The drive to Kettering was worth it. Brian Buerkle did it again. It was the perfect venue for an Organ and Brass Festival at the Kettering Adventist Church just outside of Dayton. A total of fourteen brass players from near and as far as Colorado shared in the glory of brass and organ favorites. Some very nice playing by everyone contributed to a great concert experience. Trumpeters John Rommel, Justin Bartels, Jon Kretschmer, and Wesley Woolard joined Brian in covering C, piccolo, and flugel parts cleanly. An appreciative audience filled the large church.
Adding class to the program were nice touches of color and perfect poundings from the percussion guys. CCM's mezzo-soprano Brittany Wheeler beautifully sung the gorgeous solo part to the Urlicht by Mahler. Ravishing is the only word for that movement, and the brass shared the many solemn moments beautifully.
Bravo to maestro Buerkle for envisioning an ambitious project and seeing it through successfully! We heard not only very fine trumpet playing by him and his colleagues, but also witnessed skills in organizing, leadership, arranging, and conducting, as well as mature musicianship. There was a lot of talent on display, but that was not the focus. His humble but quite confident presence was perfect for drawing our attention to great music. Thank you for that!
Organist Jerry Taylor spoke well with humor about the French organ composers represented. His playing on the Franck Final was brilliant. His instincts for dramatic flair were perfect as he was thoroughly enjoying the music which eventually climaxed in the most grandiose ending imaginable! Total immersion by musician is always special for audience. Well done! (Brian, you have to arrange that one for antiphonal brass forces next time!)
The horns nicely finessed the many runs and flourishes with impressive sizzle and tone. The trombones were appropriately sensuous in the Shostakovich Jazz Suite and gave the trumpets a comfortable cushion for their lead moments all through the concert. They also had many fine trombone moments of their own. I thought the highlight was Wagner's Gathering of the Armies from Lohegrin with all juices flowing in sync. Off stage beltings were just as they should be - strong and confident with Brian conducting accordingly. He managed the likelihood for distance/delay problems well.
That Gabrielli Canzon has got to be about the all-time best showcase for the back of the orchestra ever. It gives reason to put us up front permanently! The competing choirs did a great job of friendly combat. The original score must have said something in the fine print about each group trying to outdo one another. Choir A keeps laying it down, only to be defiantly answered by the reply of Choir B, with each insisting on dominance. This is as it should be, and it continues until they all cross the finish line together to the cheers of those in the stands. You gotta love Gabrielli!
And then came the Finale from Saint-Saens' Organ Symphony. Who needs strings and reeds to hide in! The piece works just fine without them. Brian's arrangement was a toughy, but they got it done. This program showed what inspiring brass music is all about. Where would orchestras be without it? Nice show, Brian!