Lauded brass ensemble Seraph Brass entered the classical music scene in 2014, created from the hopes of the trumpeter and founder of the group, Mary Elizabeth Bowden.
“I recently found a notebook from 2006 where I was brainstorming a dream to start — not only a brass quintet — but a brass quintet composed of all women,” Bowden said.
Since its beginning in 2014, the ensemble released its 2018 debut album Asteria, which received the Silver Medal Global Music Award, and in 2019, the group was awarded the American Prize in Chamber Music Performance.
Seraph Brass has toured across the United States and Europe and comes to Chautauqua to play for the Chautauqua Chamber Music Guest Artist Series at 4 p.m. Monday, Aug. 8 in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall. Mask are required for this event.
During the ensemble’s 2016-2017 season, it toured across the Midwestern United States, playing a total of 60 concerts.
“We were driving in a van for many hours a day,” Bowden said. “We just had so much fun, because there’s so many parts of the country that you can see via car rather than just flying everywhere.”
While the ensemble loves performing classical music, travel is also a beloved component of the group’s time.
“Everybody really loves traveling and exploring new places, and so those passions tied together work really well with performing,” Bowden said, “and also being able to live more of a nomadic life, and being able to explore new places and communities around the world.”
The group is passionate about elevating classical women composers and musicians. For Asteria, the ensemble commissioned a couple pieces from female musicians, and it’s continuing that process with a new piece by Jennifer Jolley, which will premiere March 2023.
“We keep commissioning new things. We’re a part of a lot of consortiums for other pieces that other groups launch, and so we’re always supporting new composers and finding new ways of creating new pieces for the brass quintet repertoire,” Bowden said.
One of Bowden’s favorite pieces Seraph Brass commissioned is “Asteria” by Catherine McMichael, which the group will play during today’s concert.
“The middle movement is called Virgo, and we perform it as a stand-alone piece now,” Bowden said. “It’s so beautiful.”
She described this afternoon’s program as having variety, which allows the group to play everything from its classical favorites, like Giuseppe Verdi’s “Sempre Libera” from La Traviata and Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, to new music, like Anthony DiLorenzo’s “Go,” the program’s finale.
Seraph Brass just finished a summer retreat where the members practiced together for six hours a day. Part of this rehearsal consisted of the complex memorization of “Go,” which has a different meter for every bar.
“It will be our first performance (of ‘Go’) by memory, which will add that extra layer of excitement, as well,” Bowden said.