Thursday, April 13, 2017

Eastern Iowa Brass Band

Eastern Iowa Brass Band
Arfon Owen-Tenor Horn Soloist

I wanted to return to the United States and give a plug for the Brass Band that is essentially in my own back yard.  The Eastern Iowa Brass Band rehearses in Mt. Vernon, IA, but they perform in Cedar Rapids, West Branch, Davenport, Des Moines, and at North American Brass Band Association events from time to time.

I have been acquainted with a lot of the performers in this group over the years.  A couple of them have even performed in the same ensembles as I, but that is par for the course around NE Iowa and NW Illinois.  There was a time I even received a call from a member trying to recruit me for an open tuba spot back in 2004 or 2005.  Two hour drives on US 30 did not sound like a good idea to me.  I was already traveling nearly two hours to play in the Rockford Wind Ensemble at that time.  

I have had the pleasure of hearing the band play at the Iowa Bandmaster's Convention in Des Moines and at an event in Davenport many years ago.  They work hard and they take their musical craft seriously.  I also like that they play outdoors for patriotic events at the Hoover Presidential Museum in West Branch.  The video above is from their most recent concert.  The selection is Slavische Fantasie and the soloist is Arfon Owen who visited my class last month.  The EIBB schedule is here:   You can also find more information about these Iowa musical ambassadors there beyond when they are performing.   Please enjoy this performance of the Eastern Iowa Brass Band!!!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Listening Party Part Deux

Our professor, John Manning, was on the East Coast this week performing and giving masterclasses, so the students of Advanced Brass Literature, had another listening party.  

The first selection was an arrangement of Fugue in D Minor by Bach for Horn Quartet.  This performance by the Budapest Horn Quartet is simply outstanding.  

Our second selection was from the pen of Benjamin Blasko.  Victory Fanfare is for Trumpet Ensemble and Concert Band.  Tromba Mundi and the US Navy Band provide the performance in this video.

The selection that I brought to the party is the Divertimento for Brass and Percussion by the late Karel Husa.  This work is scored for three trumpets, four horns, three trombones, tuba, and two percussionists.  Husa scored this for brass quintet, and John Boyd arranged it for concert band.  Husa passed away on December 14, 2016 at the age of 95.  I was blessed to have been one of his assistants for the Contemporary Music Symposium at Illinois Wesleyan University in 1989.  I have never met a kinder man than Karel Husa.  

Our fourth selection was from the pen of Pulitzer Prize winning composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich.  The Clarino Quartet for trumpet ensemble is scored for piccolo trumpet, e-flat trumpet, and two C trumpets.  This is the first movement of the work.

The next selection is brass ensemble by John Williams.  Quidditch from the Harry Potter film series is score for three trumpets, four horns, and three trombones.  

Our final selection was Alec Wilder's Jazz Suite for Four Horns, Harpsichord, Bass and Drums.  I have played several tuba works by Alec Wilder in my undergraduate years.  His music is creative, diverse, and amusing at times.  This is the first movement from the suite, Horns O'Plenty.  

I hope you enjoy these diverse selections from our class.  I think we covered a lot of territory musically in our party.   

Monday, April 3, 2017

Vivo Montana (Bulgaria)

Vivo Montana
Several years ago I was introduced to the musical genre Chalga.  Chalga is a type of popular folk or dance music prominent in Bulgaria and other Eastern European countries.  The music is unique mix of Western electronic dance music, folk music, and other influences.  I was in research class for my Master's program when we listened to several Bulgarian folk and popular musical selections.  One of the artists we listened to is Azis.  Azis is a gender fluid Chalga artist.  His music and music videos were a little shocking to me at first, but I quickly became accustomed to the fusion of musical styles and the gender fluidity of his video persona.  Here is a glimpse of Azis.  
Vivo Montana is a brass band made up of young men that play popular music of Bulgaria on Brass Instruments.  The clip at the top of this post has a similar style to Azis' music, but the acoustic brass elements are less processed and sound less clean musically.  However, the energy is still there.  The men play trumpets, baritones, trombones, tuba (sousaphone) and percussion.  Vivo Montana, hail from the city of Montana, Bulgaria in the Northwest section of the country.  These young men attended a math and science high school together and organized their band with the help of their music teacher.  The band has appeared on Bulgaria's Got Talent and other television shows.  The group has their own web page with dozens of performances in video and Soundcloud audio.

I find their performances to be enjoyable and full of energy.  I would not say they are polished in a professional sense, but that is where the charm begins.  The performances are edgy and at times dangerous.  My embouchure is screaming at me watching all of the choreography and movement.  You can see the joy on their faces.  The music is just a portion of the entertainment package, just as Asiz uses video and imagery to enhance the music.  No, I do not expect you like the music, nor the performers, but I encourage you to step out of the box and just experience this style of performance.  I feel their work is important historically.  In 1991 when the iron curtain fell, Western influence, poured in.  This music is a product of that cultural revolution in Eastern Europe.  There is validity and a humanness to this product that I find intriguing artistically.  My life in the United States has been rather tame artistically.  Imagine if we lifted all kinds of societal restrictions and cultural assimilation tactics from the States.  What could we accomplish artistically or musically?  Look at Bulgaria!  Vivo Montana and Asiz are obviously celebrating their freedom to pursue music in a personal way.  Now I wait for America's Got Talent to have all manner of ensembles hit the stage......