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Brass Band of Battle Creek

Published 21st January 2008, 3:6pm

The internationally acclaimed Brass Band of Battle Creek (BBBC) will feature at a free public concert at First Baptist Church on Saturday the 26th January, hosted by the Ministry of Education, Training, Employment, Youth, Sports & Culture, as a prelude to the 2008 National Heroes Day celebrations two days later, on Monday 28th. Anybody who attended last year’s National Heroes Day will be familiar with the lilting tones and uplifting rhythms of the BBBC, who entertained crowds at the ceremony and the informal celebrations afterwards. Culture Minister, Hon. Alden McLaughlin, JP, said, "National Heroes Day is a day for everyone, and so we wanted to open the celebrations with something really spectacular that everyone could participate in for free. Seeing as we had once again secured the Brass Band of Battle Creek for the big day, staging a free concert beforehand at no extra cost was too big an opportunity to pass up. It is rare that a band of this stature performs in the Cayman Islands and so this is a performance that people will not want to miss!" The Minister added, "The band will also accompany proceedings at the National Heroes Day 2008 celebrations, which promise to be the biggest ever with all the traditional elements, a distinctly maritime theme and a few nice surprises." Jim Gray, who with brother Bill Gray, created the band in 1989 said, "We are thrilled to be back in the Cayman Islands. It was a real honour for us to play at last year’s National Heroes Day and we are proud to count the islands’ largest national celebration among our list of prestigious performing venues." These venues have included England's Royal Albert Hall; the International Trumpet Guild ‘Brassfest’ in Bloomington, IN. and the International Trombone Association’s annual world meeting in Champagne, IL. As part of the build up to National Heroes Day 2008, the BBBC is also supporting Cayman’s youth by conducting workshops in schools for over 200 of the islands’ advanced music students, as well as a mini-concert for school-band members for whom this will be the opportunity of a lifetime to play at the very top international level. One such student, Megan Griffith, said, "It's great to get to play with musicians of such amazing ability and I can't wait to have this opportunity because they are awesome! I feel very lucky to have this chance." The band is preceded by its reputation as one of the best (many say the best) of its genre in the world. According to the band’s publicity machine, ‘The BBBC has grown to cult status in Battle Creek, where its concerts are regularly sold out and waiting lists are created weeks in advance’. The 31-member Brass Band of Battle Creek has been described as an ‘All-Star band of the brass and percussion world's elite’, attracting great musicians from around the United States and Europe. The band's rotating roster includes some of the finest musicians in the world such as Jens Lindemann , former member of the Canadian Brass and faculty member at UCLA; and Wycliffe Gordon, former trombonist for Wynton Marsalis Septet and Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. The BBBC, whilst rooted in the British brass band tradition, characterized by larger ensembles of brass and percussion, also weaves in American elements such as jazz improvisation, pops and swing. The BBBC prides itself on this versatility, claiming that this is what makes it "truly unique among brass bands". Trumpet legend Doc Severinsen, who has twice appeared with the band, says of the BBBC, "This band represents the beginnings of a new music movement in America. It's one of the most accomplished groups I've ever worked with in my entire career." National Heroes Day, as the islands’ largest cultural event, is considered to be a special time to reflect upon Cayman’s proud past and embrace a future filled with hope. It takes place at the end of January in Heroes Square, downtown George Town. After a period of absence following the ravages of Ivan, the event returned to Cayman’s annual calendar last year in grand style. Traditionally guests at the official proceedings enjoy uniform parades, a children’s choir, live music and a few treats specific to theme of that year’s event. A large part of the ceremony is also given over to the laying of wreaths (guests are strongly encouraged to bring their own) at the Wall of Honour in remembrance of loved ones passed. Official proceedings are followed by a less formal gathering of friends and family in a festive atmosphere fuelled by refreshments and entertainment. National Heroes Day is open to everyone and there is no admission charge. The First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman, the concert venue, is on Crewe Road in George Town. The official National Heroes Day website is at www.heroes.gov.ky and you can find more information on the Brass Band of Battle Creek at www.bbbc.net.