Last fall, I was offered the chance to lead a brass ensemble in Duffy Square to let people see live musicians playing live music and enjoying themselves.
Gotham Wind Ensemble was born. On Oct. 20, 2003 we rehearsed each piece once, walked over to Duffy Square and played. Despite the 50-degree temperature and the swirling wind, the band sounded great, people seemed to enjoy themselves, and there was a strong feeling of solidarity. (The November 2003 issue of Allegro covered the concert in a photo story.)
Afterward, when I would see participants of that event, they would almost universally ask, “When’s the next gig?”
Soon after that, two members of the ensemble, Joe Reardon and Anita Miller, gave birth to a daughter, Julia, their first child.
Julia was born with a rare disorder that made it impossible for the two halves of her brain to communicate with each other, causing her to have 20 seizures an hour at birth.
The only action that could be taken to help was to perform a hemispherectomy, cutting out half the brain. When Julia gained enough weight, this was done successfully.
Joe and Anita are 802 members on the union health plan, but the costs of treating Julia are still very high.
So, with the help of Local 802, the Julia Fund was established. Many of our fellow musicians and friends gave generously, and the fund got a very nice start.
But, in trying to think of what more could be done, I thought of my group, the Gotham Wind Ensemble, and the question I was still hearing — “When’s the next gig?”
I started approaching the musicians and asking if they would like to take part in a recording of children’s music, donating their services, with proceeds from sales going to the Julia Fund.
We decided early on that, to protect the members, the job would pay pension and health and would be filed.
To my amazement, people kept saying yes.
Musicians, arrangers (who created seven brand new pieces!), engineers, performing halls, guest soloists — even percussion delivery services — all donated to this project.
So, the next thing I knew, we were recording the following program:
- “Children’s March” by Percy Grainger
- “Mother Hubbard March” by John Philip Sousa
- “Mother Goose March” by John Philip Sousa
- “A Child Is Born” by Thad Jones
- “Children’s Prayer” from “Hansel & Gretel” by Engelbert Humperdinck
- “The Wheels On The Bus” arranged by Mike Holober
- “Twinkle, Twinkle” arranged by Tony Kadleck
- “Frere Jacques” arranged by Pete McGuinness
- “Jeremy” by Scott Robinson
- “This Old Man” and “Brahms’ Lullaby” arranged by Mike Christianson
- “All The Pretty Little Horses” arranged by Mark Patterson, featuring a trombone duet with Joe Alessi and Jim Pugh.
The amount of effort put into this by the arrangers, musicians, soloists, engineers and movers was quite amazing and touching. The vibe was nice all the way.
We all hope that this will help raise money for the Julia Fund and give Joe and Anita some more of the help they are going to need.
When the CD is available for purchase, I will try to publicize it so that people know how to buy it.
In the meantime, you can make a donation to the Julia Fund by sending a check made out to the Council for Living Music, Inc. (Make sure you write “Julia Fund” in the memo field of your check.) Send the check to Local 802 Controller Jon Bogert, Re: Donation to Council for Living Music, Local 802, 322 West 48th Street, New York, NY 10036.
The photos on these two pages were taken by regular Allegro photographer Walter Karling, who visited the second day of our recording session at New Jersey City University on March 2.
Mike Christianson is a member of Local 802. He can be reached at email@example.com.