Sep 29, 2013 - Blaskapelle Band Presents Free Jazz Depot Concert Friday
Look up “blaskapelle” in a German-English dictionary or Google it on the Web. You’ll find several definitions, all referring, generally, to an instrumental ensemble. And of all the translations, the one that seems to pop up the most is, simply, “brass band.”
However, says Larry King, band manager and trombonist for the German-American Society of Tulsa’s Blaskapelle, that definition falls short for their particular aggregation.
“I wouldn’t call it just a brass band, because it’s more than that,” he explains. “We also have woodwinds, drums, and an accordion. It’s really a concert band.”
He expects there’ll be more than 35 musicians performing for the Jazz Depot concert Friday night, when Blaskapelle presents a free show celebrating German Unity Day. October 3, 1990 is celebrated as the official Day of German Unity, honoring the reunification of East and West Germany, following the fall of the Berlin Wall.
This engagement marks the first October appearance this year for Blaskapelle, as they begin what King terms “our big month,” leading up to a four-night engagement at Tulsa’s annual Oktoberfest a couple of weeks down the road. Although the official German Unity Day falls on a Thursday this year, King and Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame CEO Jason McIntosh opted to have the Jazz Depot concert the next evening, in part because of the number of music lovers who’ll be in the neighborhood for the monthly First Friday event in the nearby Brady Arts District.
“It makes a lot of sense, and it would be lovely to get a spillover,” says King. “It’s just a walk across the overpass, and you’re at the Jazz Hall of Fame. I think that’s fantastic.”
Those who make that trek, he adds, will hear a program that mixes both German and American music from a variety of sources.
“It’s definitely a mixture. Of course, German music is our forte, but this gig will contain maybe 30 percent American songs, such as `Moon River.’ It is a German-American band; we’re trying to be a little more flexible on that.”
Although the playlist for Friday’s show is tentative, listeners can also expect some polkas, “Mack the Knife” (from the German musical The Threepenny Opera), festival favorite “The Chicken Dance,” the classic “Auf Wiedersehen,” and an original titled “Oktoberfest in Tulsa,” composed by current Blaskapelle conductor David Lawrence.
“He wrote that, and he’s arranged a lot of our other songs,” says King. “He and the assistant conductor, Lisa Lahmeyer, are both very talented musicians. He’s about as good of a euphonium player as I’ve ever heard, and she’s the lead trumpet. They’re talented musicians and very good people.”
Inspired by bands he’d heard while stationed in Germany as a member of the U.S. Army, Tulsa’s Max Tankersley founded Blaskapelle in 2000, starting the group with himself and three other musicians – including his wife, Jutta, a Berlin native and accordion player -- who practiced in the Tankersley living room. Both Tankersleys are still with the band, along with original members Dan Belcher and Craig Stanford.
Before Lawrence, three other directors spent time with Blaskapelle. The first was Earl Johnson, a retired Tulsa Public Schools band director, who guided the group through its first year. He was succeeded by tuba player Elisabeth Gammache, who spent a dozen years with the band before moving out of the Tulsa area, and a reed man well known to area jazz and swing fans, Don Linde, who added several big-band era songs to Blaskapelle’s repertoire.
At one point, the group members began adding a visual component to their performances by dressing in a style evocative of Germany. Currently, says King, “our ‘uniforms’ consist of black pants or skirt, white shirt, and we each wear a unique orange hat that we have made in Germany. This hat is the same hat that Berlin sanitation workers wore for many years. Some members, including conductor David Lawrence, wear traditional German attire.”
That’ll be their look for Friday night’s show, in what King calls “one of our premier, if not the premier, venues to perform in this year.” He says that he believes “the band members will be coming out in force” for the concert.
“One thing I would say about the music,” he adds, “knowing about it and having played it before, is that ‘s lively and fun music. Our conductors are very informative, and they’ll be talking a little about the songs. It’ll be entertaining.”
“Working with Blaskapelle has been an effortless collaboration,” says Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame CEO Jason McIntosh. “Our motto at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame is ‘Creating Unity Through Music,’ and that’s what Friday’s concert is all about.”
Blaskapelle is set to begin at 7:00p.m. Friday, Oct. 4, at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, 111 East First Street. Admission is free.
The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame is a 501(c)(3) non-profit cultural and educational organization, with a mission to inspire creativity and improve the quality of life for all Oklahomans through preservation, education, and performance of jazz, our uniquely American art form.
Also follow our news updates on ireports.cnn.com.