An enthusiastic audience crammed into the First Lutheran Church in Kennewick on Jan. 31 to hear the Mid-Columbia Brass Quintet play a joyful recital, 30 years after their first, in the very same venue. Randy Hubbs (trumpet), Don Paul (trumpet) and John Owen (horn) played that concert. Members Bob Swoboda (trombone) joined five years later and Phil Simpson (tuba), joined three years ago.
Like the first concert, they opened with Sonata from the Bankelsangerlieder, (Bench singer's songs) from the late 1600s, at a brisk tempo. Then, a contrast, Exhaltation, by American composer Brian Balmages; tone pyramids against lyrical melodies, passed from horn to horn. A lighter, nostalgic number followed, a Roaring Twenties Medley which brought Ragtime and Dixieland to popular tunes of the era.
Having demonstrated their versatility, they returned to music of the first concert, the March from Arthur Frankenpohl's Brass Quintet, with exposed melodies for each instrument and shifting tonality. Handel's Rejoicing, with guest artist, organist Kim Barney, had Hubbs and Paul playing brilliant C trumpets, the quintet and the organ answering each other. The first half ended with Irving Berlin's classic, Puttin' on the Ritz, which tossed the melody from one instrument to another.
After intermission, the quintet played Don Paul's arrangement: Church Anniversary Medley. Then the concert became a family affair. Jan Paul, Don's wife, sang Don's Broadway Show Medley. Jan masterfully portrayed each song's character, combining her expressive musical line and acting skills. A Scherzo by Ludwig Maurer, was followed by Morton Gould's haunting Pavanne, beginning and ending with muted trumpets.
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Carisa Simpson, Phil's wife, brought down the house with Momisms. To the music of the William Tell Overture, the old Lone Ranger theme, arranged by Phil, the song rattles off the advice a mother gives her children, rapid-fire. Carisa's clear, bright soprano led the ensemble, which played a balanced accompaniment. The concert ended in a blaze of speed with Henry Fillmore's The Circus Bee; virtuoso trumpet playing, followed by breakneck trombone-tuba unison.
The players aspire to follow two rules: to make a beautiful sound, and to explore what it means to be a musician. The concert demonstrated not only how successful these music educators have been, but also how lucky the young people of our community are to have mentors like the MCBQ.
*Chuck Eaton plays bass trombone with the Walla Walla Symphony and has played with the Mid-Columbia and Oregon East orchestras, and the Columbia Basin College Jazz Ensemble. He also has played jazz and classical music in other contexts with members of the MCBQ.