The North Carolina Brass Band welcomed guests to the UNCG Auditorium for an evening of delightful Christmas music that they titled Christmas Wrapped in Brass. The ensemble covered all the classics, as well as a few lesser-known works. The band really took the audience on a sleigh ride for this performance!

The concert opened with “A Christmas Festival” by American composer Leroy Anderson and arranged by Andrew Duncan. This piece set the stage for the show with its intense dynamics and precise articulation. The song includes melodies from a few different Christmas tunes, such as “Deck the Halls” and “Silent Night,” and the band effortlessly transitioned between the tempo and style changes throughout the piece. The hall rang clear with bright and strong tones from the ensemble as this festive piece came to a close. The audience was then transported to a “Winter Wonderland” as soprano soloist Lindsay Kesselman took the stage. She warmed the crowd with her stellar vibrato as the brass accompanied. The group maintained a well-balanced sound, managing not to overpower Kesselman while still keeping a full tone. They incorporated a jazz style into this piece, utilizing swung rhythms and offbeat motifs. The trombone glissandos led this piece into a dramatic, jazzy ending.

The band ended the first half of the show with “The Nutcracker ‘Sweet'” by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and arranged by Mark Freeh. They again used a jazz style throughout the movement, occasionally incorporating mutes to brighten their tone. The musicians perfectly balanced the powerful sounds with the delicate melodies found throughout the piece. The trombone and cornet solos stole the show for a moment with a smooth and sultry melody. The snare drum pushed the band forward with its driving momentum, ending with strong bass support from the low brass and a ringing pitch from the cornet.

After a brief break from our sleigh ride, we jumped right back into the music festivities. “Silent Night” was a huge hit among the crowd with another feature from Kesselman. She sang with a sweet, delicate voice and enraptured the audience with every note. There was subtle yet distinct accompaniment from the band as they led into a gentle, moving end. “Three Kings Swing” by William Himes was a highlight from the second half of the performance. For this piece, imagine “We Three Kings,” but with jazz! It incorporated swung rhythms and crisp, bouncy articulation. The cornet sparkled in its solo feature as the piece reached its peak. With constant support from the low brass and the fun, exciting melodies, this piece shone over the rest.

The ensemble ended the show with a traditional piece, “A Christmas Finale” by Paul Lovatt-Cooper. They started off strong with a lyrical melody from the euphoniums that drew in the audience. With a driving rhythm from the percussion, the band switched to a bouncy, proud melody with highlights from the low brass. The music director, Brian Meixner, conducted the band with intense emotion through this piece, handling every mood change with ease. The band transitioned back to a lyrical passage that put the spotlight on the cornet but was quickly overtaken by dark undertones in the trombones. As this darkness grew, so did the energy of the piece. We were met with pride and strength from the group as they closed out the show. The audience jumped to their feet for an extended applause as the performers bowed and exited the stage.

The North Carolina Brass Band will perform this show once more on Sunday, December 12 at 3:00 PM at the R.J. Reynolds Auditorium in Winston-Salem. I highly recommend attending this show to spark some Christmas spirit!