A brass quintet is an unusual guest at the International Music Foundation’s Dame Myra Hess Concert.
Gaudete Brass Quintet (Trumpets – Bill Baxtresser and Ryan Berndt, Horn – Julia Filson, Trombone - Paul Von Hoff and Tuba- Scott Tegge), which performed on Wednesday December 11 in the beautiful Preston Bradley Hall of the Chicago Cultural Center with a simulcast on WFMT, gave our ears a good stretch to take in the possibilities of what a brass quintet can do and what the growing repertoire for brass quintets can bring to us.
It was the new music that especially jumped out for attention, which is just want Gaudete Brass Quintet would like us to feel and think.
Speaking for Gaudete Brass Quintet, tubist Scott Tegge comments, “What a brass quintet can do best is create many colors with the ensemble. Most ensembles don’t have the colors of a trombone, tuba, horn, etc. We are commissioning new music and there is now a plethora of new music for brass quintets where the color palette is primary.
People see brass and they think loud and expect brassy. We envision our ensemble as a hybrid between vocal and string ensembles, with extreme colors and extreme sounds. Most people leave our concerts with their eyes newly opened to what brass can do.”
The first short piece performed, “Entrance” by David Sampson (b. 1951) was a jolt of adrenaline on a very cold day. The piece was originally titled “Exit”, but it certainly is better named as an opener.
Next up was “Christ Lag in Todesbanden”, an Italian Baroque chamber piece that actually is for an Easter text.
Carl Sandburg’s “Chicago Poems” inspired the third piece, “Prayers of Steel” by Jonathan Newman (b.1972). The first movement had jazzy lines reminiscent of Bernstein’s "West Side Story", and is meant to convey a train trip away from the city. Following came a foxtrot and a third movement with much trombone glissandos and harmonies amongst the quintet, ending with a round of staccato accents.
“Still”, also by David Sampson, helped belie the notion that brass is only about loud.
The group then switched gears to 16th Century Madrigals by Giaches de Wert and given the season, there was a joyful Yuletide finale one would expect -- “Variation on Adeste Fideles”, written by John Woodward, and shown too in this YouTube clip--
“Gaudete” in fact means rejoice in Latin, a name this Chicago-based group took in place of its original name “Blue City Brass”.
Given that we are in their rehearsal base hometown there may be other opportunities soon to hear the group play.
Again speaking for the group Tegge commented that they especially like the intimacy of Dame Myra Hess Concerts. Tegge says, “We definitely want more of an audience in Chicago. We love what we are doing and we love it when people come up after concerts and tell us what they like and don’t like. If I was out of town I’d probably make a comment at the end of a concert about my love of donuts and ask for tips on the best donut place in town. It’s just a way to get people to talk to us. If you go to the Symphony it’s great but the people on stage are untouchable. We are just five people and we love the intimacy that chamber music allows.”
Gaudete Brass Quintet aims for you to reflect on the possibilities for brass sounds. They are soon releasing a new album which you can learn more about and their other activities by visiting the Gaudete Brass Quintet website.
The Dame Myra Hess Concerts continue every Wednesday at 12:15 with the exception of Christmas, New Years and Lincoln’s Birthday. For more information on the upcoming concerts visit the International Music Foundation website pages on the Dame Myra Hess series.
Photos in concert hall: Amy Munice
All other photos courtesy of Gaudete Brass Qunitet