MUSCATINE, Iowa–Music has a way of bringing people together. Especially in difficult times, music unites people though positive shared experiences. Though seven Muscatine area musicians did not plan on creating a weekly outdoor concert series, their shared love of music and desire to bring it to others led them to do just that.
While Walter Conlon and Travis Goettl practiced playing horn together one afternoon, they came up with the idea to occasionally start playing publicly. They shared it with some other brass players they knew, and soon a group of seven had formed. Together, Conlon and Goettl, along with Rita Beecroft (playing baritone), Al Brotherton (playing trombone), Jim Hancock (playing trumpet), Dick Marr (playing trombone), and Tom Miller (playing tuba) started practicing together at the Palms Theatre. Soon though, they began looking for a place to play publicly.
With few venues open for indoor performances, the septet, lovingly called Basically Brass, the Muscatine Brass Ensemble, or Six and the Single Girl (depending on who you ask) opted to begin holding informal outdoor concerts. Originally playing in Riverside Park, the septet now plan to perform each Monday beginning at 11:30 a. m. on the First National Bank patio.
A unique assortment of instruments and songs, each concert features a medley of the players’ favorite music. Ranging from hymns to oldies to jazz and everything in between, performances provide a wonderful range of music in an enjoyable setting. Many of the pieces they play adapt music traditionally set for brass quintets to suit their wider range of instruments. On Sept. 21, they showed off their eclectic style with a handful of enchanting pieces including the upbeat “That’s A Plenty” by Lew Pollack and the melodic “Mood Indigo” by Barney Bigard and Duke Ellington.
Because the COVID-19 pandemic has severely curtailed the scope and size of events that can safely take place, the septet hopes their public concerts will bring joy to those who come out to listen to them. “Muscatine is kind of hurting for public music, so we thought we’d help,” Conlon said. In the first two weeks of concerts, several nearby picnics have enjoyed them. All the musicians hope that others will come out to listen, so long as the weather holds. In future weeks when it becomes too cold or inclement to play outdoors, they plan to find an inside space to continue their shows.
Regardless of their audience size, all of the performers enjoy their time together each Monday. “Everybody needs a creative outlet,” emphasized Miller. Goettl added that the performances and practice time offer great camaraderie and that the whole group enjoys their time together. As their concert series continues, they hope you will join them over lunch to share in their genial gatherings.