The North Carolina Brass Band welcomed guests to their season-opening performance, an afternoon at the movies in the beautiful R.J. Reynolds Auditorium. The ensemble, led by conductor Brian Meixner, played music by famous film score composer John Williams. They covered all the classics, from Star Wars to E.T., and even threw a few lesser-known works into the mix.

The show began with the Star Wars theme – this instantly recognizable melody grabbed the attention of all the Star Wars fans immediately. The band produced a beautiful tone and powerful dynamics. The low brass excelled in this piece, pushing the ensemble forward with their momentum. The next piece was a favorite of the first half; “Cadillac of the Skies” from the movie The Empire of the Sun. This music carried a weight that was felt through the crowd, as it was dedicated in memory to the NC Brass Band’s late principal tuba player, Dr. Dennis Askew. It began with a brass quartet, but quickly transitioned into the full ensemble. The pure, raw emotion was heard in every note the group played and had the audience on the edge of their seats, soaking up the sounds.

A brass band take on the music from Superman ended the first half of the show. This energetic, driving piece highlighted all sections of the ensemble with notable melodic features. Their dynamics were unmatched, as was their energy!

The intermission was brought to a halt by the “Imperial March” from the Star Wars movies, but with a twist. Meixner, who knows exactly how to entertain a crowd, took a break from the podium so Darth Vader himself could lead the kids onto the stage to conduct this short number. This interactive and fun experience is exactly what sets the NC Brass Band apart from other ensembles. They truly want their audience to have an unforgettable evening full of fun and music. The next selection, “Jaws,” was just as memorable. Shortly after the infamous and tense music began, a person dressed in a shark costume – excuse me, I mean a real shark, jumped onstage to chase Meixner. The duo wove through the band and ran offstage as the audience laughed and applauded. The low brass, once again, held the spotlight for this piece with its iconic melody.

The last movement on the program was from the 1997 film Amistad, titled “Dry Your Tears, Afrika.” It features sparse texture, African drums, and humming from the brass players. Children in the audience were given egg shakers to add to the texture as well, giving this performance a more personal touch. The audience jumped to their feet to applaud the talent and hard work of the band, but not before Meixner informed them that they had one more piece up their sleeves. “March from 1931” from the film 1931 formed the NC Brass Band’s energetic finale. They had the crowd clapping along to this upbeat tune until the very last note. This work may have been short, but it was powerful!

If you are looking for an evening of music, fun, and a little laughter, I highly recommend attending this ensemble’s performances. The North Carolina Brass Band will be preforming this same program one more time on Sunday, March 6th at the UNC Greensboro Auditorium. Remember to grab a photo with Yoda or Darth Vader when you go!