It may be the best entertainment deal in or around the Brady District’s First Friday Art Crawl in October. Not only will the German-American Society of Tulsa’s Blaskapelle band be playing a free concert inside the Jazz Depot, but there’ll also be a dance instructor on hand to give lessons beginning an hour before the show – also at no cost whatsoever.
“For this gig, we’ve hired an instructor, and between six and seven she’ll be happy to teach couples to polka and waltz,” says Larry King, Blaskapelle’s manager and a trombonist in the band. “We’ve done that two or three times at the GAST [German-American Society of Tulsa] Center, and it’s been very successful. People really like it.
“There at the Jazz Hall, they put down the dance floor,” he adds, “and it’s fun to see people get out there and swing dance waltz or polka.”
It’s the second year for Blaskapelle to play the Jazz Depot on the same night that the nearby Brady District hosts the First Friday Art Crawl, which features the work of a number of regional artists, as well as several musical performers, in Brady Street venues.
“There’s always a big crowd downtown on the first Friday, and we look forward to everyone be there to celebrate,” says King.
The Blaskapelle date wasn’t chosen just because of First Friday, though. There’s a much bigger reason for this concert. On October 3,
1990 – exactly twenty four years before the day of the Tulsa show – East and West Germany were reunited, following the fall of the Berlin Wall.
“Last year was the first year for us to play the Unity Day gig, and we know as the years go by it will get bigger and bigger,” King says. “Even for a person who’s not German, and not even interested in Germany, reunification was a huge thing for Europe and the world. So it’s a great thing to celebrate. And with the kindly friendship we’ve developed with Jason, we’re really, really happy to be a part of that at the Jazz Hall,” he says, referring to Jazz Hall of Fame CEO Jason McIntosh.
“Working with Blaskapelle has been an effortless collaboration,” says McIntosh. “Our motto at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame is ‘Creating Unity Through Music,’ and that’s what Friday’s concert is all about.”
Those attending the show Friday will hear a mixture of German and American music that King figures will be tilted about 70-30 toward German numbers. He notes that the band is “slowly but steadily” adding more American music to its repertoire.
“We have started playing quite a bit of Glenn Miller music; I think even 30-year-olds know who Glenn Miller is,” he notes with a chuckle.
“We’re trying to do a little bit more of that type of music, and I’ve been after David Lawrence, our principal conductor – who does most of the arranging of our songs – to think about taking a look at some old Chicago tunes.”
The music from that hitmaking rock band of the ’70s and ’80s, with its emphasis on horns, would seem to fit right into the Blaskapelle playlist, since the group is essentially a concert band with brass predominating, although there are also woodwinds, drums, and an accordion. The term blaskapelle, in fact, is the German word for an instrumental ensemble or a brass band. And this Tulsa outfit is a large blaskapelle.
“I predict that we’ll have probably 35 musicians for this gig,” says King. “It’s very popular among our group – it’s downtown, and most of them don’t have to drive very far to play it.
“Everybody in this band is there because they want to be there, and that makes for a fun group. And we’ve got some real talent. I’m not necessarily one of them, but David [Lawrence] and Lisa Lahmeyer, our co-conductor, are super-talented musicians.
“We have some good folks who are a lot of fun to be around, and this is one of their favorite gigs,” he concludes. “I hope I’ve conveyed this to Jason, but we would love for this to be an annual thing on our calendar, the first Friday in every October to celebrate German Unity Day.”
Blaskapelle is set to begin at 7:00 p.m. Friday, Oct. 3, at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, located in downtown Tulsa’s Jazz Depot, 111 E. First Street. Admission and dance lessons are free.
The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame is a 501(c)(3) non-profit cultural and educational organization, with a mission to inspire creativity and improve the quality of life for all Oklahomans through the preservation, education, and performance of jazz, our uniquely American art form.