Arts and Entertainment

Brass Menagerie celebrates 20 years with free concert

From left, Bev Soler, Kipp Otterness, John Grabowski, Bruce Seltveit and Malcom Peterson comprise the brass quintet, Brass Menagerie. They are offering a free concert May 31 in Mount Vernon in honor of their 20th anniversary. - Courtesy photo
From left, Bev Soler, Kipp Otterness, John Grabowski, Bruce Seltveit and Malcom Peterson comprise the brass quintet, Brass Menagerie. They are offering a free concert May 31 in Mount Vernon in honor of their 20th anniversary.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

A brass quintet with several local ties, Brass Menagerie is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a free concert at 4 p.m., Sunday, May 31 at the Bethany Covenant Church, 1318 S. 18th St. in Mount Vernon.

The ensemble’s tuba player is the Arlington High School band director, John Grabowski, and the horn player is Bev Soler, of Oso. One of two trumpet players, Kipp Otterness teaches band at Post Middle School and three elementary schools, Kent Prairie, Eagle Creek and Trafton. The other trumpeter is Malcolm Peterson, of Mount Vernon. Trombone is by Bruce Seltveit.

The quintet has made several appearances in Arlington through the years — at the schools, at the Arlington Street Fair, at fundraisers for the Byrnes Performing Arts Center, and at the grand opening of the BPAC, but its roots are in Mount Vernon.

Brass Menagerie formed after they played together in a Christmas orchestra at Bethany in 1988.

The musicians realized the components to make up a brass quintet and were then named the Bethany Brass.

“Sometime around 1993 or ‘94, we took several months off and reformed as Brass Menagerie,” said Soler, the only remaining original member of the group.

Indeed, the concert program includes the namesake of the quintet, the first three movements of a piece called “Brass Menagerie,” by John Cheetham.

“It is very modern and very difficult — a real challenge,” Soler said.

They will perform an assortment of songs, from Bach to Bernstein, including many all-time favorites, such as “Closer Walk,” “Stars and Stripes,” with the famous piccolo solo done by Grabowski on tuba. Also on the program is a fanfare by contemporary composer Eric Ewazen and “All Breathing Life” by J.S. Bach.

Two pieces, including, “O Magnum Mysterium,” will feature Randall Wilkins, organist and choral director at Bethany Covenant Church.

“We hope to be joined by several quintet alumni for a couple of pieces,” said Soler, adding the alums are invited to join in any of the old favorites.

“One of the original trumpet players, Lanny Jacobs has promised a rousing rendition of his ad lib solo in “The Dead Man Blues.”

Jacobs used to play with Stan Kenton back in the day, Soler added.

Soler plans to display portraits, photos, posters and programs from their 20-year history.

“The camaraderie and the wonderful music of this group has really sustained me through the years,” Soler said.

“Rehearsals and concerts both are truly bright threads in the tapestry of my life.”

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