Brass instruments of kinds got the spotlight with the NDSU School of Music’s Brass Chamber Concert last Tuesday, March 25. Featuring 12 student brass players, this concert showcased sounds from all edges of the spectrum — from horn to tuba, trumpet to trombone — as well as a variety of musical tastes — from fanfares to jazz to Gershwin.
Starting off the show were four trumpet students (Jordan Konynenbelt, Matt Schneider, Logan Tretter, Elias Youngblom) and two fanfares. To play these Renaissance-era tunes, the musicians employed natural trumpets — hand-hewn instruments soldered from copper tubing and trumpet bells in associate professor of trumpet Dr. Jeremy Brekke’s garage.
This old-timey twist added a real zest to the music, and it made one feel right at the court of King Henry VIII (even though the fanfares were composed in the last 220 years). The switch between natural trumpets and concert trumpets was fun as well, but the natural trumpets resonated best of all for their showcase in the concert.
One other highlight of the Brass Chamber Concert was “Mambo’s Mambo,” a jazzy number that brought out a three-piece rhythm section — piano, bass and drums. This piece was highly entertaining, as the sharp trumpets against the backing bass and lollipop piano were sheer enjoyment for the ears.
This performance was followed by a stage change as the trumpet quadrille was replaced by a brass trio composed of trumpet (Amy Schaaf), horn (Erika Berger) and trombone (Neil Erickson). This bare bones brass conglomeration threw down the seven movements of Robert Muczynski’s “Voyage,” a wavering piece that featured all kinds of sentiments and adventures in a somewhat overlong performance.
Spit valve cleansing between each movement in “Voyage” was a glaring distraction during the brass trio’s time onstage, and although no doubt necessary, it’s just not pleasant to listen to someone blow the spit out of their instrument onstage in an intimate concert.
The settings of Beckwith Recital Hall are quite cozy, and the turnout for the Brass Chamber Concert seemed to be strictly family and a few friends, but there was a definite audience on hand to soak in all the sounds.
Rounding out all of this brass magic was the Brass Quintet, imaginatively titled “M.O.R.P.H.,” an acronym of the musicians’ surnames. Their performance could be perhaps the best of all as they showcased three tunes in short order and had wonderful chemistry with each other.
Two trumpets (Jake Olsen and Logan Reed) led the charge along much of the way in the three-song set list, and the tuba (Taylor Peterson) laid a foundation of strength for the horn (Jen Mickels) and trombone (Sam Huber) to build on. Their last number “Vuelta del Fuego” by Kevin McKee seemed the longest piece of the night, but was flavorful with a salty Spanish feel.
The Brass Chamber Concert was on Mar. 25 in Beckwith Recital Hall.