The Canadian Brass at Benaroya Hall
The Canadian Brass and I go back a long way. Growing up in the in Toronto and playing the trumpet in music class at school, The Canadian Brass were a huge phenomenon during my late '70s/early '80s high school years.
The original group was started by trombonist Gene Watts and Tuba player Chuck Deallenbach in Toronto in 1970, and was a big deal at Earl Haig Secondary School. They even inspired a group called Brass With Class, made up of band geeks in the year ahead of me -- Norm Seli and Jeff Engel on trumpet, Andrew Fullerton on trombone, Ron Cockburn on tuba and Michael Cook on French Horn (please forgive me if I've gotten some of that info incorrect!). I wanted to be in that group so badly, which made me a band geek wanna-be -- ouch.
They made classical music cool and so much fun. They've always had a great performance style and rapport with the audience. Let's face it, we band geeks are the fun loving goofy ones. The string players are always so darned serious -- they never even crack a smile. And the choir members, well, who are we kidding. Your voice? Puleez, get a real instrument.
Just kidding, some of my best friends are vocalists…actually it's only people who can't sing well who make fun of singers, so no nasty letters or death threats. Our band was always playing practical jokes and doing goofy things at concerts. And some things never change. At my daughter's middle school Christmas concert the orchestra played beautifully, albeit seriously. On the other hand the band had one of their own (the tuba player of course) dress up like the Grinch and act out "You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch" while the band played the piece. Of course!
Needless to say in addition to spectacular musicianship, the Canadian Brass displays a great sense of humor ("'70s band humor", as my husband calls it). The whole audience was set a-chuckling right from the get go. I always love it when Chuck melts during Frosty the Snowman! And ending the evening with Hornsmoke, an opera for brass quintet, well, it doesn't get any better than that.
The current quintet is made up of Gene and Chuck as well as Jeff Nelson on French Horn (and magic tricks), Joe Burgstaller on trumpet, and for the first time ever a female member -- Manon Lafrance, also on trumpet. They sound brass-tastic! And check out their awesome website -- canadianbrass.com -- where they have an online store, concert listings, past member info and lots of cool pics!
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