For the final concert of their 2012-2013 season, Pan Harmonia (under the artistic direction of Kate Steinbeck) selected the Appalachian Brass Quintet to perform at the Altamont Theatre. The ABQ consists of various artists and musicians from the Asheville and surrounding areas, including trumpeters Larry Black and Casey Coppenbarger, horn player Jennifer Hart Merrell, trombonist Greg Love, and tubist William Bryant.

The ABQ played a short but incredibly varied program, including works from Bach to Gershwin. True to the mission of Pan Harmonia, their program was easily accessible for audiences with little to no musical background, but at the same time offered some points of interest for the musically educated. They opened their program with Scheidt’s Galliard Battaglia from Centone No. 5, filling the intimate venue with the stark and full brass sound one would expect from talented local chamber groups. Although not quite as polished as one would expect of a full-time, professional chamber ensemble, the stylings of the group were charming and well received by the audience, which included patrons young and old.

The first half of the program also included the well known Debussy work Maid with the Flaxen Hair, as well as “My Spirit Be Joyful” from Cantata 146 by J. S. Bach. Both of these works are well-known and quite popular in both classical and casual audiences, and The Appalachian Brass Quintet treated both works fairly and joyously. An endearing trait of the ABQ is that each performer seems to genuinely enjoy what they do, joking with each other and the audience in between pieces as they explain their motivation for and the history behind each piece on the program.

The second half of the program contained almost exclusively 20th century music, including several pieces which have recently been recorded by the Canadian Brass Quintet. Featured works were Kevin McKee’s “Escape,” Howard Cable’s A Newfoundland Sketch, and a Gershwin medley entitled “Wonderful Gershwin.” Each of these works, much like the works on the first half, were shorter and delivered in an easily understood fashion, being introduced and explained by a member of the ensemble to the audience. This concert, like many presented by Pan Harmonia, had as much of an educational purpose as an entertaining one. For the encore, the ABQ played a short excerpt from the tragic opera El gato montés (The Wild Cat) by Manuel Penella, with a humorous introduction by Ms. Merrell.

Overall, this concert was a wonderful success, and a great way to end Pan Harmonia’s 13th season. The next program presented by Pan Harmonia, the 14th season opener, will feature pianist Maria Parrini on September 8, back at the Altamont Theatre. See our calendar for details.