Low brass ensemble demonstrates versatility

Mal Hartigan

On Oct. 25, the White Recital Hall was lit aflame with the energy and expertise of UMKC’s own euphonium and tuba performers. This low brass ensemble consisted of four euphoniums and six tubas, each player severely adept in their musical abilities.

Thomas Stein, a much sought-after tuba and euphonium instructor, was the conductor for the ensemble.

Stein picked a diverse musical selection to showcase the ensemble’s versatility and ability to adapt to any piece despite potential challenges. Stein told the audience that one of the selections, entitled “Magnificat,” even had time signatures ranging to 22/4.

The opening number, “Fanfare No. 1,” was a short piece, introducing the audience to the ensemble’s ability to meld together. There were excellent crescendos by the tubas, startling the listeners, and the slew of staccato 16th notes were double-tongued with proficiency.

Though many listeners may originally think tubas and euphoniums are not capable of creating gorgeous blend and harmonies since their sound is so low, the ensemble was quick to negate this assumption.

The second piece, “Benediction,” was conducted by David Dimmit, a euphonium player in the ensemble. This song gave the group the ability to harmonize with each other, creating rich chords with complex layering.

Long gone are the days of a tuba being the sole foundation of the band and the days of tubas only playing downbeats in a march while euphoniums squeal a counter-melody.

“Benediction” gave these musicians a chance to demonstrate low brass adaptability. A euphonium solo was featured in this piece, threaded throughout the rest of the song, as well as a tuba solo.

“Hauntings,” the next piece, was divided into four different sections (not necessarily movements, Stein informed the audience), each thoroughly chilling. Some sections featured momentary dissonance, and others included forceful crescendos, causing an uproar of eeriness.

This piece was the longest and perhaps most captivating, since it included a recording of brisk wind. The tuba players’ fingers moved swiftly and precisely across the valves, making the audience feel frantic all the while.

“Magnificat” was a gorgeous piece, conducted as if it didn’t have a time signature, Stein said. It swapped between time signatures so frequently that it proved to initially be a challenge for the ensemble, but it was quickly perfected and performed for the audience with ease. It was another legato piece with impressive chords and harmonies.

The last two pieces of the evening were short but upbeat marches, with “La donna e’ mobile” conducted by fellow tuba player, Matthew Crossley.

It was a fun and cheerful piece – much better than a traditional march, since it did not include any woodwind instruments, but instead, was another example of how functional low brass instruments are together.

The concluding march, “The Bride Elect,” was just as short and uplifting.

UMKC’s low brass ensemble was unquestionably polished and professional in their performance. Their brass events are free to the public and certainly worth attending. For more information regarding upcoming performances, visit www.conservatory.umkc.edu.

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