T he Chugach Brass Ensemble delivered a wonderful performance at University of Alaska Anchorage on Thursday evening to an enthusiastic audience. About 120 people braved the cold, the thick snowfall, and the icy roads to attend.
- Christopher Sweeney, trombone
- Linn Weeda, trumpet
- Cheryl Pierce, french horn
- Dean Epperson, piano (guest)
- A Philharmonic Fanfare (2003)….Eric Ewazen
- Be My Love, A Suite of 16th Century French Chansons (2000)…. arr. Linn Weeda
Tru, tru, tru avant il fault boire!....Jean Richafort
Au joly boys je rencontray m’amye….Clemens (non Papa)
Jouyssance vous donneray….Antonine Gardane
Baises moy tant, tant….Adrian Willaert
- Folksong (1972)….Bruce Broughton
- Trio for Brass (1961)….Robert Sanders
- Villanelle (1906)….Paul Dukas
- Recreation for Trumpet, Horn, Trombone and Piano (1958)…. Pierre Gabaye
- Contrapunctus XVI (inversus), Art of the Fugue, BWV 1080 (1745)….J.S. Bach (arr. Weeda)
- Sonata for Trombone and Piano (1951)….George Frederick McKay
- Fumeux fume (ca. 1380)……..Solage (arr. Weeda)
- Trio for Brass (1996)….Anthony Plog
W eeda’s beautiful 5-minute-long arrangement of French chansons illustrated the diversity of brass orchestration and textures. Also, a wide range in composerly ‘stance’—from the ribald ‘Tru, tru, trut’, to the tender ‘Au joly boys’ with Weeda’s mellow flugelhorn, to the exuberant horn-trombone duet ‘Jouyssance’, to the high-tessitura ‘Baises moy tant’ with Weeda’s brilliant piccolo trumpet. The brightness of the ensemble timbre is made even more dramatic by adding the piccolo trumpet on the top end. It lends a paradoxical impression of yet-wider harmonies—the as-written intervals do not have such wide spreads.
T he Broughton ‘Folksong’ was rendered with great empathy—lyrical and legato articulation without sentimental excess. Copland-esque. Sharp staccato trumpet stabs moderate the dark tones of the piano part. Weeda’s control of extended diminuendos was masterful and delicious.
O ne of the other salient musical features of this work include the frequent inclusions of slurred passages. Slurs throughout the work are used in two ways: 1) to move from one clear chord/pitch to another or 2) to move to indeterminate pitches as a gesture. In the simplest sense, slurs and legato playing provide a kinesthetic indication of fluidity within the work.
T he several Weeda arrangements showed off Weeda’s skill in orchestrating nuances that differ between the instruments. Low fifths thicken the sound.When the trumpet could otherwise be too strident, he softens the effect with the horn and trombone. Very nicely written and performed.
T hemes in much brass literature tend to maintain consistent relationships between pitches, often arranged in ascending or descending patterns. Both linear and vertical dimensions exist, of course, but can have different functions in brass works, compared to string ensemble lit. In the linear dimension, a theme is repeated, and the melodic contour varies according to the registral placements. Sometimes it is presented as an ostinato figure with a consistently repeated ascending contour and a recurring rhythmic pattern. This theme can also be combined with other elements to form a longer melodic line. Weeda handles these aspects with great skill.
T he other pieces were also new to me and interesting as a ‘casebook’ of recent writing for small chamber brass ensemble. Harmonies that are, in many places, ‘choral’ in texture.
I n the Sanders piece, the cadential formulae arise mostly from modern added-tone extensions beyond the tonic scale. Some modal intervals of fourths and fifths. By placing the “chorale material”, Sanders creates a sense of latent energy, even during the Adagio. Since we are expecting 8th note groupings in 4 (and the quarter-note pulse), the irregular feel of the rhythm in this movement gives a disruptive energy.
I n all, it was a wonderful evening—an intriguing sampling of recent chamber compositions for brass, and a fine introduction to Weeda’s abilities as an arranger. Wonderful, too, to experience such cultural diversity in the depths of winter in Anchorage.
T he ensemble takes its name from the Chugach (‘sugpiaq’) tribe that is indigenous to the Prince William sound area. Besides their roles teaching at University of Alaska Anchorage and playing with the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra, each of the performers is involved with local outreach and community music education efforts.
B esides his position as Principal Trumpet with ASO, Weeda is Music Director of the Anchorage Youth Symphony. His M.M. was from Boston University. Pierce received her M.M. from Temple University and performed French horn for 15 years in the U.S. Air Force prior to her current role in the horn section with ASO. Sweeney has M.M. and Ph.D. Mus. Ed. degrees from University of Miami and is currently Asst. Prof. of Music at UAA. Epperson was honored in 2005 as an MTNA Foundation Fellow, in recognition of distinguished service to music teaching. He has performed with Anchorage Chamber Symphony and Kenai Peninsula Orchestra.
T he incisiveness [of the bright timbre] must be used advisedly. However, this property can be used to make a theme salient. The attack can have an equally pointed, even dissonant, effect. One sees the extent to which the problem of balance is complex and difficult...”
Charles Koechlin, ‘The balance of sonorities’, in Mathews, ed., Orchestration, p.142.
- Linn Weeda page at UAA
- Christopher Sweeney page at UAA
- Cheryl Pierce at ASO
- Dean Epperson, Adjunct faculty at UAA
- Alaska Music Teachers Association (AMTA)
- Alaska Bush Piano Teachers (ASBT)
- Music Teachers National Association (MTNA)
- Alaska Native Language Center (ANLC)
- Cook Inlet Dena'ina
- Prince William Sound Alutiiq (Sugpiaq/Chugach/real-person)
- Alutiiq Museum
- Who Are the Alutiiq? ('people way over there')
- Society for the Study of Indigenous Languages of the Americas (SSILA)
- TalkingAlaska blog
- Chugachmiut tribes website
- Alaska Native Heritage Center website
- Sugpiaq at Ethnologue.com
- Waterton Brass Music Publishers
- Brass instrument acoustics at Univ New South Wales (Dept. of Physics)
- International Trumpet Guild (ITG) website
- International Horn Society (IHS) website
- International Trombone Association (ITA) website
- Norsk Trompet Forum (NTF) website
- Historic Brass Society (HBS) website
- Laderman E. Quartet No. 1 for Trumpet, Horn, Trombone & Piano. Schirmer, 2008.
- Muczynski R. Voyage: Seven Pieces for Brass Trio. Op. 27, 1969. Schirmer, 1970.
- Bonds M. Wordless Rhetoric: Musical Form and the Metaphor of the Oration. Harvard Univ, 1991.
- Laney M. The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child: Helping Your Child Thrive in an Extroverted World. Workman, 2005.
- Mathews P, ed. Orchestration: An Anthology of Writings. Routledge, 2006.
- Murray J. Non-discursive Rhetoric: Image and Affect in Multimodal Composition. SUNY, 2009.
T he following five values operate through and with texts:
Joddy Murray, Non-Discursive Rhetoric, p. 140 [viz., the ‘assertiveness’ of brass players].
- Will-to-Image: includes, at a minimum, images of past events and selves, as well as the inclination to move between several disparate worlds, what exists and what does not exist; what is real and what is not real... ;
- Will-to-Improvise: includes not only how to invent in connection to the kairotic moment, but also how to confront failure and play within the dark spaces of the unknown, the unuttered, the ineffable;
- Will-to-Intuit: the ability to disregard Reason, encouraging the role of emotions and feeling; the basis for inquiry and investigation; the curiosity-maker; the hunter; the willful accident;
- Will-to-Juxtapose: the ability to contrast images and thoughts with one another, let them interact, cause them to conflict; the Bakhtininan 'centripetal force of language’; the power of metaphor;
- Will-to-Integrate: includes synthesis, connection, parallelism, coherence; the beginning of transition to discourse; the Bakhtinian ‘centrifugal force of language’.”