Metro, Newton

Bay Colony Brass Delivers Veterans Day Performance to Newton Audience

The Bay Colony Brass ensemble introduced itself to Newton and commemorated Veterans Day with a Saturday evening concert at the First Unitarian Universalist Society.

The concert featured pieces with military themes and readings of soldiers’ letters from wars throughout American history. Mayor Ruthanne Fuller began the concert by reading a letter from a Civil War soldier.

“I’m honored to read the last letter from Maj. Sullivan Ballou written to his wife, Sarah, in the days leading up to the Battle of the First Bull Run,” Fuller said.

Fuller and the other speakers, Spc. Andre Pasquarosa and Lance Cpl. Stephen Daniel, helped to celebrate the memory of fallen soldiers, according to Bay Colony Brass music director Philip Sanborn.

“The readers for the letters, you know, I anticipated that they would do a good job, but they were just spectacular,” Sanborn said. “They put a lot of emotion into it.”

After years of being based in Burlington, Mass., the Bay Colony Brass ensemble recently relocated to Newton. Saturday evening marked the inaugural concert for the ensemble in its new location.

“[We] were up in Burlington, kind of all over the place, so we wanted to center ourselves in Newton, so we’re going to be at the Second Church in Newton, practicing and all that,” Sanborn said.

Because the introductory concert date coincided with Veterans Day, Sanborn decided to use the event to commemorate Newton’s veterans.

“We morphed Veterans Day into our, you know, new beginning,” Sanborn said.

The concert was scheduled to take place at the Second Church in Newton, but switched to the First Unitarian Universalist Society at the last minute due to a heating problem at the Second Church. Sanborn said the ensemble took steps to ensure its sounds would work with the new location’s acoustics.

“We really didn’t know going into this concert what this room was like—if it would be too echoey or whatever,” Sanborn said. “We got in here early to practice and got a beautiful sound, so we’re very happy with it.”

Second Church members still came to support the ensemble despite the change in location.

“This gives us a little intro because they’ll be coming to our church, which is very nice,” Second Church patron and Newton resident Donna Johnson said. 

The ensemble played seven pieces, including classic military hymns like “Salute to the Armed Forces” and overtures from films about the military like 1941 and Saving Private Ryan.

“We went sort of patriotic and that’s why we picked [Charles] Ives’ ‘America’ and why we picked the ‘Fanfare for Democracy’ and the ‘1941 March’—because the movie 1941 is about the precursors to Pearl Harbor,” Sanborn said.

Concert attendee and Newton resident Marjorie Jordan recalled the memory of her uncle, who served in Europe during World War II. Jordan said she noticed the toll his military service took on him.

“He was in the invasion of Italy, and almost all his men with him in the invasion of Italy died,” Jordan said. “I don’t think he ever recuperated.”

Jordan said veterans often don’t receive enough support for the trauma they endure, pointing to her uncle’s struggles with mental health after his service.

“They have to treat the depression afterwards,” Jordan said. “They know that now, but they didn’t know it then.”

Johnson also talked about her connection to Veterans Day, and said she observed the holiday by honoring her late father-in-law, who served in the Air Force during World War II.

“My father-in-law was actually in the Army Air Force,” Johnson said. “He was an instructor in the north of England, and he would debrief the guys every day on their bombing. Today, I went to the cemetery and found my father-in-law. I was there.”

November 12, 2023