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The Teddy Bears Picnic
A Musical Menagerie from America's Golden Age

1. The Teddy Bears Picnic. John W. Bratton [3.14]
2. A Morning in Noah's Ark. Thomas H. Rollinson [7.09]
3. The Whistler and His Dog. Arthur Pryor [2.48]
4. The Two Little Bullfinches. Henri Kling [2.42]
5. The Magpie and the Parrot Theodore Bendix [5.47]
6. Chicken Reel. Joseph M. Daly [2.57]
7. Elephantine Polka. L.P.Laurendeau [4.10]
8. In Bugdom . Paul Eno [2.27]
9. The Glow-Worm. Paul Lincke [7.13]
10. Porcupine Rag Charles L. Johnson [3.15]
11. Turkey in the Straw Herman Bellstedt.Jr [5.22]
12. Parade of the Doodle-Bugs Fred L Moreland [3.12]
13. Somewhere a Cow is Bawling Jim Fisk [3.44]
14. Kitten on the Keys Zez Confrey [4.15]
15. Tiger Rag Original Dixieland Jazz Band [2.32]

The New Columbian Brass Band  George Foreman (conductor)
Recorded June 9-11 1998. Newlin Hall, Norton Center for the Arts, Danvill, KY.
Dorian DOR-93201 [60.42] DDD

The track listings above are correct. Those printed on the insert with the disc are in the wrong order.

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In the United States of the more innocent, less sophisticated days of the first twenty years or so of the twentieth century John Philip Sousa was King and the biggest name in popular entertainment. Copies of sheet music sold in huge quantities and in recognition of Sousa'a enormous appeal there were over 10,000 active bands in the US. By bands in this context we are talking of brass bands with the standard mixture we know today of cornet, trombone, horn, tuba, euphonium, clarinet, piccolo and percussion. The New Columbian Brass Band is a modern day ensemble dating from 1992, founded to recreate that "Golden Age of American Bands" using much of the repertoire of the time. They respect the conventions and traditions of the previous age and give live concerts, when the fun element is clearly a major factor, as well as recording - this is their third CD.

The Animal Kingdom - I felt I had to use Capital Letters here as such frequent use is made of them in the titling of the tracks - provides the musical content. George Foreman, conductor and co-founder of the Band, has written the excellent and thorough notes with the disc and I assume that he was a prime selector of the items played. Every one has an animal or insect connection. Some thorough research gives details of the pieces, composer, some social comment and occasional references to the sheet music of the day with its elaborate illustrated covers. He believes that the mass of material available to choose from comes partly is a result of the American obsession with animals that continues today, and in what was then a more rural-based society inevitably animals would have featured even more. Basically it gives a peg to hang a programme on and the enterprise must be rated a success.

The result of the selection is a programme of fifteen tracks giving an entertaining and enjoyable hour's listening. The Band is an excellent ensemble. Though the names featured will mean nothing to UK readers, the individual members include some eminent players in the fields and their qualities - solo or as a group - are clear. Everything we ask for in a good brass band is there - lively, alert playing, cohesive overall sound and fine contributions from the sections. Many of the tracks will be familiar even if the titles do not instantly ring a bell. Some of the pieces are still heard regularly today - Teddy Bear's Picnic, of course, is standard fare, as is Whistler and his Dog, Chicken Reel, The Glow-Worm, Turkey in the Straw. If you can still find a brass band playing in the park these days, there is still a chance that one or more of these will still be heard. The then fashionable rag-time element is apparent in several of the pieces and, in Tiger Rag, the Columbian's recreate the ODJB's original massive seller.

In keeping with the era and the simpler tastes of the day, some novelty pieces incorporating assorted animal noises are included. Chief of these is A Morning in Noah's Ark - a 'major' work with introduction and four scenes all in just over seven minutes - and the support of Woody Brooks has been added. Mr. Brooks is "a master mimic of the menagerie" - a sort of American Percy Edwards (older readers may recall him on 'the wireless'). Unsubtle humour with a impressions of dogs, cats, crowing cockerels, pigs, cattle, hens, sheep, whistling birds (shades of Ronnie Ronalde) and a surrealistic ending with a monkey, an elephant and a hymn tune. Good, innocent, simple fun.

I enjoyed this record and can safely recommend it. Well played and well recorded, if you want something a little different - try this.


Harry Downey


Harry Downey

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