Programming a Brass Quintet Performance Program



I started my quintet career at an early age with a group in San Diego (Brasszania) which was heard regularly at regional venues such as Sea World and Disneyland. Once I began my college career I helped form The Cleveland Chamber Brass and later joined Center City Brass Quintet where I remained until 2000 when I joined Canadian Brass. With all this experience I have found that programming is an essential part for a successful concert. After many years performing with brass quintets, and hundreds of performances with Canadian Brass, I would like to share with you some sample programs and process for your quintet to help you begin planning your performances. If at all possible, check out these pieces from your school library to help select which works are right for your group.


Each concert should start with an upbeat and "grab their attention" opener. I have found that using a "classical" and traditional beginning works best. (Examples: Sheidt - Galliard Battaglia, Canzon Bergamasca, Monteverdi - Fanfare from 'Orfeo', Handel - Overture from 'Queen of Sheba', or more contemporary DiLorenzo - Firedance)


Once you have their attention and trust that they are in for an enjoyable time, plan another substantial piece that is still somewhat upbeat and classical. [This may include a multi work number if the movements are short] This will keep their attention and excitement up, while starting to settle the group down and move into more serious repertoire later.(Examples: Scheidt/Reynolds - Centone #5, Bach/Mills - Toccata & Fugue in d minor, Bach/Frackenpohl - Suite from Goldberg Variations, Vivaldi/Frackenpohl - Four Seasons, Gabrieli selections, Bach/Mills - Art of the Fugue or Susato - Renaissance Dances)


Once the audience and quintet feel settled, it is safe to perform a more serious and/or multi-movement work. I have found that doing this earlier on in the concert works well. Full attention is still on the group and it allows for another major work to be played in the second half. (Examples: Arnold - Quintet, Bozza - Sonatine, Previn - Four Outings for Brass, Koetsier - Quintet, Turner - Ricochet, Ewald - Quintet No. 1, Delerue - Vitrail or even Calvert - Suite from Monteragian Hills)


If you are not taking an intermission and don't want something too heavy, some other examples are: Forsyth - Golyrdes Ground, Arutunian - Armenian Scenes, Sampson - Morning Music, Lutoaslovski - Mini Overture, Jones - Quintet, Sampson - Morning Music, Mauer - Three Pieces or Horowitz - Music Hall Suite and Calvert - Suite form Monteragian Hills


Now that you have played a more serious piece and the audience has focused on your performance, perform something light that does not require as much heavy concentration on the audience's part, preferably a tune or medley that the audience may already know. (Examples: Selections from Gershwin/Henderson - Porgy & Bess, Bernstein/Gale - West Side Story, Lennon & McArtney/Dedrick selections or Ellington/Elkier selections)


If you are planning on taking an intermission, this would be a good time to take it. You will have just finished playing good and fun music to send the audience into the break wanting more and giving them something to talk about.


If you took an intermission, it may be to your advantage to start the second half of the program with titles that the audience knows or with music that easy listening. This gives them a chance to ease back into their seats and get ready for more. (Example: Glenn Miller/Dedrick - Medley, Tommy Dorsey/Furgeson - Medley, or Cheetham - Scherzo, Sykora - Sinfonietta and Bernstein - Dance Suite)


After you play this familiar opening tune, the audience will feel settled and be ready to focus again on something more serious and emotional. I suggest the group take advantage of this and program their most emotional number. (Example: Kamen - Quintet, Wagner - Elsa's Procession, Barber/McNeff - Adagio or Albninoni/McNeff - Adagio)


This will be the moment that you have stretched the audience in their emotions and surprised them in the ability of a brass quintet as a chamber ensemble. The final portion of the concert is now ready. Combine all the elements in another featured work with multi movements if you wish. (Example: Dahl - Music for Brass, Ewald - Quintet No. 3, Boehme - Sextet, Gates - Sextet, Hindemith/Borsheim - Organ Sonata, Ewazen - Colchester Fantasy, Bach - Laudes, or Plog - Four Sketches)


A closer is not needed, but a fun number to play can be nice as a programmed encore. (Be prepared for a real encore as well). This should be fun and rewarding for the audience and the performers. Remember to have fun while performing the piece. It is a bonus for the audience and a gift to them for being so attentive and wanting to hear more. Do not program something too difficult. You have already proved what's needed. Smile and enjoy the energy from the crowd and be pleased that you just created a wonderful event for all who participated in the concert. This means audience and musicians alike. (Examples: Any Luther Henderson arrangement such as St. Louis Blues, Beale St. Blues, Amazing Grace, High Society, Dog Gone Blues or That's a Plenty)

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