Music ranging from European baroque to 19th-century American marches and New Orleans jazz will burst from 25 bands at the Vintage Band Festival this week.
The last time they did this, in 2006, 15,000 people descended on Northfield, Minn., to soak up the music. Twenty-five bands will play more than 100 gigs this week as part of the Vintage Band Festival, held mostly in Northfield but also spreading out in smaller degrees to New Prague, Faribault, Cannon Falls, Lonsdale and Farmington. There are even two performances at the Walker Sculpture Garden in Minneapolis.
Paul Niemisto, who teaches in the music department at St. Olaf College, is the artistic director of the festival. He expects the crowds to exceed those of 2006.
Q How do you define a "vintage band"?
A The lines are a little gray. The way I see it, it's an ensemble that reflects a bygone era or has an ethnic focus. For instance, we have bands that play Civil War music, Victorian music, late 1800s brass music from the countryside. We also have a St. Paul mariachi band and a Philadelphia band that plays standard music but uses period setups -- sackbuts [Renaissance trombones], cornets.
Q Oh, yeah, sackbuts. I was wondering about the instrumentation. Are there requirements?
A These are bands made up of instruments that you blow into or bang on.
Q So it's more about their repertoire?
A Rep, and how they approach it stylistically. With the authentically old instruments, for example, they won't play in the modern, forceful way. It's a bit more sedate and serene, not so edgy.
Q What venues are you using in Northfield?
A They are pretty casual. During the day, we'll be in parks where people can sit and listen to a concert outside. The formula is that in the middle of the day, you can go to seven or eight places around town and find concerts out in the neighborhoods. By 5 p.m., everything is down to Bridge Square [downtown Northfield]. Then after 8:30, they go into the clubs.
Q And the other towns?
A These are satellite performances. Those towns want to cooperate with us, so we'll send out one of the groups from the festival to go there as goodwill ambassadors.
Q How did this get started in 2006?
A It spontaneously exploded on its own. In my profession as a brass teacher and conductor, I've been to a lot of festivals around the world. I was in Austria one time and looked out at this small town with a river through it and I thought, "There's no reason we can't do this in Northfield." So the festival grew out of a later conference we had in Northfield, where we decided, "Let's have some entertainment." And the festival became larger than the original conference.
Graydon Royce • 612-673-7299