Dr. James Gourlay, Conductor
Featuring music from Ireland, Scotland, and other Celtic nations
In 1981, something special happened—a musical renaissance took place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Under the baton of conductor Robert Bernat, the River City Brass took to the Carnegie Music Hall stage for its inaugural concert on November 21st. It was an evening of musical excellence and determination—determination to bring about the revival of the grassroots tradition of the American brass band.
The mission of Pittsburgh’s own River City Brass (RCB) 28 member band is to entertain, educate, and engage citizens locally, nationally, and internationally in the American musical culture. RCB’s annual tradition is to present 51 regional concerts over seven months to citizens at seven regional venues, and to maintain an acclaimed youth band and Saturday Music Program. RCB has routinely conducted concerts at venues including Pennsylvania’s Musikfest and New York’s Chautauqua Institution and has appeared on The Today Show and NPR’s Performance Today.Internationally, RCB tours every several years, most recently in Italy last summer. RCB has produced 15 commercial recordings, the latest of which are River City Brass—30 Years, Christmas Brasstacular, and Proud to Be American.
Over its history, RCB has had three maestros. The astute selection of Dr. James Gourlay three years ago was a watershed moment for American brass band music. Gourlay, a Scotland native, is acknowledged as one of the world’s greatest brass band conductors. An acclaimed tuba soloist, he began his career at age 18 as the principal tubist of the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Orchestra of the Zurich Opera. Gourlay also conducted Great Britain’s Grimethorpe Colliery Band, leading one of the most internationally lauded and prominent brass ensembles in the world on a touring schedule throughout the British Isles, Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.