Friday, April 24, 2015

"The Canadian Brass"

Truly...a Canadian Icon!

When I  began teaching in Hamilton, I was intrigued with opportunities to enjoy stage performances by The Players Guild, Theatre Aquarius and Hamilton's Symphony Orchestra.  From this orchestra, a group of five professional musicians evolved as “The Canadian Brass” in 1970...formed by Gene Watts (trombonist) and Charles Daellenbach (tuba). The ensemble wore formal black suits with white shirts and white running shoes...injecting humour and pure enjoyment into their musical renditions from 'Pop to Classical'. They generated much distinction as they travelled coast to coast in Canada, then broadening to United States, Europe and a special engagement in China.

The Canadian Brass made their American debut at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. in 1975.
A significant international visit was made in1977 when they were sent to mainland China as “a cultural exchange” between Canada and China.  The quintet ensemble was chosen and sent on this cultural mission by then...Prime Minister Elliott Trudeau.

In1979, Canadian Brass became the first chamber ensemble 'to solo' the main stage at Carnegie Hall.

In addition to their heavy international touring schedule for over 40 years...and their extensive recording catalogue, they have been on the billboard charts in each decade of their existence.

It was always a great pleasure when the Canadian Brass returned home for Christmas each year...and  presented an exciting concert for their Hamilton, Burlington and Toronto area family and Hamilton Place. Such a treat to welcome their formal black suits, white shirts and white running shoes!

The “Flight of the Bumble Bee” ~ always a concert favourite,
has been unprecedented by any other musical performance.

As of 2015, the quintet is composed of:
                                                    Trumpeters...Caleb Hudson and Chris Coletti
                                                    French hornist...Bernard Scully
                                                    Trombonist...Achilles Liarmakopoulos
                                                    Tuba...Charles Daellenbach

The Ottawa Citizen has described the Canadian Brass as...'Kings of Brass'.
The band has been named,  'The World's Leading Brass Ensemble' by the Washington Post.

The Canadian Brass:  All-ages Appeal  Remains Constant
(Excerpts from an article written by Leonard Turnevicius...
published in The Hamilton Spectator ~ April 16, 2015)

Time flies when you're having fun.  Just ask tuba player, Chuck Daellenbach  who has a simple answer  to what has kept the iconic Canadian Brass buzzing along for 45 years. “The joy of performance, I guess.  Just lucky to be able to continue playing...and to do so at such a high level with these young players is quite amazing,” said the Toronto-based Daellenbach, who co-founded the group back in 1970...and is currently the lone original member  still playing in the quintet...70 years young this year.
Last year, Daellenbach was named a
Member of the Order of Canada
'for popularizing classical music.'
Not surprisingly, the group has seen quite a bit of turnover with some 19 players having passed through the ranks over the years. 

“There was a moment in history where we actually had to make a decision,” recalled Daellenbach.  “Do we replace ourselves with friends?  You know, people roughly our same age and the same ideas ?  Or do we look at this more as something that could have a chance at longevity?”
Ah, longevity!  Like youth, it too has its privileges.
“A week doesn't go by when I'm not introduced to somebody who says, 'You played in my school,' said Daellenbach referencing the CB's early years when they played school show after school show, many of them in the Hamilton-Burlington areas. We must have played every high school in a 30 mile radius. I think we will go down in the only musicians who ever believed their path to Carnegie Hall was by playing children's shows.  And sure enough, it  happened.”

While the CB's all-ages-appeal has remained constant throughout the years, technology has brought about a sea-change in the music biz.  As far as Daellenbach is concerned, the latter has been a boon to the 'Brass'.  “The electronic age has been good to us because we have audiences now in places that we haven't even performed,” said Daellenbach.  Some of our biggest audiences  are in South America. I think we've had one tour in Mexico.  We've been in Venezuela once and Brazil once.  Yet, we get a tremendous following because of the Internet.  I believe this is a minor miracle for classical be hooked up internationally.”

But, just where is the Canadian Brass most popular?
“Burlington,” deadpanned Daellenbach in an obvious-plug for the sponsored concert in the Burlington Performing Arts Centre on April 30.  Through the years, they played a fundraiser for the 'yet-to-be-built BPAC'.  This will be the CB's  first ever performance  there.  And for this occasion, they've prepared a bill which includes the piece that put the sneaker-clad CB on the map, so to speak...
“Little Fugue in G-Minor” by Bach.
Plus, there'll be some Renaissance music,
arrangements of well-known tunes such as “Amazing Grace,”
Lennon-McCartney's “Penny Lane,”
former CB trumpeter, the late Fred Mills' “Carmen Suite No. 1”...
and much more...all of it played on the CB's 24-karat gold-plated Conn-Selmer horns.

Merle Baird-Kerr...written April 16, 2015
Comments to:


  1. MEG COMMENTS: "What a lovely review!"

  2. Thanks Meg...Their music, and interpretation thereof, is unique. It will be my pleasure to attend their concert on the 30th with my son and one of his two daughters who is learning to play the trumpet in school music classes.

  3. DILU WRITES: "I take great pride in the Canadian Brass group.
    I heard them a while ago in Toronto with my daughter and friends and thoroughly enjoyed it."

  4. Your words are greatly appreciated. I expect the Burlington Performing Arts Centre will be 'full house' in attendance. My son who is returning home tomorrow for a medical appt. on Monday is home for the week...and will continue daily as a 'work week'.
    We are attending this concert along with his younger daughter, who in music classes, is learning to play trumpet.

  5. FROM JEANNE: "Loved the piece about The Canadian Brass. Thanks for that one, though all your work I've seen so far is great. I've heard them many times, but never saw them perform. Amazing to read that there is the one 'original'."

  6. You are so complimentary....that's great, coming from you, especially being a novelist and poetess. I just do what comes naturally! As mentioned, monthly I plan to post a writing about a remarkable man and woman from our generation who have made an impact on our society. Thank you, Jeanne for your interest.