Brass Bash delights with comical errors and questionable musicians

Katja Liebing/Courier The PCC brass ensembles give their end of semester performance in Westerbek Hall at Pasadena City College on Thursday, December3, 2015.

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Ever wonder what it would be like if Katie Perry, Abraham Lincoln and President Obama played together in a brass ensemble? Well, the Brass Bash at the Westerbeck Recital Hall last week Thursday was the place to be for music lovers looking for something a little bit different.

Katja Liebing/Courier Members of the Sembi-Five Quintet give their end of semester performance in Westerbek Hall at Pasadena City College on Thursday, December 3, 2015.

Katja Liebing/Courier
Members of the Sembi-Five Quintet give their end of semester performance in Westerbeck Hall at Pasadena City College on Thursday, December 3, 2015.

Lead by program director Beth Mitchell, the Brass Bash consisted of ten performances by students from the brass ensembles program. However, the program for the event was anything but typical.

“Many years ago it was pointed out to me that I never got anyone’s names spelled correctly in the program,” said Mitchell. “So we stopped trying.”

Apart from being an adjunct faculty member at PCC, Mitchell also works for Disney, a council corporation for developing instruments, Biola University, and Los Angeles Valley College had to type the program for the Brass Bash on her phone during her breaks, which meant that errors were often overlooked.

Mitchell decided it would be fun to keep the misspelled names in the program. She even started to add other errors to make the programs more amusing to read.

“Some of them are musical errors or era errors or composer errors that you might not know if you are not a member of the group,” said Mitchell. “Some of them are personnel errors. Some of them are spelling errors. Some of them are grammatical errors. There are many errors.”

According to Mitchell, anyone starting to fall asleep during the performance could whip out their program and start looking for errors. Mitchell even handed out prizes towards the end of the event for those who found the most errors. The grand prize was a bag of candy cane Hershey Kisses and second place was awarded a plastic candy cane full of Hershey Kisses. The honorable mention received a bow.

Falling asleep wasn’t an issue though. The musicians delighted with ensembles, quintets and quartets.

The first group to start off the evening was the Ginyu Force Brass Quintet named after the iconic fighting pose from the anime “Dragon Ball.”

The quintet played two pieces, starting with “Rainbow Connection” and followed by “Quintet 1.”

The quintet was followed with Charlie’s Angels Trombone Quartet (With Bosley). Bosley referred to the only male among the four-member group. According to the program, Katy Perry was to play with the quartet, but Mitchell made an appearance onstage to the delight of the crowd—many of who were her students waiting to perform their piece for the Brass Bash.

“I haven’t played the trombone in many years so bear with me,” said Mitchell.

Mitchell didn’t seem to have a problem playing and the rest of the quartet was equally impressive. The slow, steady tune of the second piece, “Panis Angelicus,” showcased their skill with the trombone.

The third group was the Sembi-Five Quintet. All five members wore red Santa hats, but their musical numbers had nothing to do with Christmas. Instead, they played a couple of elaborate tunes that showed off their teamwork and musical prowess. Although the trumpet was the most noticeable instrument onstage in terms of sound, the horn, trombone and tuba players were invaluable to the performance. They created an underlying melody that elevated each other’s performances rather than diminishing them.

The fourth group was the Questionable Questionables Quartet, so named because Mitchell was unable to get a name from them in time for the Brass Bash. Following the quartet was a quintet called the Bach Street Boyz.

The quintet performed a fast and powerful piece. The melody rose and fell and two of the trumpets experimented with the sound by applying mutes to their instruments during the performance.

The Mentors Tuba Quartet performed next. Unlike the previous performances, this group included, according to the event program, Abraham Lincoln and, as the quartet name implied, several mentors.

“I was a school music teacher for 30 years before I retired,” said mentor and tubist Linda Taylor. “My whole reason for being is to help kids and that sort of thing.”

According to Mitchell, the bass ensembles program has seen its library of tunes expand thanks to the efforts of mentors, such as Taylor, who come and help the music program at PCC.

“They’ve come around and instructed and taught us gently and sometimes not so gently,” said Mitchell.

The Mentors Tuba Quartet second piece, “Highland Quickstep,” was a jaunty tune that had the group moving their feet from side to side in time with the music adding a bit of a “quickstep” to the performance.

The Frostfire Brass Quintet and the El Nino Large Tuba Euphonium Ensemble, which performed Christmas tunes, followed the Mentors Tuba Quartet.

The evening finished with performances by Krisbel and the Boyz Large Tuba Quartet who played “Greensleeves” and “Hallelujah Chorus.” During the last piece, Mitchell, who was conducting, had to stop the tune because some of the musicians were having trouble following along. However, everyone was able to laugh it off and the concert ended on a positive note.

During the concert only two pieces were lead by conductors. According to Mitchell, this is because the bass ensembles program teaches students to learn how to play chamber music without an instructor guiding them.

“It’s been said that chamber music is like naval sea training for musicians because you have to have one person on a part and there’s no where to hide,” said Mitchell.

“They’ve got to be able to run a group of people and come to a consensus about how they’re going to play something,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell was happy to see her students performing so well at the Brass Bash.

“I love watching them succeed at what they’ve been working so hard at all semester and I love seeing them mature as musicians,” said Mitchell.

The brass ensembles program is still accepting students that are interested.

 

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