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Posted on Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 5:24 a.m.

Longtime favorites Canadian Brass returning to Hill Auditorium

By Susan Isaacs Nisbett


The Canadian Brass come to Hill Auditorium on Nov. 27.

Let them entertain you. They’re very versatile.

That paraphrase of Jule Styne’s lyrics from “Gypsy” just about sums up the venerable Canadian Brass. The quintet’s been in the business of entertaining listeners—with everything from the works of Renaissance and Baroque masters to marches, holiday tunes , Dixieland and popular songs—since 1970.

Expect no less when the Big Brass return to Hill Auditorium for a show Thanksgiving Sunday, under University Musical Society auspices.

As tubist Chuck Daellenbach, a founder of the group and the only original player still in the fivesome, noted in a recent phone call, the Canadian Brass has a long history in Ann Arbor.

“Well, as you know, it stretches so far back, not just in the big hall; we started more modestly in the ‘70s. We also got a nice award from the university.”

Daellenbach’s referring to the Ford Honors Award, which UMS conferred on the group in 1999. Sunday’s performance is the group’s 11th, and its first return here since 2007.

Since then, a lot has happened to the group.


The Canadian Brass

  • Who: Long-established five-piece ensemble.
  • What: Varied program to start the holidays off in style.
  • Where: Hill Auditorium, 825 N. University Ave.
  • When: Sunday, Nov. 27, 4 p.m.
  • How much: $10-$48. Tickets available from the UMS League Ticket Office, 734-764-2538, and online at
“I guess in a sense this is really the second generation Canadian Brass,” Daellenbach said. “My colleagues are quite a bit younger. I like to say I’m trying to get the average age down.”

Trombonist Achilles Liarmakopoulos is the newest member, having joined the group this summer. Trumpeter Brandon Ridenour, now 26, is the longest-standing member after Daellenbach. Ridenour helped bring the average age down quite a bit when joined the group at 20, in 2005. Trumpeter Christopher Coletti came on board in 2009. French hornist Eric Reed completes the group.

While Daellenbach says the current musical scene makes it “quite easy to find wonderful performers, from our point of view, that’s half the picture.”

The other half involves having a passion for a group like the Canadian Brass, he said, and enjoying its lifestyle as well as its musical style. “There are challenges to your ego all the time,” he added, “but the payoff is sharing beautiful music with an audience that we often know very well.”

Like the Ann Arbor audience, for example.

The beautiful music for 2011 includes at least one selection from the Brass’ latest CD, “Brahms on Brass.” The CD includes arrangements of Brahms 11 Choral Preludes for Organ, Op. 122, and of the waltzes from Op. 39—repertoire that Daellenbach is thrilled to make available to brass players. They form, he said, “a brilliant addition to the brass repertoire.” No. 10 of the Chorale Preludes, which is on the program, brings out the lyrical quality of the trombone, he said.

“It’s really remarkable.”

There’s also a Brahms Hungarian Dance on the bill, and another dancey piece, “Tribute to the Ballet,” by Sonny Kompanek. The piece, which involves the CB in a Terpsichorean “pas de cinq,” recalls the group’s roots. “We got our start in the pit orchestra of the National Ballet of Canada,” Daellenbach said. “We fell in love with the music, but we’d never seen a ballet—we just heard feet moving around. So we invited a ballerina to come to rehearsal and tell us what they were doing, and from her report, we reconstructed what was happening on stage.”

In addition to Brahms and ballet, there are arrangements of Baroque and Renaissance pieces; Christmas carols and Hanukkah songs; spirituals; Bach and Vince Guaraldi.

They will entertain you. And they’re very versatile.