If you go
What: Canadian Brass Band
When: 7:30 p.m. Monday
Where: Macky Auditorium, 1595 Pleasant St., Boulder
More info: cupresents.org/event/1588/artist/canadian-brass/
Getting to play in one of your favorite bands doesn't happen everyday. But for musician Jeff Nelsen, this notion became a sweet reality.
As a preteen in the '80s, he attended a Canadian Brass concert and delighted at the group's carefree and fun approach to classical staples. Now Nelsen finds himself in the brass quintet often labeled the "world's most famous." While the group has had many incarnations throughout its nearly 50-year inception, the two aspects that always remain constant are the all-star musicianship and signature flair.
Nelsen is part of a lineage that pairs the humorous with the sophisticated. Often sporting white sneakers with traditional tuxedos, Canadian Brass brings a casual and playful energy to a genre of music regarded as stuffy by some. From selling more than 2 million albums worldwide to performing on NPR's popular "Tiny Desk Concert" series, this revered band doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
The holiday season marks the group's busiest time yet, with constant touring. Daily Camera caught up with French hornist Nelsen to find out what he loves about performing Christmas classics, why Canadian Brass has stood the test of time and what audiences can expect from the quintet's concert at Macky Auditorium on Monday.
Daily Camera: Do you remember a time when you knew that brass music was going to be a significant part of your life? When were you bit by the music bug?
Jeff Nelsen: Funny you should ask when I was bit by the music bug. I grew up in a family of musicians on a Canadian pig farm, like all Canadians do, of course. I took piano lessons and horn lessons, but I think I was doing it because we just all did that in our house. I remember getting extra excited about music when I saw a concert when I was 12 years old, in 1982, given by this Canadian brass quintet called Canadian Brass. I still have the autographed program. I was blown away by how these virtuoso musicians shared so many types of music so incredibly well, while smiling and moving around.
DC: Canadian Brass has such a long legacy and y'all are known for being the most famous brass quintet. What do you credit the group's staying power to? Why do you think people consistently connect to your stage presence and sound?
JN: Over the years, all the members of Canadian Brass have approached both our audiences and the music we program with reverence. Every group has its own collective personality, and we've spent a lot of time and energy on thoughtfully creating and sharing the best of what we can conceive. Though something might strike the audience in a humorous way in concert, that's always just been a bonus. We have not been shy about sharing who we are as individuals, but we also constantly consider how performance opportunities can contribute to everyone's connection to the music. Our audiences appreciate that. They've also come to trust our musical choices over the years. Oh, and we rehearse a lot, so we can perform our music well too.
DC: The holiday season is certainly a busy tour time for Canadian Brass. What's the most rewarding aspect about hitting the road with your fellow musicians?
JN: It's rewarding to know at the beginning of each evening, from Dec. 1 to 22, there's an audience mixed with first-timers and long-time fans. We appreciate getting to watch and hear the audience experience live music played in ways that challenge their expectations. We know we're building momentum throughout the concert, and by the time we perform our "Glenn Miller Songbook" and "Frosty the Snowman," their joy-filled faces loudly share that they have had an enjoyable evening. What's most rewarding? The five of us get to give our audiences a break from their day, and some time to sit and listen and think about new things than their usual.
DC: I understand you will offer audiences some new renditions of seasonal standards. What can we expect from your upcoming performance at Macky?
JN: Some of the most exciting repertoire on our Christmas tour this year comes from our new vinyl and CD release titled "Christmas Time Is Here — The Encore!" We do a beautiful set of music richly arranged for us, from the (jazz pianist) Vince Guaraldi originals, by (composer) Brandon Ridenour. As I mentioned before, our Glenn Miller Songbook puts them "In The Mood." You can hear our trombonist Achilles Liarmakopoulos featured in "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" and creative workings of "Jolly Old Saint Nick" and "White Christmas."
DC: Lastly, what are some of your personal favorites to perform?
JN: Ohhhhhh, everything. Tough to decide favorites. Those Guaraldi "Charlie Brown" pieces are a joy to share with my amazing colleagues and a wonderful listen as well. Our classical features are so thrilling; I can't wait to get to those every night. We get to perform Bach's "Little Fugue in G minor" and Handel's "Arrival of the Queen of Sheba." It's a blast...literally. We are very much looking forward to perform for everyone at Macky.
Kalene McCort: 303-473-1107, firstname.lastname@example.org