Canadian Brass brings the holiday season to Hancher

Horns blew, trumpets blared, and bells jingled at The Canadian Brass Christmas-themed concert.


Canadian Brass performs their annual Christmas show at Hancher Auditorium on Friday, November 30, 2018. The band performed brass renditions of classic holiday orchestral pieces. (Tate Hildyard/ The Daily Iowan)

Adrian Enzastiga, Arts Reporter

The five brass players entered through a side entrance, unnoticed at first by the audience. They had already begun to play; heads searched frantically, entranced by the smooth sounds coming from their golden instruments. They walked casually through the audience, and slowly made their way to the stage. They swayed side to side to the rhythm of the music. Their instruments were a part of them, an inseparable extension of their body.

The Canadian Brass ensemble performed at Hancher last night, Friday, Nov. 30. The concert, titled *Christmas Time is Here* marked the start of this year’s holiday season with an evening full of jingle bells and holiday classics. 

They finished their opening piece with a bang—somewhat literally. One of the members held some sort of firecracker in his hand, which lit up in a burst of red sparks as soon as the last note played. It was fitting, as that initial piece was titled “Renaissance Fireworks.”

The stage and the background were illuminated with bright, color-changing lights, which resembled holiday themes. The five played as beams of red and green flew behind, or sometimes a flurry of white specs danced around a light blue canvas.

The Canadian Brass earned a cheery applause from the audience after each piece, which was well-deserved. Each piece embraced a breadth of new tones and themes. Although every piece had elements of winter and holiday celebration, some were strung together by short, violent strikes, while others stretched into long, majestic cords. Either way, the result was a jolly atmosphere that filled the auditorium. It may have been cold outside, but the beautiful songs were more soothing than a cup of hot cocoa.

The players themselves—one tuba, two trumpets, one trombone, and one horn—had an iconic look.  Their white shoes stuck out as a fine detail compared to their classy black suits. Their outfits were uniform, and so was their performance.

They moved as one body and one entity, playing their respective instruments together as a machine would work to build a car. Flashy spectacle was not needed for this performance. They had a powerful and commanding presence on stage, but one that was confidently humble.

A most impressive feat of one one of the brass members was when he whistled an entire section of one of their pieces. He recreated the same notes, in a way more beautiful and pure than with five instruments, using just his lips. In another, song, three brass players gathered around a microphone and sang to the current song. One even went into an impossibly high falsetto, earning an encouraging response from the audience.

At moments during the show, it would have been more effective to simply shut your eyes, and only focus on the sound coming through your ears. Rather than be pestered by the other four senses, it would be better to only listen for a short time, just absorbing all the magic of live holiday music.

With classics such as “Frosty the Snowman” and “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” it was hard to resist humming along. The tuba player personified The Grinch, hunching down as he played, while the four others took a step away. A green haze that illuminated the background also contributed to the fun of this holiday classic.

Other songs they played were more intense; they created suspense in their music. The Canadian Brass would go from playing a series of quick notes to a drawn out rumble from the tuba, pulling the audience closer. The auditorium seemed to shrink during these captivating melodies, drawing in every pair of eyes watching and ears listening.

Towards the end of their concert, the tuba player Chuck Daellenbach encouraged audience members to get out of their seats and dance, even inviting them up onto the practically barren stage with them. Everyone stayed glued in their seats, but it was an offer that was hard to resist.

Between most pieces, a member of Canadian Brass would share some brief details about the piece to be played next, and cracked a few jokes in the process. The personalities of the brass members were so charming; it was impossible not to enjoy their company. They treated the audience like guests at a dinner party; the entertainment felt intimate and genuine.