It may be Tuesday, but that won’t stop Thursday Morning Brass from giving it their all.
At 4 p.m. Tuesday, August 20 in Fletcher Music Hall, Thursday Morning Brass — an ensemble of brass musicians so named because they rehearse on Thursday mornings — will perform its annual end-of-season concert.
The group first began over 20 years ago, when brass members of the Chautauqua Community Band decided to form their own ensemble. Since then, the band has expanded and done an annual concert every year, along with several other performances across the grounds and Chautauqua County.
On the program for today’s concert are 11 pieces hand-picked by the band’s music director and trumpet player Larry Katz. Those pieces, many of them rearranged for brass ensemble, are “Colonnade Fanfare,” composed by MJ Lenz specifically for Thursday Morning Brass; “An American in Paris,” by George Gershwin; “Bugler’s Holiday,” by Leroy Anderson; “Carmen Fantasia,” based on themes from Georges Bizet’s opera Carmen; “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik,” (A Little Night Music) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; “Stardust,” by Hoagy Carmichael; “Malagueña” and “Serenata,” from Isaac Albéniz’s suite “España” ; “Bossa Latao,” by Bill Holcombe; the traditional Irish song “Londonderry Air”; and a medley of music from Jerry Bock’s musical, Fiddler on the Roof.
“The program that we’re doing this year is rather eclectic,” Katz said. “It has some pop music in it, some classical music, some musical shows in it. We like to make a nice variety when we perform.”
The group will be collecting donations at the show — as they do at all of their shows — the proceeds of which go to an annual scholarship fund to sponsor a brass player in the School of Music’s Instrumental Program. Each year, this fund usually amounts to about $3,000.
An all-brass ensemble is not a common sight at Chautauqua, but it has a unique sound and timbre very unlike that of strings, piano or woodwinds.
“I love the out-frontness of the brass,” said tuba player Fred Gregory. “You can always hear the brass. When they want to be heard, they’re out there and you can hear them. That’s what I like about them.”
Brass instruments can have a surprising lyrical quality to them, too.
“They can sound like an organ at one minute, and they can sound like a soft woodwind quintet with strings behind it — just by the controlling of the instrument itself,” Katz said.
Thursday Morning Brass, about 15 members strong, includes both professional and amateur musicians of a range of ages and from a variety of backgrounds. For example, Dan Sullivan, euphonium player, had a long career in academia and was president of St. Lawrence University before his retirement. Having not played in a band since high school, he found Thursday Morning Brass to be the perfect path into playing brass again.
“It’s a way to keep doing, in a pretty disciplined way, something that was an important part of my life a long time ago,” Sullivan said. “This is a thing to enrich my life and hopefully enrich other people’s lives, when we play well.”
For those members who have not spent their lives and careers playing music, it is a learning experience like no other.
“I’ve played senior basketball for years (and) I played baseball and football in college, but I think I’ve learned as much, or more, about teamwork working with this group as I would have in many of my sport endeavors,” Gregory said. “And I think that speaks well for music; you’ve got to listen to your musicmates to understand how everybody is going to fit together.”
This year’s performance is special for another reason; it is the final year that two of the long-term members, Charlie Tea and Paul Weber, will perform in the group. Tea, Weber and Katz, who went to college together at Carnegie Mellon University and formed Thursday Morning Brass, will play the trio “Bugler’s Holiday” as a sort of send-off to Tea and Weber, and a callback to their many years of friendship.
“We went to the same college, we graduated a few years apart, we found each other here again and now I’m saying goodbye to them,” Katz said. “That number is like the last time the three of us will be playing together.”
The end-of-season concert is usually in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall, so having it in Fletcher will be a different experience for both the band and the regular audience.
“I hope (the audience has) fun,” Gregory said. “We want it to be fun, and we want them to enjoy it. … This is Americana, when you have people, like ourselves, that are out there working to play and enjoying it. And we want them to enjoy it, too.”