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Innovative Chamber Groups
Two trumpets, horn, trombone, and tuba… the brass quintet.
Groups like The Canadian Brass have legitimized this instrumentation as being as artistically valuable as any other chamber group. But artistry isn’t something that’s reserved only for classical music.
The Mirari Brass Quintet is continuing the tradition of challenging what audiences might expect from a classical music performance.
“We had a quote, when we played our concert at Cornell,” said Jessie Thoman, the group’s horn player. “It was like someone put my iPod on shuffle and played all my favorite songs.”
The five musicians met when they were students at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. In spring of 2010, the group toured New York, Ohio, and Connecticut performing at schools and conducting master classes. Thoman said that part of the group’s mission is to educate and to push boundaries in their performances. “In order to keep classical music moving forward, we have to embrace new situations, embrace new audiences, and embrace skepticism.”
More Than the Classics
“But to be honest, I don’t know if we’ve ever thought of ourselves as a classical group,” commented one of the two trumpet players Alex Noppe. Brass quintet as a genre, he said, is about 60 years old, so nearly everything the group plays is influenced by jazz, popular and ethnic music. “One of the things that I love about playing the trumpet is that you can find it in virtually every style of music imaginable.”
On a typical Mirari Brass concert, music by 16th century composer Giovanni Gabrieli will be followed by an arrangement of a Charles Mingus tune, which will be followed by an original composition. It’s this diversity of programming that they says audiences really respond to.
Connecting With the Audience
Thoman also says that it’s about breaking down barriers between the performers and the audience. “People talk about communicating with the audience, but that can seem one-way,” she said. “I think that’s where classical music has run into problems, with the musicians and the audience being two separate things.” When creating music, she continued, giving the audience something to give back to the performers is important.
On their tour in spring 2010, they managed to fit in one special impromptu performance during their travels in New York. As they were driving from one performance to the next, Noppe recalled, they stopped by the elementary school when Thoman’s sister teaches minutes before the end of the school day.
“We set up in the cafeteria and did an impromptu ten minute performance for about three or four elementary school classes. I think it was one of the most musically refreshing, most energizing gigs we played the entire time.”
They performed another impromptu concert for an unsuspecting audience in June 2010 at the Bloomington farmers markets. Alex Noppe and Jessica Thoman were joined by the other members of The Mirari Brass Quintet: trumpter Eddie Ludema, trombonist John Grodrian, and tuba player Glen Dimick. They played music of Charles Mingus, “Goodbye Porkpie Hat,” arranged for brass quintet by Noppe.
Find out more about The Mirari Brass Quintet on their website.