Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Final Presentations - Professional Brass Ensembles

Today, for our final class, we heard presentations on professional brass ensembles, and I must say I was very impressed with the quality of the groups. Both the Eastern Kentucky University Brass Quintet and the Fine Arts Brass Quintet impressed me in their depth and dedication. As I mentioned in class, not in a "knock-you-over-the-head-with-our-fancy-press-material-and-viral videos" way, but in a quietly substantial way.

Eastern Kentucky University Brass Quintet

One of the dilemmas of a faculty brass quintet is that very few institutions have two trumpet faculty, so many assign the other trumpet part to a graduate student. This provides the student with an outstanding learning opportunity and affords them some valuable performing experience. As at the University of Iowa, if this position is attached to an assistantship, it serves as a great way to attract talented graduate students and is probably the ultimate "work study" program for students.

The fact that EKU happens to have two faculty trumpet positions is an incredible stroke of luck, and serves to bolster the quality of the group, while avoiding the "rotating chair" effect Evan mentioned. Even more impressive, is that the other trumpet player is on the theory faculty and an active and talented composer is a musical coup.

To learn more about the group, visit their website or watch their videos on their YouTube channel.

Fine Arts Brass Quintet

I had heard of the Fine Arts Brass Quintet but had no idea of their rich history and longevity. Formed in 1980, they have a long history of premiering works and despite their longevity, they have had relatively little personnel turnover. Kate also pointed out some of the hidden gems in their less-than-flashy website; like their FAB Tooters Tips and their extensive list of programs and program notes.

Both of these groups have made significant contributions to their field, and have been quietly successful for many years and deserve our attention. Here's to substance over superficiality!

Monday, May 02, 2011

Listening Session - 5/2/11

For our final listening session in Advanced Brass Ensemble Literature, I presented a collection of recordings I recently purchased featuring underrepresented styles: the brass trio, Mexican Banda music, and a brass "Shout Band."

We began with Antoine et Cleopatra, composed by Florent Schmitt (1870-1958). from the French recording "Musique Française - Grandes Fanfares Du XX Siècle by the Grand Ensemble de Cuivres et Percussion des Hauts de France (Rhapsody link) . This recording also includes an excellent performance of Tomasi's Fanfare Liturgiques.

From the University of Maryland Brass Trio recording (Amazon link), we heard David Sampson's "Duncan Trio". Movements were: I. Reflection, II. Solemn Hymn, and III. Crooked Dance in its entirety. We also heard about a minute each of the rest of the tracks, which included brass trios by Nelhybell, Plog, Hovanhess, Ewazen, and Bernofsky. This is a fantastic recording, with a great selection of repertoire and virtuoso playing by Chris Gekker, Greg Miller, and Matt Guilford.

For something completely different, we then heard La Arrolladora Banda el Limón  playing "Mi Gusto Es", and watched a bit of the YouTube video of Banda El Recodo - Te Presumo. It is very encouraging to see that Mexican pop/regional music still embraces a strong brass tradition.

Finally, in the tradition of Pentacostal Brass Shout Bands, we heard Kenny Carr and the Tigers play Fix Me and watched a short video of one of their performances. Truly inspiring.