Canadian Brass Blows in the Holiday Spirit at VRCFA

Nothing says the holiday season more then the sound of brass instruments.  When those instruments are in the hands of The Canadian Brass, so much the better. This is a quintet of musicians that are the top performers in their field. The Canadian Brass has defined what brass musical performances should be and exceeded expectations in their return to the Vern Riffe Center of the Arts stage for SOPAA’s December 8th concert.

Founding members Charles Daellenbach (tuba) and Eugene Watts (trombone) brought forth newer members Jeff Nelsen (horn), Joe Burgstaller and Brandon Ridenour (trumpets) into the musical mix for a wonderful evening of holiday cheer and down right fun. This is a group who knows who to play their music but also to entertain.

Entering the theater playing “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” in true New Orleans funeral style (slow and deliberate then breaking into raucous and swinging) sets the playful tone for the rest of the evening. Following a medley of Christmas hymns they display their classical chops by performing Gabrieli’s Canzona and “the best Vivaldi Concerto ever stolen by Bach” or so says Dallenbach introducing Concerto in D Major and credited to Bach-Vivaldi.

The group provides a beautiful serving of classical music before returning to the holiday menu which included a rendition of the Hanukkah song “The Dreidel.” But perhaps the highlight of the evening was their tribute to Glen Miller in brass.  In brass? What about the clarinet? Trust me. Glen Miller in brass came complete with a clarinet substitute in the form of the piccolo trumpet performed expertly by Joe Burgstaller. Absolutely jaw dropping in brass and ending with the classic “In the Mood.”

Another special moment was an extra of their version of the Beatles’ “Penny Lane.”  Here the familiar trumpet solo was executed with almost ear-splitting clarity by Brandon Ridenour, who, it was pointed out, wasn’t even born when “Penny Lane” was originally recorded. They quipped that to him this was “classical music.” Certainly The Canadian Brass version is classic and beautiful to the ear and heart.

Even the comedic musical farce of their “Horse Opera” while funny displayed some expert work where the horns all but spoke in the hands (and lips) of these talented clowns.

A sing-a-long of Silent Night was fun and moving. And the final “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” ended a perfect performance with just the right feeling of sentimental cheer.  In all the perfect way to start the Christmas season before us.

It was 1997 when The Canadian Brass was last here. Let us hope they return again much sooner the next time.

The SOPAA season rests during the holidays and returns in January with the first of the Broadway shows. Up first is the Sondheim classic “Sweeny Todd” on Tuesday, January 20, 2009 at 7:30 pm.  Tickets for this and all seven remaining shows in the SOPAA 2008-2009 season are available from the McKinley Box Office at (740) 351-3600 or online from TicketMaster at



  1. What accomplished musicians. Thanks for bringing them back to Portsmouth. I really enjoyed the show.

  2. What a special Holiday show! These musicians are talented in more ways than one. We left the theater with a smile on our faces. We hope they come again!

  3. Wow! So glad you brought Canadian Brass back, excellent musicians and great personalities. Purchased one CD, wish I had gotten two.

  4. Not often do we find such bearty presented in such an enjoyable way. Great to see them again.

  5. Have seen them twice, and they get better each time. Hope they come back. They are great!!

  6. Fantastic Show!

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