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    Empire Brass

    Brass quintet that emerged from Boston University in 1971 and has thrived in various incarnations for four decades.  Its original line-up was trombonist Norm Bolter, trumpeter Charlie Lewis, horn player David Ohanian, tuba player Sam Pilafian, and trumpeter Rolf Smedvig.  Of the five founding members, only Rolf Smedvig remains.  They took their name, Empire Brass, from the Empire State Building, as they had their eye on the Big Apple.  Instead, they wound up conquering the world. 

     

    One of their early albums was a recording of Victor Ewald’s “Quintet No. 2”, released in 1977.  On 16th May 1985, they made an appearance on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.  They became the first ensemble to perform in the renovated Carnegie Hall in 1987.

     

    In the 1980s and 1990s, they were prolific in the recording industry, releasing CD upon CD in and around a touring schedule that averaged about one hundred concerts per year.  A snapshot of their discography during this time requires a wide-angle lens:  Bernstein:  Highlights from West Side Story; Selections from Mass; Gershwin:  Porgy and Bess Suite; Tilson Thomas:  Street Song (“Street Song” was commissioned by the Empire Brass in 1988); Braggin’ in Brass; Class Brass; Fireworks; Joy to the World:  Music of Christmas; Music for Organ, Brass & Percussion; and, Royal Brass.

     

    On 26th October 1990, they opened the Orange County Philharmonic Society’s 1990-1991 season at the University of California-Irvine with the first west-coast performance of “Dance Suite” by Leonard Bernstein.

     

    They became Visiting Consultants in Brass at the Royal Academy of Music in 1991.  Stateside, they anchored the Empire Brass Seminar at the Tanglewood Institute, Boston University.

     

    Meantime, record shelves continued to be regularly stocked with new items from the five-some:  A Bach Festival for Brass & Organ; Baroque Music for Brass and Organ; Class Brass:  Fire Dance; Class Brass:  On the Edge; An Empire Brass Christmas:  The World Sings; Empire Brass on Broadway; Greatest Hits; King’s Court and Celtic Fair; Mozart for Brass; Romantic Brass:  Music of France & Spain; Music of Gabrieli; and, Passage 138 B.C.-A.D. 1611.

     

    Somewhere in there, they found time to become their alma mater’s quintet-in-residence.  None of this precluded them from keeping up a busy international itinerary that included their participation in the Chinese New Year Global Gala in 2005 and a concert captured on CD in 2006 entitled Empire Brass in Japan.

     

    From December 2004 through December 2006, they appeared on American Public Media’s Saint Paul Sunday broadcast of a Christmas concert of traditional carols and other renaissance and classical compositions associated with the holiday.

     

    The Empire Brass toured a little closer to home during 2006, with a May appearance at Gusman Concert Hall, Frost School of Music, University of Miami, a September recital at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and a December trip to the Terrace Theater at Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

     

    They traveled south of the border in July 2008 to make merry at the Festival de inverno at Campos do Jordao in Brazil.  On 26th April 2009, they collaborated with the Salvation Army band in Niagara Falls, New York.  They teamed up with Michael Werner for a program that included works by Tomasso Albinoni, Sergei Prokofiev, and Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, at Benaroya Hall’s S. Mark Taper Foundation Audition in Seattle, Washington, in December 2009.

     

    In December 2010, they went on a mini-tour with guitarist Elisabeth von Trapp that included stops at Culture Shock Miami in Miami, Florida, the H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center at Shippensburg University, and Kobacker Hall at Bowling Green State University. 

     

    Their latest line-up comprised tuba player Kenneth Amis, trombonist Mark Hetzler, French horn player Michelle Perry, and trumpeters Marc Brian Reese and Rolf Smedvig.

     

    The Empire Brass has won the hearts and ears of audiences throughout the world.  They are purported to be the most recorded brass quintet in the history of music.

     

    Empire Brass recordings

    O Come, All Ye Faithful (Frederick Oakeley/John Francis Wade)

    Arranger – Frank Denson

    (CD:  The Music of a Victoria Christmas)

     

    Sources:

    1. http://www.empirebrass.com/about.html
    2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empire_Brass
    3. http://www.empirebrass.com/members.html
    4. http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/empire-brass/id74314721
    5. http://www.onlineseats.com/empire-brass-tickets/index.asp
    6. http://randomclassics.blogspot.com/2010/12/russian-brass-with-empire-brass-quintet.html
    7. http://www.amazon.com/Making-Music-Visit-Empire-Quintet/dp/B004C56TJ0/ref=pd_vodsm_B004C56TJ0
    8. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTRJeKh3iv8
    9. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIEYZzUT2r0
    10. http://www.activemusician.com/Empire-Brass-Tuba-Sheet-Music-and-Books--c2305a1001
    11. http://www.amazon.com/s?ie=UTF8&keywords=Empire%20Brass&rh=n%3A85%2Ck%3AEmpire%20Brass&page=1
    12. http://www.amazon.com/Empire-Brass-Bernstein-Gershwin-Tilson-Thomas/dp/B000003CUN/ref=sr_1_12?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1298228745&sr=1-12
    13. http://articles.latimes.com/keyword/empire-brass-music-group
    14. http://www.cduniverse.com/search/xx/music/pid/1129733/a/Mozart+For+Brass.htm
    15. http://www.cduniverse.com/search/xx/music/artist/Empire+Brass/a/albums.htm
    16. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3OfePaKFVUU
    17. http://www.arkivmusic.com/classical/album.jsp?album_id=340
    18. http://www.amazon.com/Empire-Brass-Greatest-Giovanni-Gabrieli/dp/B000003D23
    19. http://www.concordmusicgroup.com/artists/Empire-Brass/
    20. http://www.amismusicalcircle.com/cds/cd-024.htm
    21. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fr1wulJz93M
    22. http://saintpaulsunday.publicradio.org/programs/566/
    23. http://new.music.yahoo.com/empire-brass/
    24. http://www.lawrencebudmen.com/reviews_sam_empire_brass.html
    25. http://rogovoy.com/news1380.html
    26. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/11/AR2006121101098.html
    27. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kvyji2sCIMY
    28. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dgXqFw0WVF0
    29. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4wntIAZPOc
    30. http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/thearts/2010418336_roundup04.html
    31. http://www.songkick.com/artists/528187-empire-brass
    32. http://www.bgsu.edu/colleges/music/events/festival.html
    33. http://blog.pennlive.com/go/2010/12/von_trapp_empire_brass_to_deli.html

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     



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