December 2006

Canadian Brass | Annual Christmas Concert
December 23, 2006Roy Thomson HallToronto
A Christmas Blast
by Anna Lisa Eyles

The Annual Christmas Concert of the Canadian Brass began with the quintet blowing their way into Roy Thomson Hall with a bit of New Orleans jazz, then leaping onto the stage “as leaves before the wild hurricane fly”. They were dressed all in black “from their heads to (their) feet”, incongruously shod in white running shoes, portending forthcoming physical feats.

Charles (Chuck) Daellenbach, tubist, original to the band’s inception thirty-six years ago, joked with the audience that they had just played their encore in advance. Having completed a month long tour including a variety of cities in both California and New York States, the group raced back to Toronto for their traditional Christmas performance and a program which included something for everyone; of every age and musical bent.

Best known for their love of music from the Baroque period, the quintet offered Bach’s Aire Pours les Trompettes, three movements of the Concerto in D Major, BWV 972 written by Vivaldi and later adapted by Bach, and the perennial Bach favourite Sheep May Safely Graze accompanied by the Elmer Iseler Singers.

Canadian Brass has a long association with the Elmer Iseler Singers, dating back to the choir’s inception in 1979. This twenty-voice chamber choir of ten men, ten women, has impressive musical credentials. Some members even conduct their own choirs such as baritone David King’s All the King’s Voices and soprano Angela Brubacher, with her two choirs in Elmira and Breslau Ontario. With such vocal talent combining dark, bright, rich and full voices, the perfectly balanced and blended outcome is of great credit to conductor, Lydia Adams.

At intermission, an audience member, Gordon, shared the information that he and his friends have attended the Christmas performance of the Canadian Brass for a number of years. Several winters back, a group of tickets was received as a present and since then, the Christmas concert has been a rotating gift.

Currently studying for his Master of Music at the University of Toronto, a special treat was the voice of up and coming, handsome and debonair baritone, Giles Tomkins. He showed that he is equally at home singing either popular or classical music, by leading the audience in a Christmas favourites sing-along. Tomkins is quickly developing an international reputation, leading Chuck Daellenbach laughingly to remark that they invited Tomkins to sing while they could still afford him. Performing “Jacob’s Ladder” with back-up by the Elmer Iseler Singers, every note went “higher, higher” showcasing Tomkins’ impressive vocal range. Tomkins’ success on the international stage is almost guaranteed.

Canadian Brass performed contemporary Christmas favourites such as "Silver Bells", "White Christmas", "I’ll Be Home for Christmas" and "The Christmas Song", as well as a medley of Glenn Miller orchestral tunes. Each of Stuart Laughton and Josef Burgstaller trumpeters, Bernhard Scully on horn and trombonist Gene Watts, one of the originating quintet members, were featured.

Daellenbach also introduced and honoured famed arranger Luther Henderson who was in the audience. For many years, Henderson was the arranger for Duke Ellington. He wrote a special arrangement of Handel’s "Joy to the World" for the Canadian Brass which was heard in the last part of the program.

Canadian Brass performed in a relaxed and loose style, taking time to joke and provide information to the audience about the music, their CD, their history, the Elmer Iseler Singers, their CD, Giles Tomkins, baritone and yes, their CD.

The final entertainment proffered was the performance of "Frosty the Snowman" where Chuck Daellenbach played Frosty and melted onto the stage, still bravely playing his tuba. Audience applause erupted long before the last echo died.

Entire families attend the Canadian Brass Annual Christmas Concert each year, without fail. Only one member of the quintet is actually Canadian though and they are in fact, chamber quintet-in-residence at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, California. Their bright brass instruments are actually gold plated, shimmering more than any Christmas ornament. Canadian Brass or not, as one attendee put it, “What tells you its Christmas more than hearing carols performed by a brass ensemble?”
We welcome your comments and feedback
Anna Lisa Eyles
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