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By Sara Seidell, Correspondent
So you think the symphony is hoity-toity.
A rendition of “The Beer Barrel Polka” is a favored piece of one Kansas City Symphony member who’ll be appearing on the Farris stage Dec. 4.
Sing-a-longs and a famous version of “T’was the Night Before Christmas” are the favorite contributions of another.
The musicians are part of a six-piece ensemble that will help ring in the holiday season with their performance at Richmond’s historic venue this coming month. An area favorite, The Kansas City Brass takes the stage at 7:30 p.m.
Long-time Richmond resident Steve Seward is partial to the sing-a-long.
Seward, who has been playing principal tuba for the Kansas City Symphony for 31 years, says he has fond memories of playing at the Farris in his youth.
“I can still remember all of the musicals we did with (the late) Don Jackson conducting in the early 70s. We also would have some of our (Richmond) high school band concerts there with my dad (Kenneth Seward) conducting,” Seward says.
Seward says the audience can expect an entertaining concert.
“We have great fun in performing, and the audience will pick up on that,” he says.
Steve Multer, who plays French horn for The Kansas City Brass and the symphony, says the ensemble is more informal and not as intense as the symphony.
“But I do love them both,” Multer says.
Multer’s favorite Christmas piece is a rendition of “The Beer Barrel Polka,” in part because the piece itself is funny, but also because there’s a story behind it.
The story comes from Gary Schutza, Jr., who plays trumpet for the symphony and the brass.
Schutza wrote “The Beer Barrel Carols” based on memories of Christmas day spent at his maternal grandparents’ home. His grandfather, a Czech, was an accordion player—not a good one, Schutza says. Even so, he dragged out his accordion every December to learn new songs to play for his grandchildren, according to family lore.
Schutza says the house was small, and after furniture was shifted to accommodate the adults, the children sat on the floor. Although the family didn’t generally imbibe, Uncle Gary brought a gallon of good time—in other words, bourbon—to the celebration, Schutza says.
One Christmas, Schutza says Grandpa repeatedly reached for his glass of “good time,” which, after each tiny sip, turned up empty. It wasn’t Grandpa who was downing the drink, but all the children knew what was happening.
In “Beer Barrel Carols,” Schutza and his band mates tell the end of the tale. Trombonist Wyatt Henderson plays Uncle Gary, with “reel feeling,” Schutza says. The ensemble also captures the spirit of another relative, Uncle Louis, with foot stomping and yelping, in good Czech fashion, all with a catchy polka beat, Schutza says.
Joking aside, Schutza says the piece is his favorite because he sees the memories clearly when the ensemble plays it. Most of his family members are gone, but Uncle Louis is still active and stomping away.
Schutza reflects on the differences between performing with the symphony and with The Kansas City Brass. The symphony, he says, includes about 80 musicians; the brass, only six.
“All the musical ideas are ours alone,” he says of the brass. If one member has a spur-of-the-moment desire to play something differently – slower or faster, perhaps – the rest quickly and seamlessly adjust. “That makes the music making very spontaneous and fun.”
Schutza says the spontaneity is possible only if the musicians respect each other’s musicality.
He adds that on the very rare occasion that one of the brass slips up and makes a mistake while playing music he’s played hundreds of times perfectly, “it can almost break up the group into hysterical laughter, making it almost impossible to continue.”
Brian Rood on the trumpet and percussionist Timothy Jepson round out the ensemble.
Concert-goers are welcome to come to the venue early and visit the Friends Gallery, where cappuccino, wine and beer will be available.
Also in the gallery, artwork created by area painters will be on display.
The fourth Farris concert season continues next spring with The Nace Brothers Band on March 13, 2013, and The One and Only Tommy Dorsey Orchestra on April 18, 2013.
Advanced purchase tickets for the three remaining concerts are available for $12 each. Reserved seat tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Ticket sales at the door will be $14 per show.
The series is made possible through support from area sponsors.
Major sponsorship support comes from Shirkey Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. Sponsors include C&C Discount Drug, the Ray County Community Arts Association, the Richmond Rotary Club, Richard Bidding/Edward Jones, Mike and Vickie McCalley, Tom Bowman and Sara Seidel, Community Bank of Missouri, Westbrook & Co., Harry Ritchie, Bob and Virginia Swafford, Levan and Marguerite Thurman, Billie Hamann, Bonnie and Bill George, The Richmond News, The Lawson Review, Tabers Printing, the Richmond Super 8 Hotel and KMZU 100.7
For tickets or more information, call (816) 776-6684 or log on to www.farristheatre.com.