The Triangle Brass Band, one of the largest brass organizations in the country, presented its youth bands in concert at the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts’ Meymandi Concert Hall, in the process reminding us that the Triangle is a wonderful arts community that is full of musical talent. The Triangle Youth Brass Ensemble, made up of the youngest players in the organization, was formed in 2007, the newest addition to the Triangle Brass family. Slightly older and more experienced players are in the Triangle Youth Brass Band, formed in 1998. “Across the Pond” featured works by English and American composers, honoring the history of the British-style brass band.

The British brass band features instruments that are all within the same family of brasses; from the tiny E-Flat cornet and its big brother the B-Flat cornet (most similar to the trumpet), down to flugelhorns, tenor horns, baritones, euphoniums, and the E-Flat and B-Flat tubas. All the instruments share a darker, warmer sound from which many American instruments have strayed. “The only instrument allowed to have an edgy sound,” claimed the Youth Ensemble’s director Jesse Rackley, “is the trombone.” The trombone and bass trombone are closely related to the other brasses, but because of their shape they produce a different quality of sound – just different enough to spice things up.

The Triangle Youth Brass Ensemble kicked off the concert with a work that likely elicited groans from most of the audience when noting it in the program: Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance No. 1,” more commonly known as “the graduation song.” The band played the piece with great musicality, highlighting the march sections that are not usually recognized – and of course it was nice to hear the piece in its entirety without repeating the infamous processional section. (The longest version I’ve heard so far repeated it twenty-eight times!) The Youth Ensemble closed with “Pastime with Good Company,” originally composed by King Henry VIII; what better way to showcase traditional English music?

The Youth Band performed more of a mixture of English and American works; beginning with Morton Gould’s “American Salute” and closing with Stephen Bulla’s “Images for Brass.” Both of these pieces featured tasteful quotes from traditional American songs, including “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” the national anthem, and the Navy hymn. Both bands had a high quality of sound, great balance between instruments, and phenomenal dynamic contrast; they each showcased several talented soloists who did not disappoint!

The featured soloist at this concert was James E. Jackson, III, euphonium player with the US Coast Guard Band and a longtime friend of Tony Granados, music director of the Youth Brass Band. Jackson played a solo with each band and led a workshop the day before in Chapel Hill. He played solo euphonium on Peter Graham’s “Bravura” with the Youth Ensemble and Gordon Jacob’s “Fantasia for Euphonium” with the Youth Band. “Bravura” was technically challenging for Jackson, and he played it with such flair and expertise that the euphonium almost took on a woodwind-like quality, with quick flourishes and octave jumps that blended into the piece’s jazzy feel. His performance on the “Fantasia” was no less dazzling, requiring more of a sweet, singing sound that only the British euphonium style can convey. It was noticeable that both youth groups benefited from Jackson’s performance; it gave them valuable experience with accompanying within the brass band setting.

The next Triangle Brass event, “Going for Gold,” will take place March 18th at Meymandi Concert Hall at 7:00pm. This concert will be a 25-year celebration of the organization, featuring the Triangle Brass Band and both youth bands, with special guest Jens Lindemann (International trumpet Soloist, Former Trumpet, Canadian Brass) for a world premiere by Martin Ellerby. For details, click here.