Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

5-Man Band on Lengthy Crusade to Preserve Brass Music Heritage

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

5-Man Band on Lengthy Crusade to Preserve Brass Music Heritage

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Faulkner, Shorelines correspondent

After a career of doing everything he can to promote serious classical chamber music for brass instruments, Raymond Mase has earned the right to toot his own horn.

Mase and his colleagues in the American Brass Quintet commissioned new pieces, revived older works and traveled the world performing chamber music solely for brass instruments. With little tradition to go on, he and his four partners documented much of what's out there and continue to search for new pieces to play.

"It became somewhat of a mission to establish brass chamber repertoire in a way that we could play on a series of string quartets and piano trios and hold our own," Mase said. "As some other brass groups decided to popularize brass music a little bit -- the Canadian Brass and Empire Brass -- we didn't outright resist. But the more people put pressure on us to lighten our program and play arrangements and things, a fun concert, the more we did start to resist."

Beaches residents can witness that resistance Sunday when the American Brass Quintet performs at St. Paul's By-The-Sea Episcopal Church as part of the Beaches Fine Arts Series. The quintet's program draws pieces from the various eras of classical brass music, some dating to the 17th century.

Mase said Sunday's program will include 17th century dances by William Brade that he's edited for modern brass performance; Fantasia and Rondo by Lazerta, which the quintet used for years as an encore; Civil War-era music from the 26th North Carolina Regimental Band; and two commissioned pieces, Relais by Gilbert Amy and Colchester Fantasy by Eric Ewazen.

Drawing from so many different time periods can be challenging, particularly because the quintet tries to perform each piece as accurately as possible yet play them all on modern instruments.

Bass trombonist John Rojak said he enjoys challenging himself with so many different styles of brass chamber music. The biggest challenge of all is selling the pieces -- often considered avant garde by chamber music standards -- to the quintet's audiences. It requires that he's at his personal best at all times. …

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