The Heidelberg Brass Band traces its beginnings to 1954, after the dissolution of the Winona Band, a concert band located in Shillington, PA. One of the clarinet players, George Koch, not being content to quit playing, approached several relatives and acquaintances, some of whom were also involved with the Winona Band. He proposed the idea of getting together from time to time and to continue performing as a musical group. Mr. Koch was the director of a local Sunday School orchestra, and as such, had access to various types of music. Using this music at first, the band, numbering at various times from eight to ten members, started with occasional performances at local activities such as church picnics, PA Dutch dialect plays, various group outings, and almost from the start, participated in several local Memorial Day services, a practice continued to this day.
Through these early years, the band, known informally as Koch's German Band, slowly began to receive more engagements, and along the way, cultivated many friendships, one of which was to become a major influence on the band. The late John B. Brendle, Commander of the Reinholds VFW Post 6759, had always engaged the band for the Reinholds Memorial Day parade. The band always wore "black and white" for performances. However, in 1960 Brendle was able to cajole the group into something more "revolutionary." Several towns in the area were celebrating the bicentennial of their founding with parades. Brendle hired the band for these parades, and decided that the group should wear colonial attire for these celebrations. He bought wigs, made tri-corner hats, had his wife, Winnie, make capes, and convinced the members to buy long underwear which he dyed yellow. Finally, a white shirt adorned with ruffles completed the ensemble. The experience of marching while dressed in this manner in June and July was never forgotten by those who experienced it. One recollection is that of a bank thermometer boldy announcing the temperature, 105°!
Brendle's major contribution to the band's history came several years later. He was associated with the PA Dutch Folk Festival in Kutztown, PA, nearly since its start in 1950. When new Festival directors were appointed in 1964, one of the changes they needed to make was the musical organization recreating a typical early 20th century small town band. Brendle said, "I know of one!" The band met at Brendle's Reinholds home and auditioned for the new directors. The directors were satisfied with the performance, but needed to know, based on previous experience, if the group was reliable. Mr. Brendle said, "I know George Koch, and I know Reuben Moyer, and I know the Beard boys. If I ask them to be some place, at a certain time, they'll be there!" (Koch, Moyer and the Beard boys - brothers Jim, Bob, and Glenn were all members of the band since its founding.) With that, an agreement was signed that has continued unbroken to the present. The band henceforth was named the Heidelberg Polka Band, to reflect its origin in Heidelberg Township, PA, and one of its favorite styles of music - the polka. In recent years the band changed its name to the Heidelberg Brass Band to more adequately reflect its musical repertoire.
The years of performing at the Festival greatly increased exposure to the band resulting in many more engagements. In the busiest years the band was engaged nearly every weekend in the summer, many times having three or four performances a weekend. The passing years, changing musical tastes, and the hectic pace of today's lifestyles have caused many groups to eliminate the events and activities for which the band is best suited, but its Kutztown Festival performances continue to be well received.
Now, during the band's celebration of 50 years of making music, and in response to numerous requests, the Heidelberg Brass Band takes pleasure in presenting our first CD. It is filled with a generous sampling of what one may hear at our concerts. We wish to thank our wives and families for enduring our absences through the years. We dedicate this venture to all of the past members of our band, but especially to the memory of George Koch, founder; Reuben Moyer, 1st Chair Cornet/founding member; and the only band member to have passed away while still an active member of the band, Robert Beard, Baritone/founding member.
We extend a word of thanks to former band member and musical arranger, Jay Althouse, for his guidance and assistance as we prepared to make this recording a reality. We also wish to thank Bruce Siekmann, recording engineer, from Amoeba Audio, for enduring long hours and working so hard to help produce this fine recording.