The sartorial get-up of the Canadian Brass -- tuxedoes and white running shoes -- fairly sum up the approach of this ensemble to their craft. Dedication to excellence in demanding musical genres ranging from Dixieland to Baroque is their hallmark, and help explain how a group first organized in 1970 has, while cycling 24 members in and out of their lineup, has survived and thrived for nearly 45 years.
The brass quintet will be performing Tuesday, July 15, at the Arkell Pavillion on the campus of the Southern Vermont Arts Center. Their program -- the "Almost too Serious" recital program -- will feature pieces by classical stalwarts like Bach and Schumann, with some other material by Fats Waller and George Gershwin mixed in.
"You think about how the program will flow," said French horn player Bernhard Scully. "The whole idea behind it is we play music we feel very comfortable playing -- we want to present it in a logical order so the flow carries the audience on a journey."
The ensemble has had quite a journey of its own over the past four-plus decades. Originally started by tuba player Chuck Daellenbach (the only original member still with the band) and trombonist Gene Watts, the group has toured all over the world and recorded on more than 130 albums. They were the first brass ensemble to from the West to perform in China in the mid-1970s when relations began to thaw between West and East, and were also the first purely brass group to perform on the main stage at Carnegie Hall.
The concert given by the Canadian Brass is hosted by Northshire Performing Arts, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. The nonprofit arts organization has staged one concert each summer by a well-known "name" artist or group, the proceeds from which go to finance an educational outreach program to area schools which has brought a special program to the area the following fall.
Over the course of the past decade, Northshire Performing Arts has hosted such performing artists as the violinist Midori, Ingrid Fliter, the Vienna Boys Choir, opera tenor Salvatore Licitra (twice), The Five Browns, Frederica Von Stade, pianist Gabriella Martinez, and last year, the award winning song and dance man Tommie Tune.
The Canadian Brass fits firmly into that list, said Paula Albertsson, the organization's executive director. Each year, members of their board of directors circulate a "dream list" of artists they would like to bring to Manchester for a concert, and the Canadian Brass was definitely on their radar, she said.
"It worked out they were available," she said. "It fits with our mission of bringing world class, possibly classical, but well-known artists we think would be crowd pleasing."
Northshire Performing Arts was the brainchild of founder Jane Gilbert, who over a lunch with two friends, Susan Weiss and Barbara Little, discussed how the already arts-rich environment of Manchester and Dorset could be supplemented by one top tier show or event a year, which in turn would help expose area youngsters to the arts. As a result, over the years area school children got to hear members of the African Children's Chorus, a ballet performance of "Cinderella," an impersonator of Albert Einstein, a performance of Peter and the Wolf, a performance of Romeo and Juliet by The National Players. This year, the organization will be bringing a trio of dancers to one of the local schools for a performance that has drawn upwards of 400 young students in years past.
Northshire Performing Arts hopes to be able to boost that to two educational events in coming years, Albertsson said.
"It's one of our 'evolutionary' goals, " she said. "Schools just have to provide transportation to the location."
But first there's a concert by The Canadian Brass to be enjoyed. Their repertoire includes several standards written for brass as well as many original works and arrangements. They will cover pieces ranging from Renaissance and Baroque compositions, to marches, ragtime Latin, jazz, big band and Broadway. In other words, they're eclectic.
They perform upwards of 80 concerts a year, said Scully, the French horn player, as well as a fair amount of educational outreach themselves, he added. They are currently the ensemble-in-residence at the University of Toronto and developed a summer course in brass at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y.
And, they have fun too, he said -- "it coincides with the philosophy of the show and also everyone's personality." information and tickets for The Canadian Brass's concert, which will start at 7:30 p.m. on July 15, may be obtained by calling Northshire Performing Arts at 802-867-4146, or by visiting northshireperformingarts.org.