King Band goes to the circus

The Karl King band will celebrate the 1914 circus at its first concert of 2014.

The concert will be held at 3:30 p.m. Feb. 16 at Decker Auditorium, and feature music from the famous Fort Dodge composer’s time as bandmaster for the Sells-Floto Buffalo Bill Combined Shows.

“One hundred ago what was Mr. King doing? That’s the question I ask,” said Director Jerrold Jimmerson, explaining how he picked the selections for the upcoming concert.

The concert will feature some of the marches and overtures written by King or used in his shows from 1910-1914.

“We’re doing a piece I remember him doing a lot, called ‘Echoes from the Metropolitan Opera House’ a piece with a lot of different opera melodies in it,” Jimmerson said. “That also shows up on the Buffalo Bill programming from 1914.”

The band King directed would arrive at a town with the circus do an hour-long concert in the afternoon, then play the music for the Wild West show for a couple hours, giving another short concert as people were leaving. Then they did it all over again for the evening show.

“It must have taken a whole lot of stamina,” Jimmerson said.

In those concerts King could use a whole different style of music.

“I think his goal was to try to educate the audiences,” said Jimmerson. “They would do pieces like the ‘Barber of Seville, or the ‘William Tell Overture.’ … You look at his programs and it was some pretty heavy stuff.”

In addition to the opera piece, the audience will also hear music King used during Buffalo Bill’s show – the western suite of “Wyoming Days,” “On The Warpath,” and “Passing of the Red Man.”

“Those three songs are a lot of fun. They were published in 1914, 15, 16 in that order. But he always did them together whenever he did them. Most people don’t realize that. So they will usually either pick one to do, or they’ll put the third song in the middle since it’s slower.

“That’s not how he did it, so we do it in a different order.”

The band did the western suite six years ago, he said, and it should be easy for the band to prepare.

“The ‘Metropolitan Opera House’ may be a different story. That will be a little tougher,” he said. “Mr. King passed away in 1971 and I don’t believe we’ve played the piece since 1971. There aren’t very many of us who have ever played it before.”

The band only gets about 90 minutes of rehearsal time, right before the concert begins, Jimmerson said.

This is Jimmerson’s 11th year as conductor. He played with the band for 43 years before that.

He said preserving the stories of how King composed, and how the songs were played, is an important part of music history.

“There are only four of us left in the band that played under Mr. King’s direction. Nobody else really knows who he was,” Jimmerson said.

“I find it interesting, so I’m trying to educate the band and the audience as far as this history and this legacy we’ve all been given – that is going to disappear if somebody doesn’t continue talking about it.”

The Karl King Band’s next performance will be the annual Irish Concert on March 16.