Big brass brings big variety

By Jenny Neyman

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Philadelphia Brass formed in 1988 to pursue members’ common goals — educating the public about the pleasures, subtleties and complexities of chamber music and performing the best of brass quintet literature of all periods and styles.

But when someone says, “all periods and styles,” it’s assumed to have a twinge of hyperbole, right? How diverse could two trumpets, a French horn, trombone and a tuba really be?

Quite, it turns out, as evidenced by the quintet’s program for its upcoming concert Saturday in Soldotna.

The presentation ranges from classical Bach cantatas to the social commentary  “Threepenny Opera Suite” by Kurt Weill and Karl Kramer (with the original musical by German dramatist Bertolt Brecht).

“Ubi Caritas,” back on the classical end of the spectrum, is a church hymn long used in Catholic Mass on Maundy Thursday. What brass music could veer in a completely different direction from a contemplative Gregorian melody? How about a breakneck showstopper showcasing performers’ technical abilities and musicality? “Fire Dance,” by Emmy award-winning composer Anthony DiLorenzo, fits that bill.

Those who enjoy visiting musicians for the chance to hear something brand new to their ears will likely find that in “Many Happy Returns,” a piece in three movements by Paul Salerni commissioned and premiered by Philadelphia Brass in 2012.

Or for audience members who enjoy the famously familiar, the ensemble will perform a suite from the musical “Guys and Dolls” including, “Oldest Established Permanent Crap Game in New York,” “If I Were a Bell,” “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” and “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat.”

Beyond that, the only base not covered would be something typically, belovedly big and brassy. Enter Duke Ellington. The “Ellington Suite” on the program features “Do Nothin’ Till you Hear From Me,” “In a Sentimental Mood” and “It Don’t Mean and Thing.”

The concert is presented by the Performing Arts Society and features Anthony Cecere on French horn, Robert Gale on trombone, Steven Heitzer on trumpet, Brian Kuszyk on trumpet, and Scott Mendoker on tuba. It will be held at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Church Lutheran Church at the Y in Soldotna. Tickets are $20 for general admission or $10 for students, available in advance at Northcountry Fair and River City Books in Soldotna and Already Read and Country Liquor in Kenai. For more information on Philadelphia Brass, visit


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Filed under music, Performing Arts Society

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