New Old Time Chautauqua: The party parade has arrived
It’s not uncommon to head out any night of the week and see live music entertaining a crowd, but how often do you get music and show? That will be the case on Sunday, July 28, as The New Old Time Chautauqua troupe, along with local acts Hot Damn Scandal and Lucky Brown, take over Maritime Heritage Park from noon to 5:30 p.m. with a show filled with world-class entertainment during The Community Food Co-op’s 16th annual Free Community Party.
“The Co-op is about celebrating community and The New Old Chautauqua is all about bringing a community together to celebrate, laugh and have a great time,” said Karl Meyer, the Co-op’s community affairs organizer, who just also happens to be the President of the Board of Directors for Chautauqua. “It’s the perfect fit for the event and I’m looking forward to everyone dancing and having fun, heartfelt moments down by the riverside.”
The New Old Time Chautauqua was founded in 1981 by a group of free spirits and has grown in popularity thanks to their involvement with the Oregon County Fair. From those shows a troupe evolved, and soon they were hitting the road, touring and spreading their message across the western part of the United States. During each stop, the group brings a wide assortment of entertainment including The Flying Karamazov Brothers (juggling/comedy/theater troupe), magicians, aerialists, jugglers, comedians and an array of other talented performers, as well as various educational workshops and a parade that marks the beginning of the show.
“The parade kicks off every event,” Meyer said. “They march through the crowds, people start following, and soon the parade wraps around and ends up at the stage. It’s how things start at the Oregon State Fair, so we thought it was the perfect way to start the show while out on tour.”
The parade is led by The Fighting Instruments of Karma Marching Chamber Band/Orchestra, otherwise known as The New Old Chautauqua’s house band. Eben Sprinsock is the co-leader of the band with Stephen Bent, and has been playing in the band since the mid 90s. A computer programmer by trade, Sprinsock shines on the clarinet and alto sax, and loves the release of playing music and the happy looks on people’s faces as they march by.
“The band has several roles throughout the show,” he said. “Not only do we lead the parade that starts the show, but once the show begins we turn into a chamber band, playing accompaniments for the performing acts. We play a wide variety of music from original compositions to popular marches like ‘The Washington Post,’ ‘Teddy Bears’ Picnic’ and their own arrangement of The Beatles ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.’”
The number of members in The Fighting Instruments of Karma ranges from summer to summer. Sprinsock says they usually have around 20 members, but it can fluctuate at times.
“We don’t have any electric instruments, mostly just brass and percussion,” Sprinsock said. “The instrumentation varies from year to year. One year we had all saxophones and no trumpets, so it’s always a challenge to pick music that will match the instruments in the band.”
The band rehearses a few days prior to the tour, which can be a challenge as new members come into the fold.
“Sometimes we go out and recruit members, but mostly it’s just whoever has the time and wants to hit the road,” Sprinsock said. “Sometimes we don’t gain any new members and sometimes we’ll get three or four in a year. We work on the music before tour, but it isn’t until we start playing that the band gets into a groove throughout the show.”
The band’s ambitions might seem odd to some touring professionals, but The Fighting Instruments of Karma are not your average band.
“We’re not about playing the music excellently because we’re not a concert band. We’re about the performance and creating a spectacle and connecting to the people lining the streets,” Sprinsock said. “The quality of music is not the primary focus, the act on stage is the focus, so we try to play ‘behind’ the act and not draw attention from them.”
Sprinsock says he loves the look on people’s faces when they see the band and think, “Hey, I could do that.”
“The band looks very homemade and we try to make it accessible as possible to anyone,” he said. “I’ve heard of numerous groups that have come together after seeing The New Old Chautauqua show, which is the biggest form of flattery.”
Although Sprinsock considers himself an amateur musician, he values his time playing with The Fighting Instruments of Karma.
“I love the ensemble aspect of the show, especially being in the middle of all that music,” he said. “In recent years I’ve got into arranging music for the band, which is just another aspect I enjoy. But the biggest thrill I get is taking our music and show to new audiences and connecting with the community.”
Both Meyer and Sprinsock encourage everyone to attend on Sunday, July 28, and bask in the fun and greatness of The New Old Time Chautauqua and The Fighting Instruments of Karma Marching Chamber Band/Orchestra.
“It’s a great evening of entertainment for the entire family and you’ll see some amazing acts, outstanding talent and probably a few things you’ve never seen before,” Sprinsock said.
The Community Co-op’s 16th annual Free Community Party schedule at Maritime Heritage Park: Hot Damn Scandal, 12:15 p.m., Community Parade, fun for all ages at 1:15 p.m., New Old Time Chautauqua with headliners The Flying Karamazov Brothers at 1:30 p.m.; and Lucky Brown Band at 4 p.m. Food includes $3 burritos and Acme ice cream.