Rain was no deterrent for Oceanside Classical Concerts subscribers on Saturday evening, November 25 – the renowned quintet ‘A Touch of Brass’ played to a packed house at Knox. The brass shone brilliantly – trumpets, Tom Shorthouse and James Littleford, French horn, Nick Anderson; tuba, David Sabourin; trombone, Jeremy Berkman – and the audience cheered, whistled, and honoured the five with a well-deserved, long standing ovation.
From the very outset it was clear that this would be an eye-popping program. The proclamation presented in the opening number, Air Pour les Trompettes (JS Bach), set the tone with the celebratory piccolo trumpets.
Tight phrasing and breathtaking dynamics showed the quintet’s long-term relationship as a group. Canzon Gallicam (S Sheidt) followed by Three Pieces (L Maurer) paved the way for two outstanding works from the world of opera – Susanna’s Aria (from la Nozze de Figaro, WA Mozart) and Musetta’s Waltz (from la Boheme, G Puccini). Trombonist Jeremy Berkman described how it felt to be a player down in the pit, playing in the Vancouver Opera Orchestra (all five of ATOB play for the Opera Orchestra). “We can’t see anything from down there. We have no idea what’s happening onstage. So the music tells us the story. Music, to us, is the story.” Indeed, so it is.
Canadian Folk Song Rhapsody (Traditional, arr. G Leader) completed the first half of the show. Set to influences from Eastern Canada and, therefore, Europe, the heartfelt stories here were of the swells of the seas, the jigs and the flings, and the memories of the moors.
The show’s second half opened with Rondeau (JJ Mouret), a piece recognizable by many who were fans of tv’s Masterpiece Theatre. The quintet’s version left no doubt in anyone’s mind that there could be none better.
Scherzo (J Cheetham), in all its intricate liveliness, led to the Eastern European Russian Sailor’s Dance (R Gliere, arr. David Sabourin, a founding member of A Touch of Brass, 40 years ago). In Dave Sabourin’s words, “This piece is intended for a 180-piece orchestra. Here is our version!”
A set of three pieces by M Calvert, in reference to the hills from Mont Royal in Quebec to Vermont, the Suite from the Monteregian Hills played through pomp and circumstance to melancholy to waltz-for-fun.
Triste (J Townsend) slowed the pace and washed over the audience in deep hues of blues and violets. The story here, sadness. But sadness with a quiet hint of hope and light.
The program’s final offering was a perfect medley of music by George Gershwin (arr. D Sabourin), Gershwin in Concert, wrapped beautifully with muted trombone and muted trumpet.
A rousing standing ovation brought the quintet back for Shepherd’s Song, a superb finish. The audience made their way out to the rain, smiling and knowing they had just witnessed the best of the best.
Article written by Mary Leigh-Warden