Who ever would imagine a bull in its death throes lying on its back, playing the trumpet?
The lively imagination and refreshing wit of Canadian Brass brought that moment to life in a comically condensed version of Bizet’s Carmen Saturday night at Blossom Music Center. Co-founder Chuck Daellenbach led the charge, so to speak, dressed up like a bull with horns on his head.
The bull fight was just part of what makes this self-deprecating quintet of world-class musicians so enjoyable. Trumpeter Coletti, who already has an impossibly awesome mane of curly black hair, wore a black wig as the coquettish Carmen. The rest of the quintet wore various wigs and hats to take on the roles of the toreador, nice girl Micaela and the soldier Don Jose.
Obviously, these guys don’t take themselves terribly seriously all of the time, as evidenced by the white tennis shoes they sport with their black suits. They know how to infuse humor where it’s approptriate, with the multitalented Daellenbach even playing the maracas while making music on tuba.
These musicians are opera lovers, so joining Carmen in the program were Suite from L’Orfeo and Suite from Porgy and Bess, too. The Gershwin proved fascinating as the trumpets assumed the voices of Bess and Daellenbach represented the low bass voice of Porgy. Especially jazzy was Keith Dyrda on his trombone solo in It Ain’t Necessarily So. French hornist Jeff Nelsen opened the suite with a mellowly beautiful solo in Summertime.
One of my favorite parts of the performance was Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, which showed off what incredible musicians these brass players are. The piece was both rich and precise, and it was amazing to hear the contrapuntal voices done with all brass.
The only brass arrangement that didn’t work was the Beatles’ Blackbird, part of an Essential Beatles medley. Dyrda’s low-voiced solo on trombone was drowned out by the other brass instruments. It wasn’t a good listening experience straining to pick out the famous melody.
Penny Lane rocked, though, as did dueling trumpeters Coletti and Brandon Ridenour in Come Together.
Canadian Brass has had incredible longevity, founded 40 years ago in Toronto. The group keeps evolving, with three of the five members now in their 20s and co-founder Gene Watts stepping down just last spring. The group’s stellar musicianship and bright, entertaining personalities are what keep audiences coming back for more.
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