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History of the World Through Music

Article and Concert review by TG

On Friday, February 8, 2008, the Homestead Community Concerts presented its third program of the 2007-2008 season. The eleven "historians" call themselves Solid Brass.

Founded in 1982, SOLID BRASS, is recognized by audiences and critics alike as one of the premier brass groups in the country. The members of the ensemble are some of the New York City area's finest musicians who have performed at Lincoln Center with the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, and New York City Ballet, numerous Broadway Shows, as well as appearances as orchestral and chamber musicians. The SOLID BRASS roster lists fifteen performers and a touring venue that includes Canada, the United States, and Mexico.

Tonight's eleven person ensemble included: Douglas Haislip (C and B-flat trumpet, co-founder, and principle arranger) who does mostly freelance; Chris Jaudes (trumpet and flugal horn), who is a trumpet instructor at Long Island University and currently in the "pit" with the Broadway show Gypsy; Jeff Holmes (trumpet), who is Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Massachusetts; Chuck Bumcrot (trumpet), who is a faculty member at Montclair State University and Affiliate Artist in Trumpet at Keane University; Janet Lantz (French Horn), who is a fourth generation Floridian (now in New York) doing mostly freelance work including our Gold Coast area and the Florida Grand Opera; Carl Della Peruti (tenor trombone, co-founder), who is a trombone instructor at Rutgers University; Hans Muhler (tenor trombone), who designs brass instruments for the Yamaha Corporation; Don Hayward (bass trombone), who is an instructor at Columbia University; Kyle Turner (tuba), who is a top-notch amateur tennis player, currently with the New York Philharmonic; and Adrienne Ostrander (percussion), whose specialty is educational concerts for schools which has taken her so far to 46 states.

The concert started with the sounds of medieval carols by antiphonal off-stage trumpets with the rest of the ensemble playing as they came down the aisle. It was a unique and surprising beginning. Each piece in the program was introduced by historical and or musical information. The Giovanni Gabrieli "Sonata Pian e Forte" for example was one of the first examples of a composer indicating the dynamics (degree of loudness). For you brass buffs the original instrumentation was for cornettos (the wooden precursors of trumpets) and sackbuts (the earliest trombones).

The program then jumped to the 20th century with a suite of pieces by Ralph Vaughn Williams. First was a full brass ensemble version of the fairly well-known organ piece "Rhosymedre". This was followed by "Loch Lomond" which was originally for an a capella male chorus. It should be noted that the traditional four-part male (TTBB) voicing was respected as only four instruments played at any one time. The suite ended with several boisterous songs of the sea.

Next were the 1875 pieces "Les Dragons" and a gusty and bright version of "Les Toreadors" from Carmen by Georges Bizet. It may have been scandalous when first presented but "Les Toreadors" is probably one of the more popular and well-known pieces in today's concert repertoire. Did you know that the telephone, the light bulb, and Carmen were created within a year of each other?

The first half ended with the dramatic 1848 "Procession to the Cathedral" by Richard Wagner. We were given a short story of Elsa's plight of her promise not to question the "white knight" of her dreams verses her curiosity as to his real name. As she marches to the cathedral to be wed we were left without a resolution. Did she or didn't she? For you Wagner fans there should have been a huge orchestra with twice as many brass and percussion players. The ensemble played rich, full, sonorous chords and did Wagner proud building bigger and bigger throughout with an ending (which included tympani) that filled every cubic inch of the hall. Wow!

After intermission we were treated to excerpts from Handel's "Fireworks Music."  Picture the special platforms for the orchestra playing their hearts out, lots of fireworks exploding overhead, and, a magnificent fire! Yes, a fire. Apparently the fireworks set nearby building(s) ablaze. The next music by Leonard Bernstein was a box office disaster in 1956. However, the "Overture to Candide" which we heard, is probably the most played Bernstein composition. Of note was a beautifully mellow middle section of muted trumpets, flugal horns and French horn. The percussionist earned her keep in this one as she did the job of several covering many of the percussion parts of the original orchestral arrangement.

Now we got into the "Big Band" era with Benny Goodman's "Stompin' at the Savoy" and George Gershwin's "Someone to Watch Over Me" (nice subtle color variations of muted and unmuted trumpets), and the Glen Miller Band favorite "Tuxedo Junction" (complete with "wa-wa" muted trombones and a "bluesy" trumpet solo. This was the era of $550 cars, homes for $5000, new foods such as Wonder Bread and Mott's Apple Sauce, the Great Depression, food rationing, drought, and the growing fear of war. Even without a saxophone section SOLID BRASS captured the style (including some jazz improvising) and the spirit of the era. This departure from the very "classical" first half of the concert was met with great enthusiasm, finger snapping, and toe tapping.

Up to this point the music training, teaching background (many are still college and university instructors), and broad experiences of the performers was very evident.

The concert ended with a Beach Boys medley of "Help Me Rhonda", "Surfer Girl", and "California Girls". One was transported back to high school with that ball that spun stars across the walls and ceiling, holding onto your special guy or girl. I kept expecting to hear "Blue Moon" in the middle of the second tune. I heard comments that the tempo was a bit slow on "Surfer Girl".

There was silence as one of the performers reminded us that this was the era of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, the Cuban blockade, the first black Supreme court judge, "advisors" in Vietnam, and Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. One could see audience members "flashing back" to where they were or what they were doing at that time. It was a disquieting moment.

The finale, a Tijuana Brass medley, was met with nodding, toe tapping, some clapping along, and much "mouthing" of words as listeners recognized one of the songs. Again the criticism was that the tempo for the most part was too slow. Guys, take off your disciplined "professor" hats and let it fly. Adrienne (the percussionist), don't be a lady here. Drive them!

The audience gave SOLID BRASS an enthusiastic Homestead standing ovation. Their encore "Pennsylvania 6-5000" was a loud, unrestrained, bright, and brassy big band sound complete with different muting techniques, "flutter"-tonguing, and full audience participation on the title line. A great ending to an enjoyable historical and stylistically diverse presentation.

The last concert of the season will be "song stylist" Linda Davis on Sunday, March 16, 2008. If you like country you won't want to miss this one. Pleases note the date as it may be different than the one publicized several months ago. Ticket information is available at (305) 235-8818 or (305) 253-6620 or online at:
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