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EPAS concert was solid hit with audience

Jan Findley review (04-01-04)
Solid Brass's trumpeter Jeff Holmes couldn't have pleased the Tuesday night Englewood Performing Arts Series audience more than when he strode to the microphone following the concert's final number and said, "It's been great to play live music twice in the same day -- and to packed houses both times!" He spoke for his Solid Brass peers when he added, "We're looking forward to our next date here in Englewood -- maybe as soon as next January."

The applause on both sides of the Englewood United Methodist Church stage was as unanimous as it was enthusiastic. Solid Brass was a solid hit with the Englewood Performing Arts Series subscribers -- and the Englewood audience was a solid hit with Solid Brass.

Solid Brass is the only ensemble of its kind in North America. Ten brass players -- four trumpets, four trombones, one French horn, one tuba and one percussionist make up Solid Brass. They are all orchestral professionals, having played at Lincoln Center with the orchestras of the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Opera and the New York City Ballet, plus Broadway show bands and orchestras, and with various ensemble and chamber groups.

In their appearances together as Solid Brass, they have no conductor to keep them in check so that a string or woodwind section can be heard. Nobody to say, "Not so loud, fellas." In Englewood they were free to blow up a storm -- and blast forth they did. Restraint-free. Gloriously.

The program was a cool combination of medieval, operatic and classical music. Solid Brass opened with early, early music including the first annotated piece of music (1585) in which the composer indicated how his music should be played, piano (soft) or forte (loud). Up till then, musicians determined how music was played -- loud, soft, fast, slow, etc. Life as a composer must have been full of surprises! Solid Brass then played the "Toreador" theme from Bizet's "Carmen" and the "Cathedral Procession" from Wager's "Lohengrin" followed by Handel's "Fireworks" music and three of George Gershwin's classical compositions.

I always find it interesting to note how much more accessible brass instruments seem to make classical music to general audiences than do traditional strings and woodwinds. The EPAS audience applauded the classical works as enthusiastically as they did pop songs by Miller, Ellington and Goodman, which closed the show. There is nothing, it seems, that a brass section can't make its own and make the audience love -- at least, not when that brass section calls itself Solid Brass.

Next season's performance schedule is being worked on by EPAS president Judy Moore and her board of directors and will be announcing it in a few weeks, with subscription forms in the mail to current subscribers shortly thereafter. Early birds who want to get on the EPAS list to become subscribers would not be amiss in calling the EPAS office now. Get listed. The number is 473-2787.

The next and last concert in this year's series will be on April 13. The Florida West Coast Chamber Orchestra will be making its 21st consecutive concert for EPAS on that date. A grand way to wind up an outstanding season of classy, affordable entertainment.

Due to Easter and income tax time, this is the one EPAS concert of the year for which tickets are available. You can make a phone call and place your order with Joyce Splitt at 474-3019. If a man answers, don't hang up -- that'll be Orville Splitt who helps out. He's a friendly guy ... and very much still involved with EPAS.

You can e-mail Jan Findley at

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