Monday, April 24, 2017

The beginning of the End

Well, here we are. twenty four brass ensemble blog posts later. My how the time has passed. Thank you to professor Manning for being a great professor. This has been a fun exploration of brass ensembles and every thing related. The beers, the brass... at times I wonder if there is more to life, but I seriously doubt anything can make me feel that special feeling the way a room temperature stout at Lions bridge while the brass quintet kicks into their first set of the evening. I truly feel fortunate to have taken the time to examine the ins and the outs of the brass ensemble world. With that I am excited to say that one of my last performances of the year with the University of Iowa will be largely brass ensemble focused. This Wednesday Louis Hanzlik of the ABQ is coming to the University of Iowa for what will be a brassapuluza, a brasstacular, and mind blowing feat of brassgasms..... sorry about that.

The evening will feature the Iowa Brass Quintet, with former member David Greenhoe, and my current trombone teacher Dr. David Gier. Cake trio will take the stage for the last time in the forseable future playing the first movement of the Poulenc brass trio, and the evening will conclude with a triple quintet performing two pieces. It is sure to be a crowd pleaser, so please stop by if you are free.

On a a final note, I have been thinking a lot about brass ensembles in all their shapes and sizes. The richness they add to the musical tapestry. The friendships formed over playing chamber music and drinking beer. I almost can't imagine other people lives, that do not involve healthy doses of both.

I was also thinking, I have noticed a strong tie between brass players and love of coffee as well. On my walk to school this morning I had a strange thought. Why do brass players love coffee and beer?  Do we just love mood altering chemicals, do we enjoy the finer things life has to offer, does love of coffee and beer permeate all fields this deeply. I've always thought musicians share the same mentalities as chefs, and comics. We work when others don't, our careers are less defined and more open to our personalities, and we seem to live life harder than everyone else.... well whatever. See you all later, thanks for the good times, hopefully we run into each other over a beer, or in a brass ensemble.

trombone quartet for the masses

Whoa, second to last blog post coming at ya

I guess trombone quartets have been on my mind lately because I got another group of beer loving, trombone playing fools that I am excited to write about in my second to last blog post. This is a group of guys that formed a group at North Texas University and they go by the name Maniacal four trombone quartet. I heard about these guys a few years ago because they won the quartet competition that the ITA hosts every year and have launched that into a career that is the envy of trombone quartets. They have since toured internationally and released two CD's. I love this group vibe and their energy is infectious. They have gone a decidedly different route than most trombone quartets and have a largely rock driven show. Check out their viral video on Carry on Wayward sons.

I love the mass appeal these guys are getting. Carry On dudes, carry on. 

Summer is coming

Any Game of thrones fans out there?

Summer is just around the bend here and you know what that means right??? Brass bands around the country are dusting off their khaki pants, and oiling up those alto horn valves because it is about to be BRASS BAND TIME.

The American brass band seems to be one of the last refuges for mostly amateur musicians to get together and make music in an ensemble setting. It's not fourth of July unless you are at your local park grilling meats, drinking a miller lite, and listen to your community brass band stumble through an array of military tunes.

I love the throw back feel of listening to brass band. It's almost like what is the opposite of abusing social media and electronic equipment.... listening to a brass band outside on a hot summer afternoon playing music that you only hear in the summer.

I guess that I only hear in the summer, I suppose if you play in a military band you probably hear this music year round... but anywho.

I guess this post is dedicated to all those weekend warriors, that maintain their chops for ten short weeks of summer concertizing. They look forward to the nights when they have to tell their wives (and husbands) "I have a rehearsal/concert/gig tonight, I'll be home around 11". They get to live the dream for the summer, and than come labor day they put their horns back in their cases and rejoin the civilians with a blissful look in their eye.

Sorry... I did a thing there. I really do like amateur musicians. Without them there would be no one in our audience at concerts, and their energy is infectious. I think sometimes it is easy to fill trapped in this profession. I have often thought the phrase, "this is all I know, this is all I'm good at, what else would I do with myself." For these amateur players, they get to come out for a short time each year, and enjoy the music making process knowing that this is a just a small part of their lives for them to enjoy. I envy that distance they are able to maintain between their level of playing and self worth. I know for me and my colleagues, when we go and have a bad night, we take it very personally and it is difficult to not associate your worth as a person, with your degree of execution that night.

Carry on Brass Bands of America, carry on.

I enjoy my brass bands outside, in the shade with a nice cold
Image result for miller lite

Miller Lite! The key is to stay hydrated during those long summer days. Till next time friends.

Meat is in the air

Do you guys smell that? There is something cooking at the Chicago Symphony and it has low brass players, and brass enthusiasts salivating from the chops.

The Chicago Symphony announced earlier this year that they have commissioned Jennifer Higdon to write a concerto for the low brass section to be performed next season. I know Ms. Higdon's work Blue Cathedral having performed that many times ( I am an excellent crystal class vibrator btw) but did not know that she has actually written a trombone concerto that was premiered by Peter Sullivan of the Pittsburgh Symphony.

I don't know about you, but this sounds like a great concert to attend. These guys have been a section together since 1989 and have a very special sound. I heard them play trombone quartets together at a brass bash type concert they do every year. I think it was Dale Clevanger's last season in the group, and they featured him playing Green Sleeves with the trombone quartet. Even with Mr. Clevanger's diminished abilities, that was a memorable performance. The thing I still find unique to the CSO low brass section is their ability to play softly. When it comes to the soft chorals in Mahler, Brahms, Schumann, and Bruckner, they still play circles around their (often much younger) peers. I can't wait for this concerto and am excited to hear my teacher and friend Jay Friedman in what will most likely be his last solo appearance with the Chicago Symphony.

Just for fun (lets imagine the most mind blowing trombone quartet)

Ahoy brass and beer lover alike,

  Have you ever played that game of "who would be the best brass section" where you combine your favorite Principal, second, bass trombone and tuba player? ( obvi, this might be different for trumpet and horn). Well it seems someone played this game with trombone quartets and in 2009 the World Trombone Quartet formed to play at a trombone conference in Europe. Members of this group are arguably the most distinguished trombonists in the field today.

The group includes Jorgen Van Rijen, Joeseph Alessi, Stefan Shultz, and Michel Becquet. Each man in his own right holds (or has held) a chair in a world class orchestra, but also teaches at world class institutions and are renowned for the playing abilities.

The title of this post is taken from their new CD "Just for Fun" which I recommend everyone in this room immediately go and check out.

You know how sometimes in sports they have those all star games where the best players that season are picked to compete on these super teams, but sometimes instead of creating an all star team, you end up with a group of talented players, that let their egos get in the way of being a team? Well, these guys are the total opposite. They clearly have nothing but love and respect for each other and hearing them make music as an ensemble really does give us a product that is greater than the parts.

To gig or not to Gig

Hey everyone,

As some of you might remember last Sunday was the celebration of "national everyone who can make a noise on a trumpet gets a gig day" otherwise known as zombie Jesus day.... I mean Easter.

What is it about this one day that calls for every brass player to show up to church early in the morning to play brass ensemble music for the masses, but come the following Monday people are happy to take a hiatus till at least Christmas if not Easter the following year. Wouldn't it be a crazy, if every day was like Easter morning? You wake up, play some easy tunes, and you are home before 2pm with more money than you might make the following week combined. Sometimes it does feel like we are getting away with something.

On a side note, I've noticed a lot of musicians make these pride statements that they don't take work on the Holidays. It's comments like that that make me want to get off social media. Like, we get it. You are in a place in your life where $500 isn't going to make or break you financially and you have chosen to be home with your loved ones for the holiday. It just seems like kind of a jab at the rest of us who look forward to the lucrative work Easter/ Christmas and other holidays. Me? I've never felt to connected to attending church as an audience member, so even as a kid I looked forward to playing in church as opposed to sitting in the pews. When I was in high school I played in my church's brass quintet (for probably no pay!) for Easter. It was made up of my teacher (who played trombone in the group as well... maybe we were a sextet or something).... Anyway, it was also more fun sitting around in the green room during the service practicing scales and than going out at the end to play a couple tunes. What do you guys think? Is Easter your fincially honeypot that keeps on giving? Or do you look forward to the day you no longer have to wake up at 6:30 on a Sunday to make it to that 8:00am rehearsal before the 9am mass?

Cake Trio brass premier concert

This post is on a concert that happened yesterday on a group that I started this semester with Anna Marshal and Kenken Gorder named Cake trio. First the main deets.

 We played an hour long concert with no intermission yesterday at High Ground Cafe featuring works by Poulenc, Sampson, Francois and Ewazen. This concert was also a benefit for the ACLU and we raised $120! More on that later.

First a couple things about yesterday that I thought were really cool. We came together as a trio and ventured into something above and beyond the expectations for our trio, that was largely put together for the sole purpose of taking a chamber credit. It is so different performing in the recital hall, or concert hall than it is performing in a cafe. I was a little apprehensive (as were the people working there) about how live the sound was in the cafe for brass ensemble music. However, I think because we were a trio and not a quintet we were able to make it work. I am really proud that we were able to go into the cafe sight unseen, squeeze into a tiny corner, and perform our program in a respectable (all be it quieter version) manner. Even with all the distractions of a busy environment, in a place where we are not sure exactly how things are going to go over we pulled it off.

Some thoughts on what made this concert work. We ( and by we I mean mostly Kenken) got someone to read poetry between the movements of the Sampson pieces. I am surprised how little collaboration I see with chamber music and poetry. I have no idea what the poems were about, but the music made the poetry seem relevant, and the poems did the same for the music. Each added a weight to the other that before had not been there. I also think it is cool to clear the air after a movement with spoken word, and not just constantly bombard the audience with sound. This also gave our program a little more credibility. We weren't just there to run down our program, but were really trying to give a nice hour of artistic expression. We also had an artist drawing/painting to our pieces.

Final thoughts. 

I was really glad that we followed professor Schendel's recommendation and mixed in flugel horn and euphonium on half the pieces. These instruments were a little easier to blend at the softer dynamic, and the more rounder sound worked well in the cramped space.

I also can't believe we actually raised money. It feels good knowing that we did something positive for the world, even in our own tiny way. It's easy to feel defeated all the time, not knowing how to help or make change. Being able to give to a great organization that is helping people in need meant a lot to me, and I hope to do it again.