The Wilbur Rehmann Quartet

Mann Gulch Suite (1999)

"With noted historian STEPHEN E. AMBROSE reading an epilogue about the 1949 Mann Gulch fire tragedy."

Artists' Statement
-Wilbur Rehmann and Ken Nelson

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During the summer of 1998, as a participant in the Artist, Forest, Community program, Wilbur Rehmann researched the events surrounding the Mann Gulch Fire of August 5, 1949 which tragically took the lives of 13 young Forest Service firefighters. Wilbur hiked up and down the gulch with his saxophone, trying to understand the physical terrain, temperature and weather and the various routes the firefighters followed.

While in Mann Gulch he played the beginnings of a melody that eventually became the song "Ridge Top"' and led to the collaboration with Ken Nelson and the creation of the original music in the Mann Gulch Suite. In the spring of 1999, Ken Nelson, Wilbur Rehmann, Kurt Keller and Linda Montgomery hiked from the Missouri River up Mann Gulch to the white cross markers where the firefighters bodies were found. The trip was exhilarating and moving--to once again be in this hallowed place.

The challenge for Wilbur and Ken was to create music that reflected their impressions of the impact of the tragedy without simply being funereal. In fact, the music is in turn lyrical. Sweet, angry, melancholy and wistful. It runs up and down scales, jumps across chord changes and ultimately reflects their emotions and reactions to the tragedy--50 years after the fire blew up and overcame the young firefighters. The process involved Wilbur writing out melody lines and Ken adding chord changes and harmony parts. Together, they created four songs, "Ridgetop," "Going Down the Gulch, " Lester and the Young Men" and "Speak Softly" for this album, all but: Cabin in the sky."

We hope you enjoy the music and find something in it that will help understand the tragic fire and loss of young lives in Mann Gulch, August 5, 1949.

We live in Montana--this immense and beautiful land--and we hope that our awareness of the natural world and its' "wild places" will lead more people to take the time to get out and hike, camp or simply stop and quietly contemplate and enjoy the wilderness. In addition, we hope this music moves you to help protect and preserve our last wild places. If it does, we have succeeded as artists.

--Wilbur Rehmann & Ken Nelson

This recording has been a collaborative effort.
Special thanks to:

School, X-CEL Class of 1998-99

Rick Bourie

Kurt Keller

Mike Conner

The Helena National Forest

The Holter Museum of Art

Artist, Forest, community Program Artists: Kurt Keller, Deborah Mitchel, and members of the Wilbur Rehmann Quartet

Lois Jansson and family

This recording would not have been possible without the generous support of the following organizations and individuals:

Liz Claiborne Art Ortenberg Foundation

Montana State Parks and Wildlife Interpretive Association

Alan and Nancy Nicholson

The Artist, Forest, Community Program

Artist, Forest, Community is a program connecting natural resources, cultural resources and communities. Established in 1996 and administered through a partnership between the Helena National Forest and the Holter Museum of Art, the program fosters connections between people of different backgrounds and the program fosters connections between people of different backgrounds and the program fosters connections between people of different backgrounds and interests. Artists in the program spend a week in a rustic remote forest cabin, offering opportunity for solitude, reflection and work, as well as experiencing the subtle grandeur and delicate beauty of the forest itself. A public extension each residency - workshops, performances, exhibits and other experiences help artists communicate the values, processes, features and resources encountered in the program.

Back Home Jazz (1996)

Upcoming Events

Wilbur Rehmann Quartet


Oct. 20 - Archie Bray Foundation Helena, Trio with Blackie Nelson

Oct. 21 - Bennys Bistro, Duo with Fred Cobb, piano

Oct. 27 - Staggering Ox, Helena, Quartet

Nov. 16 - Archie Bray Holiday Show

Nov. 25 - Terra Thai, Boulder, CO, Duo with Hoy Clintpreecha, Alto sax

Dec. 21 - St Paul’s Methodist, Annual Solstice Concert, Quintet with Sarah Elkins, vocals

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