows what he wants."

Gourlay said one of his main strategies could be to provide traditional material that would please subscription holders, but separate concerts that would focus on new music. He does that sort of thing in Manchester, England, with some success, he said.

Furiga agrees, and can see the band bringing in guests at such non-subscription concerts that would attract different listeners than the subscription events do.

He and Tuminella are pleased Gourlay is going to move here. The action will make him part of the area and "the face of the organization," Tuminella said.

Gourlay said he was surprised and impressed during his stay that so many people knew of the band.

"And that was in Deutschtown, the Giant Eagle, from cab drivers," he said. "Pittsburghers are very proud of their community,"

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