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River City Brass taking show on the road to South Asia |

River City Brass taking show on the road to South Asia

Mary Pickels
| Thursday, February 7, 2019 1:30 a.m

Anvil Chorus

A River City Brass ensemble is transporting a bit of Pittsburgh’s musical spunk, and looking forward to some cultural inspiration, as part of a performing and educational tour in Dhaka, Bangladesh, this week.

Artistic director/conductor James Gourlay and seven musicians — Hakeem Bilal, Gabriel Colby, John Sebastian Vera, Jeffrey Nicodemus, David Piecka, Josh Boudreau, Shawn Wilson and band development director Philip Parr — are making the Feb. 8-16 trip.

Planned are concerts at a gala for the American International School Dhaka, the U.S. and Brazilian embassies, and at various local schools.

Gourlay will document the trip via the RCB Facebook page, and livestream some of the events.

“We want to show our fans what it’s like in Bangladesh … ‘here we are in the downtown markets, in the schools,’” he says.

The ensemble will perform for the school’s fundraising Tiger Ball on Feb. 15, and perform and hold workshops in several public schools.

Part of the group’s mission is education. Through its youth band, it offers student instruction and concert performances.

The nearly 40-year-old band annually plays a series of concerts, blending American tunes, Big Band swing and jazz, Broadway and Hollywood tunes, classical and contemporary works and marches.

Scottish by birth and a proud new American citizen, Gourlay says the concerts will include Broadway tunes, American pop songs and “God Bless America.”

The programs also will feature RCB favorites like “Eye of the Tiger,” “Anvil Chorus” and “Jai Ho.”

“We are also playing music from Bollywood movies. I don’t think we can go and just offer music they don’t know,” Gourlay says.

He anticipates musical workshops and instrument demonstrations will be held in the local schools.

Gourlay’s wife, Lea Havas, former professional ballerina and current dance instructor, will teach dance and movement in drama to American International School Dhaka students.

Entertaining in, exploring capital city

Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, has a population of nearly 9 million, making it one of the most densely populated cities in the world.

“It’s comparable to New York City, or Tokyo. I’m really excited to walk around and explore it,” says trombonist Gabriel Colby, 29.

Classically trained, with a master’s degree in music from Carnegie Mellon University, the Connecticut native is in his fifth season with RCB.

Traveling ensembles are assembled based on several factors, Colby says, from the number of principal players available to the types of instrumentalists needed.

Colby looks forward to participating in student instruction and demonstrations.

“I think we will go into some schools and do little performances, answer questions, allow participants to explain how brass instruments work,” he adds.

Colby and several ensemble members planned to leave early and visit Thailand for a few days before traveling to Bangladesh.

“I think any time you go visit a new location, especially some place as different and far away as Bangladesh, it inspires you in your music. … Travel gives new inspiration to the art. It breathes fresh life into it. That would be our gain,” he says.

Brass bands are unusual in many countries, he adds. “I hope it’s an opportunity for the people of Dhaka, Bangladesh, to hear something they never heard before.”

Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-836-5401, or via Twitter @MaryPickels.

Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-836-5401, or via Twitter .

James Gourlay, River City Brass artistic and general director.
Alisa Innocenti |
Gabriel Colby plays trombone with River City Brass.
Categories: Features | Music
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