A Sunday Concert at Pioneer Park
"Step In Time"
It's a very hot Sunday (July 23, 2006) afternoon at Nevada City's Pioneer Park. We managed to get here a little early, so we could find a fair amount of shade. This month's theme for the band is to step back in time to honor an early Nevada City native, Burtis Chapman Bridges, and introduce a march he composed in 1915. Mel's parents were good friends and neighbors of Burtis' father (on Red Dog Rd - Bridges Lane) for many years.
Jim Kerr is the Announcer....
And Cheryl Sutton Baker is the Conductor of the band. The musicians are local, and from many other states, who love to be part of the concerts.
It's pretty hot, so the Conductor took a couple of breaks to hand out water sprayers to the kids to sprits the musicians and those in the audience who might appreciate it. I raised my hand and then directed her to let Mel have it....
Okay....so I couldn't resist.
Mel's bringing us a hot dog. He hid a jalapeno pepper in
mine to get even.
This young girl received a special band scholarship for her
musical accomplishments.
B.C. Bridges, (second row, third from left), played with the Grass Valley Band at the time he wrote the original march that premiered at Sunday's concert.
A band member reads Bridges story from the Union newspaper article (7/22), and the band played his un-published composition...the "1915 March"  that you're listening to.
Burtis Bridges was born in Nevada City in 1892 and had relocated to the  Bay Area by 1915. All that remains of his native property is Bridges Lane off Red Dog Road, once a driveway to his father's shop and barn....Shortly after Burtis' death in the late 1960's, his son Dave discovered the three and a half minute musical march among his personal belongings.
Dave Bridges
The march manuscript had a subtitle that read "for the Grass Valley band" ...a precursor of the Nevada County Concert Band. Dave contacted Conductor Cheryl Baker, who introduced more instruments to make it suitable for a full orchestra performance. She is considering making it a signature piece for the current band.
"It's a fairly difficult piece and is a real crowd pleaser," Baker said. "I'm considering making it a signature piece for the current band." Baker said the composition "moves very quickly and has a lot of scales in it."
Mary Whitmore, a band member, publicist and former president of the Nevada County Concert Band, said the music reminded her of the compositions of John Philip Sousa, the famous American march composer. "I've played it  in rehearsals...and it makes it even more special that it was composed by someone in our community."
But composing music was just one of the things B.C. Bridges did. Bridges was a true Renaissance man with various interests. He was a poet, a short story writer, a pianist, a clarinetist....with the Grass Valley band....but most importantly, a stalwart in criminology, with ground-breaking work in finger-printing. Dissatisfied by the extant texts on the topic in his time, Bridges wrote a book called "Practical Fingerprinting" in 1942. The book went on to become one of the bibles in the discipline and Bridges even taught summer classes in criminology at the University of California, Berkeley.
"He took whatever life gave him and created something amazing from it," Baker said. "When he wrote this march, he was only 23. He had so many more things to accomplish later in life. Just the direction that he went was intriguing."
Dave Bridges, 85, remembers his father as a very busy man he didn't get to see very much. "He was always into writing literature...short stories for magazines, poems and stuff like that," he said. "He did get tuberculosis once and had to spend two years in an establishment (where patients were treated). I was in there, and he made up a book of comic sayings and illustrated the whole thing." Dave does not recollect the father, who died in 1968, delving too much into music. "I saw him play the piano a couple of times," he said. "He used to play the tin flute sometimes, never saw him play the clarinet. Maybe he got interested in literature and other things and put music aside."
Despite the heat, it was a wonderful Sunday afternoon in the park listening to this grand band honor a remarkably talented man. As though that weren't enough, we even saw many people we knew!