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‘Emerald Isle' Presented by: River City Brass When and where: March 2, Linton Middle School, Penn Hills; March 3, Carson Middle School, McCandless; March 4, Palace Theatre, Greensburg; March 8, Carnegie Music Hall, Oakland; March 14, Upper St. Clair...

River City Brass, Carnegie Mellon University pipers combine sounds for concert series

‘Emerald Isle' Presented by: River City Brass When and where: March 2, Linton Middle School, Penn Hills; March 3, Carson Middle School, McCandless; March 4, Palace Theatre, Greensburg; March 8, Carnegie Music Hall, Oakland; March 14, Upper St. Clair...

River City Brass, Carnegie Mellon University pipers combine sounds for concert series

‘Emerald Isle'

Presented by: River City Brass

When and where: March 2, Linton Middle School, Penn Hills; March 3, Carson Middle School, McCandless; March 4, Palace Theatre, Greensburg; March 8, Carnegie Music Hall, Oakland; March 14, Upper St. Clair High School. All concerts start 7:30 p.m.

Admission: $20-$41

Details: 412-434-7222 or rivercitybrass.org

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Updated 52 minutes ago

Brass bands and bagpipers share a legacy that sometimes keeps them apart.

“Both of them are so caught up with their competitions in the U.K., they don't often do much with each other,” says James Gourlay, music director of River City Brass and a Scot who knows quite a bit about band rivalries in his part of the world.

But, putting together a concert series that looks at Celtic music around St. Patrick's Day, Gourlay has found a way to combine the two sounds of the British Isles.

The 28-member brass band, founded in the shape of its British forbears, will for the third year running play with the pipe band from Carnegie Mellon University. The concert series, “Emerald Isle,” opens March 2 at Linton Middle School in Penn Hills.

“It's a great performing opportunity for us,” says Andrew Carlisle, professor of music and director of piping at Carnegie Mellon. “Playing with the brass band gives us to chance to play in a lot of good local venues.”

Gourlay says he loves the sound of the pipes and brass playing together. “The spectacle of the pipe band walking down the aisles and joining us onstage is just wonderful,” he adds.

While the pipes and the brass band share an ethnic heritage, they also seem to share an interest in musical freshness. Sure, a pipe band would be entirely lax if it didn't play “Amazing Grace” or “Highland Laddie.”

But Carlisle also points out the pipers will play Mark Knopfler's “Going Home” and “Time to Say Goodbye,” an Italian song that was a hit for tenor Andrea Bocelli.

“We sort of set that standard in our first concert when we played, ‘We Will Rock You,' ” he says.

Gourlay says the blend of new tunes from a traditional ensemble is all part of what the brass band has been doing in its 36-year history.

Carlisle says this blend of the two bands provides a way to offer a sound that really didn't emerge in Britain until World War I and even now is seldom explored.

Besides the pipe classics and the new offerings, the concert also will feature traditional Irish tunes such as “Danny Boy” and “How Are Things in Glocca Morra.”

Along with the pipers and the brass band, some of the concerts will feature area high school bands.

The Carson Middle School Band will play March 3 at that school; the Greater Latrobe High School band March 4 at the Palace Theatre, Greensburg; the Jefferson Middle School Band March 9 at Carnegie Music Hall; and Baldwin High School Band March 14 at Upper St. Clair High School.

“We like to have them fit into the theme, but we also like to have them play songs that show off their strengths,” Gourlay says.

Bob Karlovits is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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