BR Concert Band members take a walk on the wild side

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my.

But the Baton Rouge Concert Band doesn’t stop there.

Make a trip to BREC’s Independence Park Theatre on Sunday, April 21, and you’ll also find yourself mingling with wolves, turkeys, roosters, elephants and even an old sorehead. Musically speaking, of course.

Oh, and the sorehead? That’s composer Julius Fucik’s tribute to a grumbly old bear. He titled it “Der alte Brummbar,” after writing it in the early 1900s, specifying that it is a comic polka for bassoon and orchestra.

And it’s the highlight of the concert band’s lineup of selections for its spring concert, which begins at 3 p.m.

“There aren’t many pieces that have been written for bassoon, and this one’s a lot of fun,” trumpeter Jim Kersh said.

“When I hear our bassoons play it, I always think about how it sounds like something Dr. Dolittle would do,” tuba player Gaston Bordelon added.

Kersh and Bordelon joined fellow band members David Wallace, Ellen Bordelon, Richard Kilpatrick, Rick Barrios and Jim Young at an old sorehead’s cage at BREC’s Baton Rouge Zoo. Actually, the cage belongs to two soreheads, who really weren’t grumbly at all.

They were just two bears who were awakened to a group of instrument-carrying humans after a rainy morning. They were curious, and they were in the right place at the right time, because they perfectly fit into the concert band’s concert theme, “A Musical Zoo.”

In fact, the entire zoo fits in with the theme, which is why the handful of band members gathered there for photos leading up to the concert.

“We came up with the idea after talking to our librarian,” Kersh said. “We started looking through our music, and we came up with a list of between 15 and 20 songs with animal themes. We talked to Sheily (Bell, the band’s director) about it, and she liked the idea.”

“We’re all having a lot of fun with this program,” Kersh continued. “I think the audience will like it, too.”

But the audience will be doing more than listening during this concert. In keeping with the theme, the band will corral its instruments into a petting zoo, allowing audience members to see what it’s like to hold and even play a musical instrument.

Ever wonder exactly how much a tuba weighs? Or how much breath it takes to produce just one note from a trumpet?

Well, the instrument petting zoo will be open for business, and who knows? The experience may inspire some audience members to learn how to play musical instruments.

The same kind of musical instruments that will usher in an afternoon parade of animals through such numbers as movie music from The Lion King and Dances With Wolves, and such classic favorites as “Turkey in the Straw.”

And what animal-themed concert would be complete without Camille Saint-SaĆ«ns’ “The Carnival of the Animals?”

“My favorite song on the program is a song by John Philip Sousa called ‘The Roosters Lay Eggs in Kansas,”’ Bordelon said. The song is a fun, catchy, tongue-in-cheek melody that Sousa often used as an encore.

“People in the band will pop up and sing during the song,” Bordelon continued. “It’s a lot of fun.”

David Wallace, another trumpet player, pegged Arthur Pryor’s “The Whistler and His Dog” as his favorite concert piece. “There’s a part of the song where the whistler is whistling for his dog,” he said. “So, we whistle during the song.”

As for trombonist Richard Kilpatrick, it’s back to “The Old Sorehead.”

“A lot of times, you don’t see bassoon players featured during a song,” he said. “We have two bassoon players, and this song features both of them.”

They turned around to watch the bears, who had lost interest in the group, a signal that it was time to leave the zoo.

Now it’s time for “A Musical Zoo” of lions and tigers.

And, yes, soreheads.