Gazebos and Brass Bands
Wenn die musik anfangt den ist das hertz froh, Wenn die musik anhalte den ist das hertz Traurig. (When the music starts then the heart is glad. When the music stops then the heart is sad).
I’m sure everyone has driven through several towns and noted a gazebo in or around the town square or downtown area. Have you wondered what the gazebos are for or their history? Many are in towns where German and Czech immigrants settled. I have seen them in Fredericksburg, New Braunfels, Boerne, Schulenburg, Weimar, and La Grange. These structures were built to be used for entertainment by brass bands. Politicians also used them to make speeches as they sought election. Before television (and Sunday football) bands would provide musical entertainment at the courthouse square using the gazebos as their bandstand. Their height enabled the attending crowd to see and hear the speakers or musicians prior to public address systems.
Many of the towns had their own brass bands, but as other interests and forms of entertainment became popular the bands faded away.
One of the brass bands still in existence is the Boerne Village Brass Band. It was established in 1860 by Dr. Karl Dienger. It is the world’s oldest continually performing German band outside of Germany. In 1991, The Texas Legislature honored the band for “keeping the German music as part of our heritage.” In 1996 Germany’s most distinguished award for folk music: "The Musica Plalette” was awarded to the band by German President Roman Herzog. The band started out as backup music for the many Saengerfests (singing festivals) in the area, but popularity soon led them to playing at dances and weddings. During the two world wars the band was not very active but after World War Two it was reassembled stronger than ever.
The band traveled to Germany in 1988 and Kenneth Herbst (their leader) was honored by the president of the Federal Republic of Germany with the Friendship award for the preservation and conservation of German Music in Texas.
The Boerne band has Abendkonserts (evening concerts every other week in June and July at the gazebo in the main plaza. My wife, Dorothy, sang German songs with the band several years ago at one of their concerts.
This year's concert series was meant to celebrate the band's 160th anniversary with special guest appearances by other German music and singing groups, but the series was postponed because of the pandemic. No word yet on when it will be rescheduled.
In the city of New Braunfels, the gazebo is in the middle of two very busy street intersections (near the courthouse), therefore the New Braunfels Village Brass Band does not have concerts there. It is a very active band that plays for German festivals, church services, and other venues in the area. Their style of music follows the way German music is played in Germany and Austria.
Another familiar brass band is the Round Top Brass Band. It participates in the Fourth of July parade (which will celebrate the 170th presentation known as the longest-running Fourth of July parade west of the Mississippi. This year's event will be a shortened version because of pandemic safety concerns), at the Oktobierfest, and other events at the Round Top Rifle Hall, which is owned and operated by the local Schuetzenverein (German Shooting Club). The hall is one of the oldest dance halls in operation in Texas.
A relatively new brass band is Blasmusik Texas, which was formed in 1991 in Fredericksburg. It consists of musicians from all over Texas. Its main purpose to organize was to represent Texas at a Blasmusic Festival (wind band festival) in Germany in 1994. The band’s first performance was on July 10, 1993 in Fredericksburg. In 1994, in addition to the Blasmusik Festival in Germany, the band toured much of Europe playing concerts. It again had another successful tour of Europe in 1999.
Other interesting articles about brass bands can be found in the December 2017 issue of Texas Polka News by George Jurecka and Gary E. McKee.
There are many more brass bands all over the State of Texas but I just mentioned some that I have seen and heard. So the next time you are traveling and pass a small town with a gazebo remember you are looking at a part of Americana.