Whacky brass quintet plays serious music
August 28, 2008 · Updated 9:46 AM
MOUNT VERNON ?An Oso dairy farmer by day, Bev Soler plays high-brow classical music by night, with two different musical groups: Skagit Opera and Brass Menagerie.
Brass Menagerie is a quintet which includes, with Soler, two teachers from Arlington schools and two Skagit County residents. The quintet will be featured in the Music for a Starry Night concert series at the Lincoln Theater in Mount Vernon Sunday, Nov. 19.
We are very excited to be doing serious music inside a nice theater, said Soler, who has been playing with the brass quintet for 18 years since she was pregnant with her youngest daughter, Liz, who is now a junior at Arlington High School.
Im the only remaining original member, she said.
Brass Menageries now includes Malcom Peterson, on trumpet, Bruce Feltveit, trombone, John Grabowski on tuba and Kipp Otterness on trumpet.
Otterness is the most recent addition, joining soon after Arlington High School band teacher John Grabowski, who joined three years ago. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin in Eauclaire, Otterness lives in Mount Vernon and teaches band at Post Middle School and several elementary schools in Arlington. Peterson lives in Sedro-Woolley, working as a landscaper by day and offering brass coaching assistance to Fidalgo Youth Symphony and Mount Baker Youth Symphony. Feltveit lives in Oak Harbor and works by day in septics.
Grabowski said it was his dream come true when Brass Menagerie needed a tuba player.
I was subbing with the quintet for a few years and wanted to be their regular guy, Grabowski said adding he likes performing with the small group because it is challenging and rewarding.
This is the group that I can get the most out of. The parts are more individual more important, he said. If you mess up no one is there to back you up like in a big concert band.
Grabowski likes Brass Menagerie because they play such a variety of music, from Medieval, Russian romantic, Ragtime, Bach and straight-up brass.
Kipp and John are great additions to the group, Soler said the members of Brass Menagerie are all a bit whacky.
I doubt we will bring the rubber chicken this time, Soler laughed. But then she added they were thinking of bringing the chicken dressed in a tuxedo for this full-scale, sophisticated concert.
The quality of our music is the best ever, Soler said noting the musicians see this Lincoln Theatre performance as an opportunity to play serious brass quintet music for an attentive audience. They often perform weddings and other social affairs where people are busy talking during their performance. They performed once before at the restored Lincoln Theatre, but only as part of the whole Starry Nights Christmas concert a few years ago.
This Starry Nights program includes two full scores: Malcom Arnolds three-part Quintet and Leonard Bernsteins West Side Story.
Otterness, who is principal trumpet for Skagit Symphony as well as performing with the Starry Night Orchestra for Skagit Opera, said theyve worked long and hard to perfect the West Side Story score as well as the Malcom Arnold piece.
We are looking forward to playing all three movements of Arnolds Quintet. Soler said they believe this will be the right audience to enjoy this serious piece.
As for West Side Story, Soler said that Grabowski helped a lot. He directed music for West Side Story when Arlington High School presented that musical not long after he first arrived in Arlington.
The program also includes music arranged for brass quintet by Peter Schickele, Eric Ewazen and the Canadian Brass. Another fun piece on the program was arranged by a friend of Solers George Hoyt,
Il es Bel et Bon is a love song between a rooster and a hen, Soler said.
There will also be a bit of jazz, like Lowell Shaws Just Desserts #1 for Horn and Tuba
Otterness especially likes Victor Ewalds Theme and Variations/Quintet #2.
Its got a nice Russian sound, he said.
They will play Killer Tango, by Sonyy Kompanet, Grand Valley Fanfare by Ewazen, J.S. Bachs Contrapunctus IV and The Only Piece Ever Written for Violin and Tuba, by Schickele.
Violinist Sharyn Peterson, who is the wife of trumpeter Malcom Peterson and coordinator of the Starry Night concert series as well as concertmaster for Skagit Opera, will give the other horn players a break, playing that Schickele piece with Grabowski.
Its really fun, Grabowski said he looks forward to having his students in the audience listening carefully to his performance.
Performing myself forces me to think about what I tell my kids. It keeps me honest, Grabowski said he hopes they will catch him breathing over a phrase.
This way, I wont ask anything of them that I dont ask of myself, he added.
Grabowski and Soler have been friends and colleagues for many years, as Soler has two AHS graduates who studied music with him.
Grabowski earned his bachelor of music in New York and then moved out west in 1989. After working as a welder while looking for a job in music, he decided to go back to school and earn a masters at Western Washington University. He started teaching in Arlington in 1995 and lives nearby, in Stanwood.
Its nice to go grocery shopping anonymously.
A well-experienced horn player, Soler has been playing the French horn since she was in
5th grade at Northshore School District. She has played with Bellevue Philharmonic, Everett Symphony, and the North Cascades Concert Band, and she continues to get together for sight-reading with the Puget Sound Horn Society.
I say hats off to Larry Baker, my 5th grade music teacher, Soler said he recognized her talent and steered her toward the French horn. Soler minored in music at Washington State University while majoring in English education.
Soler started playing with the Skagit Opera when it was launched three years ago and played in the pit for the operas recent performance of Carmen, at McIntyre Hall at Skagit Valley College.
She likes the smaller quintet and the opera because its more challenging and requires more precision.
With the bigger bands and orchestras, you can get carried by the whole group. With the opera, theres more opportunity for solos and your individual performance stands out more, Soler said performing in the pit for the opera is different because you cant be seen, but its really fun when all the voices and acting and music come together.
Its like magic, she said.
Its really fun to be in the pit with a very high level of musicianship that the Skagit Opera has achieved in its short three-year history.
Skagit Opera was started by its director, Ron Wohl, and Sharyn Peterson.
They created this excellent opera group out of thin air, Soler said. Ron started singing as adult and he also sings with Seattle Opera chorus.
The opera started with Gilbert and Sullivan at the Lincoln Theater and are presenting three operas this year at McIntyre Hall. Along with Carmen in October, the opera will present Amahl and the Night Visitors Dec. 22 and 23 and The Marriage of Figaro, in late February.