Boston Brass is no bunch of stuffy musicians
By biconews On 21 Mar, 2000 At 05:00 AM | Categorized As Archives | With 0 Comments

By Alyssa Bowlby
Guest Writer

I was, on the whole, extremely impressed with many aspects of the Boston Brass performance - the quintet consisted of capable, competent musicians who played challenging music with style and true enjoyment for that which they were playing.

The first thing that struck me when looking at last Thursday’s program at Bryn Mawr’s Thomas Great Hall was that so much of the music was so famous, loud and fast: good for crowd-pleasing, but did not especially signify depth and true musical ability. The pieces were definitely quite an

outlet for the talent assembled on the stage, but at the same time they lacked a certain something - I kept waiting for the slow, soft piece that would blow me away with its emotional content and true passion.

In that way, the first half of the show was a disappointment, as all of the pieces were show and at so quick a tempo it was difficult to believe anyone could get the notes out so fast. While this was quite impressive, they seemed to lack any emotion except for hyperactivity. However, Boston Brass probably took into account the audience for which they were playing in choosing a repertoire that was well-known, recognizable, and liked.

Had they chosen more classically challenging pieces, some audience members would have fallen asleep, as most audiences for whom the group would be playing would be relatively uninformed people out for an evening of music rather than a bunch of musicians expecting to be satisfied on all fronts. And as my high school orchestra director always said, “End with a piece that has the three F’s: famous, fast, and forte,” So I suppose this was the watchword of the Boston Brass.

They did announce how they chose the pieces - they said those pieces that they enjoyed were those that they played before, such as songs heard in high school or when they were young children. This also was probably a factor in choosing such a repertoire: we seem to, as people, be more attracted to the showy pieces than those that are simply slow, chordal and non-virtuosic.

The second half of the program consisted of jazz, which was clearly their favorite style; they enjoyed it more and executed it better, which led me to wonder why they did not declare themselves a jazz quintet and play only their favorites. All of the jazz charts were amazingly well-executed, including “Sing, Sing, Sing” (a song from a movie score that is usually played with a drum set, but a tuba was substituted effectively enough for the rhythm and bassline), “Autumn Leaves” and Duke Ellington’s “Caravan,” which they used as a closing piece. The Ellington was amazingly well done, again, and EXTREMELY high, with an eventual climax around C, four octaves above middle C.

The aspect that struck me most about the Boston Brass was the musicians’ constant digression throughout the show into audience interaction. Between each song, one of the members of the group took the microphone and, in stand-up comedy terms, “worked the crowd.”

The horn player made the point that “we’re not just stuffy musicians” here to play boring chamber music, but that they wanted people to have fun.

Maybe it’s a bit stuffy of me, but it seemed a little less professional than these men certainly must be - they portrayed themselves as overgrown 10-year-olds instead of professional musicians who earn their living playing music well, and as an audience member, that caused me to lose a lot of respect for them.

However, they were amazing players. The principle trumpet player was especially amazing: his execution was tireless, and it was clear that he was a horn performer - he played standing with his legs planted apart, his horn up and his eyes away from his music and directly on the audience. He truly stood out above all the rest with amazing solos, incredible range and the sheer quality of the sound he emitted, which was cleaner and clearer than any I have ever heard before.

All of the players were excellent, though, and executed their individual solos well. I suppose that is the essence of good arranging. It also helped that the players were just tremendous, since the french horn never sounded stuffy and the tuba was able to serve as the rhythm and bass.

On the whole, I was very impressed with the Boston Brass but thought that the charge was exorbitant beyond belief for any community members who wanted to attend - $12.50 a person

(for non bi-co students) is quite steep, and usually performances are free to bi-co students, set this one was $5.00. I saw only a few Haverford students there; most were from Bryn Mawr or the community, and I thought it was poorly advertised, as well.

Luckily, the audience was receptive and responsive and made for a wonderful evening, despite my few qualms. The Boston Brass said they would be in the area again next December, and I hope we can enjoy them once again.

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