This music man knows his stuff BALTIMORE COUNTY

February 09, 1993|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,Staff Writer

While most children only needed a teddy bear or a lullaby to send them off to dreamland, young Bill Rehrig needed the rousing "Grand March from Aida" to ensure that the sandman would make his nightly visit.

"I got very upset when my father wasn't home to put the record on," said Mr. Rehrig who, at 53, continues his love affair with band music as a teacher, performer and now author of the first known encyclopedia devoted exclusively to the genre.

Published just over a year ago after 12 years of unremitting labor, "The Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music" -- nearly 1,100 pages in two volumes -- is well into its second printing and, according to reviews in the music press, is the definitive work on the subject.

The Sonneck Society Bulletin called it the "most voluminous compendium of band music ever to appear in one publication." CHOICE magazine, the arbiter of academic lirature for the American Library Association, named it one of the "Outstanding Academic Books for 1993."

All these accolades are for a man who grew up in a home dominated by classical music, a man whose father and mother were classical musicians. But young Bill rebelled against the melodic strains of the Old World. Concerts by the Allentown, Pa., and Asbury Park, N.J., bands turned his ear.

"The spirit and vitality hit me right in the gut," he said. "I didn't like thinly textured classical music. A Mozart string quartet leaves me cold."

His encyclopedia contains 54,856 indexed titles by 8,953 composers and 3,685 biographies, many so obscure the composers' names have not been heard for decades.

But having accomplished this prodigious feat, a seemingly endless amount of work remains. Since publishing the encyclopedia, Mr. Rehrig has acquired 15,000 additional titles of band pieces.

"Some are brand-new titles, some are older compositions that have just come to our attention," said Mr. Rehrig, music director at Franklin Middle School.

His new list of tunes means years of research about their composers lie ahead. Meanwhile, new names keep turning up as people hear of his work and dig into their own sources of information. Mr. Rehrig already spends 25 to 30 hours a week on a supplement, which should be published in two or three years. A second edition will come a few years later.

Although the encyclopedia will never be confused with the Book-of-the-Month, its initial 1,500-set printing sold out in 13 months, with most sets bought by people in the "band community" who received a discount, said editor Paul E. Bierley.

The 1,000-set second printing also is selling well, particularly to universities, libraries and music schools, said Mr. Bierley, president of Integrity Press of Westerville, Ohio. Order requests have arrived from all over the world, and a specialty book distributor in England has just been shipped 100 sets, he said.

In the heyday of concert bands, the 19th and early 20th centuries, nearly every town had a municipal or company band )) whose concerts were a favorite public entertainment. Composers wrote thousands of pieces, but they and their music have faded into history. Such had been the fate of George Southwell, the most prolific composer listed in the encyclopedia.

An Iowa music teacher and hotel operator, Mr. Southwell died in 1916 after composing 473 marches, waltzes, overtures, galops and polkas. Of that body of work, only a euphonium solo titled "Challenge" has endured.

John Philip Sousa, the March King, ranks third in output with 284 cataloged works, but his scores have become synonymous with band music.

"First, it was him, Sousa, personally," said Mr. Rehrig, a music director in Baltimore County public schools for 32 years. "Second, it was damn good stuff. Third, it was truly red-blooded American music and, finally, Sousa was the bandman's Beethoven. The whole genre of band music grew from him. Just think what orchestras would have been like without Beethoven."

Mr. Rehrig, who plays trumpet, flute, clarinet and drums, was born into a musical Philadelphia family. His father, Harold, played the trumpet in the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra for 32 years and taught at the Peabody Conservatory until his death in 1981. His mother played the violin in local orchestras.

The germ of the encyclopedia began with the late Robert Hoe Jr., a wealthy music lover and band historian from Florida. He amassed a vast collection of music, records and biographical material on composers. Mr. Rehrig met him after writing a music magazine to criticize an advertisement for band music, about which the magazine's staff knew very little except the title and tune. The magazine referred him to Mr. Hoe. Their collaboration began shortly thereafter.

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