John Frayne | Once again, Canadian Brass doesn't disappoint at Krannert

John Frayne | Once again, Canadian Brass doesn't disappoint at Krannert

The Canadian Brass, North America's favorite brass quintet, came to Foellinger Great Hall at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in Urbana last Sunday afternoon and played an engaging program to the delight of a houseful of fans that greeted and cheered these players as if they were old and beloved friends, and indeed they are.

The members of the quintet, Chuck Daellenbach (tuba), Christopher Coletti (trumpet), Caleb Hudson (trumpet), Achilles Liarmakopoulos (trombone) and Jeff Nelson (horn) have fine-tuned their special brand, the lighter side of the classical repertory, played with energetic brilliance, with a lot of laughs along the way.

The individual selections of the printed program were introduced by members of the quintet from the stage, and I admit I missed some of the details about the compositions, so I will try to fill in additional information.

The quintet, as is their custom, came down the aisles, playing their instruments, and in this case, the melody was the hymn tune "Just a Closer Walk with You."

This was followed by a peppy rendition of Claudio Monteverdi's madrigal "Damigella Tutta Bella," ("Maiden, all beautiful") from his 1607 "Scherzi Musicali," arranged by Caleb Hudson.

Going from the 1600s into the 1700s, the quintet played a joyous, rollicking version of G.F. Handel's "Arrival of the Queen of Sheba," from the oratorio "Solomon."

After a tongue-twisting introduction about the difference between J.S. Bach's "Great Fugue" and his "Little Fugue," the group played resolutely the "Little" one, in the arrangement by Ronald Romm, an alumnus of the Canadian Brass, now at the University of Illinois, and sitting in the audience. Romm was called on for a bow, and got a rousing volley of applause.

The quintet then showed its mellower side in an arrangement of Johannes Brahms' "Chorale Prelude No. 10."

It was at this point that the comments from the stage were lost on me, but I found out that, in a recent Canadian Brass CD called "Carnaval," the group played all of Robert Schumann's suite entitled "Carnaval" in an arrangement by Brandon Ridenour and Chris Coletti, currently trumpeter of the group.

From the Schumann work, at this concert, the quintet played "Chopin," No. 12 of the suite, "Paganini," an "Intermezzo," "Harlequin," No. 3, and "Papillions," No. 9.

The group projected Schumann's shifting moods, while doing justice to Schumann's brilliant piano original.

In a Carnival mood, the next number was trumpeter Caleb Hudson's own arrangement of the famous tune "Carnival of Venice." Hudson went from one fiendishly complicated variation to another, punctuated with thunderous applause after each one.

And what could come after that? Well, in "Tuba Tiger Rag," by Harry DeCosta, Chuck Daellenbach did things with his tuba that resembled wrestling with a python. I am happy to say that Chuck seemed to come out the winner.

After intermission, a fast-paced race through W.A. Mozart's "Turkish Rondo," was followed by a "Journey to South America,' with pieces by Augustin Lara and Astor Piazzolla.

After these, the most serious playing of the afternoon was devoted to the final composition, "Quintet," by movie composer Michael Kamen (1948-2003).

The quintet players excelled in the quiet reflective opening, after which a soaring melody formed a moving climax that trailed off to a peaceful ending.

If you were 15 or older in 1942, you would remember band leader Glenn Miller. But would you be able to remember the titles of the tunes? From Christopher Dedrick's "Glenn Miller Songbook," the quintet's playing brought back the good old days but not the titles.

And here is what they were playing: "Moonlight Serenade," "A String of Pearls," "Danny Boy," (Everyone except a few Martians got that one!), "American Patrol," "At Last" and the medley ended with Miller's theme song, "In the Mood."

Afterward, on their feet, the crowd went wild. As encore, the Canadian Brass played what has become one of their theme songs: N. Rimsky-Korsakov's "The Flight of Bumble Bee" from his opera, "The Tale of the Tsar Saltan," and the Canadians got through it with nary a sting.

John Frayne hosts "Classics of the Phonograph" on Saturdays at WILL-FM and, in retirement, teaches at the UI. Reach him at frayne@illinois.edu.

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