In a gravelly voice, the venerable conductor pauses to coach the band. He finely tunes the dynamics of the players, the precision of the instruments, the meter and rhythm. It’s ‘bah b-bah b-bah’, he says to the players; there are no slurs. The players listen and, each one of them seasoned musicians in their own right, adjust their playing to create the clear, even and even majestic sound of the King Street Brass Band.
It’s an ensemble of pure brass, in the form of a traditional English brass band, explains baritone player Lowell Williamsons, one of the founders of King Street. Together with fellow musician Dave Romagnoli and a few others, they formed King Street to bring the distinct sound of a traditional brass band to the Waterloo Region.
“This is a new project,” explains Williamson. “We’re like a brass band like you would see in England – the instrumentation is all brass instruments, and that is something new to the area.”
Meeting in the basement of the Breslau Mennonite Church twice a month, the King Street ensemble are still in the developmental stages, says Williamson, but are coming along fast. Because they are the only brass band in the area, King Street has players coming from outside the township to play.
They are hoping to add to the roster with more recruits, and encourage players to try out, but caution that it is not for beginners.
“I’ve been playing for 60 years, not that I’m any better than I was after 10 years,” says co-founder Romagnoli with a laugh.
Romagnoli also plays for the Waterloo Regional Police band, while other King Street members have experience with the Salvation Army band, the Kitchener Musical Society, Cambridge Concert Band, Oakville Winds and Ayr-Paris Band.
“Like every band that exists around in this area, somebody from one of those bands is playing. And in some cases there’s a couple,” he adds. “I like to think that the better players of all those bands are playing here. Really.”
Amateurs, the King Street Brass certainly are not.
“We’re basically not a start-up group,” says Williamson. “We want them at a certain level to be able to come in and read and because there’s no instruction per se.”
Rather, the group caters to experienced players looking for a creative outlet.
“It’s more about developing the sound as a group as opposed to building individual habits or skills,” he says. “If someone was willing to join, they could come out and play with us for a bit and see if it’s a good fit.”
Brass bands have a unique sound to them, explains Romagnoli, quite different to concert bands and the like. The biggest differences, in his mind, is that there are no reed instruments. Rather, the band instrument’s all have a similar “vibration” that give the playing a clear ringing sound. For brass bands especially, it’s not just the notes that are played but the dynamics – the volume of the instruments – that really matters in getting to that right sound.
“If you have a brass instrument play a note, they seem to have that same resonance, which gives it that [quality],” he says. “If you hear a big band play all brass, it’s got a real unusual, almost like an organ resonance to it.”
“I’ll be honest with you: I love the sound of a brass band,” says Williamson. I’ve played in concert bands and stage bands and that sort of stuff, and they’re OK and it’s good to get out and play. But there’s something different about a brass band, that the sound is very unique.”
For now, they’re polishing up their sound, says Williamson, but the band already has gigs planned for a few nursing homes in the short-term. They’re also hoping to join the Kiwanis Music Festival later in 2018, and plan to be ready to play in next year’s Christmas celebrations.
For more information visit: www.kingstreetbrass.ca