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"Simpler Life" CD

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"A Simpler Life" CD

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Listen to samples of music from the recording — click on the highlighted titles below.

See what the featured composers and other listeners have said about the CD!

Read the liner notes.

 
Photograph by J. W. Hallock  

This Menlo Brass Quintet recording is a wonderful compilation of favorites — their own, and those of their audiences — in addition to an exciting selection of newly-composed music written especially for brass quintet, and in many cases, especially for the Menlo Brass themselves.

The title, "A Simpler Life," is taken from the featured piece, a commissioned composition by Christopher Dedrick, created for the Menlo Brass Quintet. "A Simpler Life" consists of three movements: ♫Mist Rising Mountain, ♫Spring Hymn, and ♫Carnival of Waking Dreams.

 
Handel Mini-Suite, by George F. Handel
The Rejoicing from Suite from Music for the Royal Fireworks
Allegro Vivace from Suite from the Water Music
Bourrée from Suite from Il pastor fido
Gravé from Sonata "St. Mark," by Tomaso Albinoni
Symphony for Brass, Quintet No. 1, Opus 5, by Victor Ewald
Moderato, ♫ Adagio, ♫ Allegro
A Simpler Life, Commissioned by the Menlo Brass Quintet, by Christopher Dedrick
Mist Rising Mountain, ♫Spring Hymn, ♫Carnival of Waking Dreams
Two for Five for Brass Quintet, by Sondra Clark
Allegretto, 3+3+4
Speed Trap Blues, by I'lana Cotton
Fast Curves, ♫Slow Cruisin', ♫Roadrunner
It's About Time!, by Rosemary Barrett Byers
Downtime, ♫Time and Again, ♫ Stop Time, ♫ Maytime, ♫Time's Up!
Not Much Doin', by Warner Jepson
Chicken, by Bob Lipton
Amazing Grace, Traditional
Allegretto from Palladio, by Karl Jenkins
Summertime from Porgy and Bess, by George Gershwin
Manha De Carnaval (A Day in the Life of a Fool) from Black Orpheus, by Luiz Bonfa & Antonio Maria
Tonight from "Suite from West Side Story", by Leonard Bernstein & Stephen Sondheim
Verano Porteno (Summer in the Port of Buenos Aires) from Quatro Estaciones Portenas, by Astor Piazzolla
That's A-Plenty, by Lew Pollack
The Stars and Stripes Forever  from A Sousa Collection, by John Philip Sousa

LINER NOTES:

The Rejoicing,  Allegro Vivace,  Bourrée  — A Handel Mini-Suite

The Menlo Brass enjoys these gems from George Frideric Handel (1685-1759), combined here to form a Mini-Suite. The first two were written for George I, King of England. Handel was expressly asked by the king to use as many "martial" instruments as possible to celebrate the Treaty of Aix-la-Chappelle in 1749, resulting in ♫Music from the Royal Fireworks. TheWater Music was written in 1717 for George I's royal procession on the Thames. It was intended to be light, buoyant, and refreshing, and to be played loudly enough to drown out the scatological welcome given to the new king by London's boatmen as they exercised their traditional right of uncensored expression. The ♫Bourrée from "Il pastor fido," a Handel opera, was written in 1712. Handel and brass make a splendid collaboration, as even a king could tell.

Gravé from Sonata "St. Mark"

Tomaso Albinoni (1671-1750) composed the Sonata "Saint Mark" in 1712. It follows the four-movement pattern of the sonata da chiesa. The title is derived from the Basilica San Marco in Venice, where a lively tradition of instrumental music had developed as early as the middle of the 16th century. The graceful Gravé is the first movement of the Sonata and is a favorite of ours.

Symphony for Brass, Quintet No. 1, Opus 5

Russian-born Victor Ewald (1860-1935) was not a musician by trade, but an engineer and teacher who had music as his avocation. In the Russia of the 19th Century, many musicians, including the greatest, were "amateurs," having another profession in addition to their art. A cellist and hornist, Ewald wrote several brass quintets for the conical brasses common in his day. Ewald played the cello with the Belayev String Quartet, named after a famous editor in St. Petersburg. Belayev published this Symphony for Brass in 1912.

Ewald's Quintet recalls the style of Tchaïkovsky in its melancholic key, the dark tonality of Bb minor, and the 5/4 meter of the second movement. The ♫first movement is in sonata form. The ♫second movement, in Gb major and in 5/4, is composed of two adagios around a scherzo. The ♫third movement is a fantasy built on motives taken from the preceding movements, organized around an arc-like structure ABCBCBA and coda. The piece finishes with a fanfare in the bright tonality of Bb major.

A Simpler Life — Commissioned by the Menlo Brass Quintet — World Premiere Recording

Christopher Dedrick (b 1947) is an American-Canadian composer, arranger, conductor, singer, and music producer. He has won three Gemini awards from the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television for best original music scores. While in his teens, Chris was signed to his first recording contract. He began conducting, arranging for, and recording with many well-known artists. In the early '70's, Chris served in the U.S. Air Force as chief arranger for the Airmen of Note. Chris is known for his chamber works, jazz pieces, and small symphonic works, a complement to his success as a songwriter, popular arranger, film, and TV writer.

The Menlo Brass immensely enjoys performing Chris Dedrick's arrangements of pieces, many originally done for the Canadian Brass. His arrangements provide great beauty through lush harmonies and spare, lucid writing. As a trumpet player, Chris has an excellent understanding for the capabilities and limitations of brass instruments, enabling him to score rich harmonies from only five brass.

A Simpler Life was commissioned by and for the Menlo Brass Quintet, and was completed in May, 2001. Chris created a wonderfully rich texture of beautiful melodies and harmonies that are both delicate and transparent, with sweeping lines and exciting emotion. He exposes the warmth of each player with a relatively simple harmonic backdrop. Recognizing the innate beauty of simplicity over complexity, Chris reached for the beauty and natural flexibility of each instrument and the challenges of an intimate and precise ensemble.

The composition consists of three movements, providing vivid visual images. ♫ Mist Rising Mountain starts with solo horn with slight pauses, as if to listen for an echo from the mountain. The first trumpet follows in that style, which has something of an Irish ballad at its roots. The overall attitude is wonder and joy. ♫Spring Hymn has a chorale nature, as though there is another brass choir or string group behind the brass quintet, when the timbre and intonation of the chords are lined up so that the overtones and resultant tones "kick in." The feeling is inner strength; deep conviction that ironically has within it a kind of prayer for support. ♫Carnival of Waking Dreams has precise rhythmic, metronomic drive, but with the addition of a dance feel. The Menlo Brass gave the world premiere of A Simpler Life on April 28, 2002.

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The Menlo Brass was engaged to play a concert program for the San Francisco Chapter of the National Association of Composers, USA (NACUSA), featuring music composed by the NACUSA members for brass quintet. All of the compositions performed at "The Metal Concert" were written for the Menlo Brass performance on October 27, 2001. We were honored to work directly with the composers and to perform the premieres of many great new works. Four of those pieces are included here:

Two for Five for Brass Quintet — World Premiere Recording

Of California Mission Indian descent, Dr. Sondra Clark (b 1941) grew up on government Indian Schools in the Dakotas. In her early teens, she began winning awards for her musical talent. Dr. Clark is a graduate of the Juilliard School (BM), received her Master's from San Jose State University, and a doctorate from Stanford University. Dr. Clark was a member of the San Jose State University music faculty for 12 years, serving as a Master's Thesis Advisor for eight years. Dr. Clark has won over 40 awards for her compositions since she began composing 10 years ago. She received ASCAP awards for 2001 and 2002. Her works have  been published by Neil Kjos and Hal Leonard, and she is the only composer to be featured on "The Grand Piano Show" in an hour- long program, "The Wonderful Piano Music of Sondra Clark."

The first movement, ♫Allegretto, was written especially for the Menlo Brass Quintet and seeks to celebrate each of the instruments with solos in a gentle, Poulenc-type humor. The second movement, ♫3+3+4, is also humorous, but in a more lively, joyous mood. It is written in the unusual meter of 3 + 3 + 4. It is unusual in another respect, having seen performances under various other names and guises. It has been presented as a mixed ensemble for woodwinds and strings, duet for piano, harpsichord solo, and as a children's choral work. As you can guess, Dr. Clark is very fond of these sounds and loves to hear them in new settings.

Speed Trap Blues — World Premiere Recording

I'lana Cotton (b 1946) is a composer, improviser, and pianist who has written extensively for acoustic chamber ensembles and choral groups. Her work has been performed throughout the US and has won several awards, including recent awards from ASCAP, the Ernest Bloch Festival, and the California-based Peninsula Community Foundation. She has often collaborated with artists in visual and theatrical media, and has created several commissions for choreographers and poets. She holds an M.A. in composition from the University of California at Los Angeles, with undergraduate music study at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Other studies include north Indian classical vocal technique and Javanese gamelan. She is currently on the music faculty of the College of San Mateo.

This form really is a 12-bar blues at its most simple harmonically, but altered through its use of hybrid modal scales, and the number five plays a big role (5/8 time or five-phrased sections). The section titles (♫Fast Curves, ♫Slow Cruisin', and ♫Roadrunner) do mirror what was happening on Cordilleras Road (the speed trap itself!) the day the composer needed titles.

It's About Time! — World Premiere Recording

Rosemary Barrett Byers (b 1939) has enjoyed a varied career as pianist, conductor, theatrical director, teacher, composer and arranger. Since completing a Master's degree in piano performance at Indiana University, she has taught piano, music history, and musical theater at various colleges and universities in the Southeast and Midwest, conducted most of the major choral orchestra literature, and directed numerous musicals and musical revues from dinner theater to the concert stage. Ms. Byers views her composing as a natural outgrowth of her other musical activities.

Ms. Byers lives most of the year with her husband and two stray cats in a pueblito near Merida, Yucatan in Mexico. Shortly before writing this composition, an accident in rural Mexico totaled their car. Thankfully, the only injuries were to four turkeys, 19 chickens and Rosemary's husband's ego, since he fell asleep driving. But as a result, she was not able to return home until four days before the submission deadline—so this piece was indeed "About Time".Downtime is hang time, "bummer" time. ♫Time and Again is about going to a job you hate day after day; and ♫Stop Time is just a groove. ♫Maytime is a madrigal and should inspire visions of English virgins and scampering sheep. And then ♫Time really was Up!

Not Much Doin' — World Premiere Recording

Warner Jepson (b 1929), since graduating from Oberlin Conservatory, has lived in San Francisco, composing in various media (acoustic, audio tape, Buchla synthesizer) for musicals, theater, dance, ballet, film, television, and museum exhibits and openings. Currently, he's composing chamber music.

 ♫Not Much Doin' was selected from Warner's Eight Trifles for Brass Quintet, which were originally written for song or film. Not Much Doin' was in KQED's "Ascent," a movie on mountain climbing at Yosemite, and was meant to emulate a guitarist playing at a campfire. It's laid back and sweet.

Chicken — World Premiere Recording

Chicken is a piece Bob Lipton (b 1954) wrote years ago for a rock band. He has arranged it for many different groups and instrumentations. The title came from the phrase, "chicken with its head cut off." The Menlo Brass are pleased to feature one of Bob's many fine compositions on our first recording.

Amazing Grace

Brass players not only have shared in a long classical music tradition, we are also an integral part of a rich Dixieland heritage. Dixieland represents a truly North American art form that, from its beginning, welcomed brass. It is a style of improvisation that has grown up in America, superimposing Black/African music traditions on imported European marches and church music. The essence of Dixieland, as well as the beauty and emotion of ♫Amazing Grace, have been captured in this arrangement by Luther Henderson. Amazing Grace features Dan Hallock on cornet.

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Allegretto from Palladio

Welsh-born Karl Jenkins (b 1944) studied composition at the University of Wales, Cardiff, and in post-graduate work at the Royal Academy of Music, London. He began playing jazz as a university student, eventually playing venues as diverse as the Montreux Jazz Festival and Carnegie Hall. Palladio was inspired by the 16th century Italian architect Andrea Palladio, whose hallmarks are mathematical harmony and architectural elements borrowed from classical antiquity, a philosophy which Jenkins felt reflected his own attitude to composition. An excerpt from the ♫Allegretto from Palladio has become the musical signature for a popular ad campaign for diamonds that began in 1995. The brilliant first movement of this baroque style concerto grosso for string orchestra has been transcribed for the Menlo Brass Quintet by Bob Lipton.

Summertime from Porgy and Bess

George Gershwin (1898-1937) came to music with a burning ambition. He learned the art of songwriting and by 1919 had his first hit. Gershwin was among the first to oscillate between the concert hall and the Broadway stage. This artistic schizophrenia caused the lines to be blurred, at least for the critics, between the serious and the popular, and Gershwin was never accorded the respect his talents deserved.

When Gershwin read "Porgy" by DuBose ward, he was taken with the storyline, and obtained Heyward's permission to put it to music. He relocated to South Carolina for 20 months, studying African-American music and language patterns for the score. The show premiered in Boston in 1935, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Whether Porgy and Bess is an opera or a musical depends upon one's definition of each, but regardless, it is unquestionably America's most enduring musical drama, as ♫Summertime is its timeless ballad of the South.

Manha de Carnaval (A Day in the Life of a Fool) from Black Orpheus

Luiz Bonfa (1922-2001) was a part of the birth of bossa nova. His haunting ♫Manha de Carnaval swept the world, paving the way for the first Brazilian wave. He cultivated a delicate, precise classical guitar style, more attuned to the traditional samba rhythm than the bossa nova lilt. Born near the bay of Guanabara in Rio, Bonfa took up the guitar at 11. He began to work Rio's clubs as a singer and by 1946, he was appearing on Brazil's Radio Nacional. By 1957, Bonfa was beginning to split his time between New York City and Rio, as well as writing Brazilian film scores. In 1959, film director Marcel Camus asked Bonfa to contribute some songs to his film version of the play "Orfeo do Carnaval" (renamed Black Orpheus for the screen), a retelling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. As the main theme, Manha de Carnaval became a global pop/jazz/folk standard, one of the most beloved, recognizable, and glorious pieces of popular music. Bob Lipton arranged the bossa nova classic for the Menlo Brass because he loved the song and wanted to play it the first time he heard it.

Tonight from West Side Story

Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) is America's unique musical talent. He was the first musician wholly trained in this country to make a worldwide reputation. Bernstein is equally at home on the concert stage and under the hot lights of Broadway. In 1957, West Side Story established his immortality there. This modern, musical Romeo and Juliet constitutes the culmination of the Broadway style. In a poor neighborhood of West Manhattan, two rival gangs of hooligans, the Jets (white Americans) and the Sharks (Puerto Rican immigrants), are engaged in conflict. A New Yorker, Tony (alias Romeo), falls in love with Puerto Rican Maria (as his Juliet, the sister of the leader of the Sharks). ♫Tonight is a key moment of drama, as the two gangs prepare for a fight while Tony and Maria sing of their love.

Verano Porteno (Summer in the Port of Buenos Aires)

Often referred to as the originator of the "nuevo tango," Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992) was an Argentine visionary who endured the wrath of many of his countrymen for adapting their national dance to his own modern ends. A soulful and accomplished performer on the accordion-like bandoneon, Piazzolla's many recordings placed him as a leading international composer. Besides his own hand-picked groups, he recorded with a mix of jazz and classical players in the US.

Verano Porteno (Summer in the Port of Buenos Aires) is one of a set of four pieces about the seasons of the year. Bob Lipton was drawn to the depth of feeling in the music of stor Piazzolla and adapted this beautiful piece for the Menlo Brass.

That's A-Plenty

Lew Pollack (1895-1946) was most active during the 1920's and 30's. Pollack is a member of the Song-writers' Hall of Fame. ♫That's A-Plenty was written in 1914. This piece features a trumpet solo by Ron McWilliams. If you thought that brass could only play loudly, listen to the quiet section just before the shout near the end — there were no volume knobs involved!

The Stars and Stripes Forever

In late 1896, John Philip Sousa (1854-1932) was vacationing Europe when he received word that the manager of his band, David Blakely, had died suddenly. The band was scheduled to begin another cross-country tour, and Sousa knew he must return at once to take over. Sousa later recounted, "Here came one of the most vivid incidents of my career. As the vessel steamed out of the harbor I was pacing on the deck, absorbed in thoughts of my manager's death and the many duties and decisions which awaited me in New York. Suddenly, I began to sense a rhythmic beat of a band playing within my brain. Throughout the whole tense voyage, that imaginary band continued to unfold the same themes, echoing and re-echoing the most distinct melody. I did not transfer a note of that music to paper while I was on the steamer, but when we reached shore, I set down the measures that my brain-band had been playing for me, and not a note of it has ever changed."

The Stars and Stripes Forever was composed on Christmas Day, 1896, and was an immediate success. Sousa's band played it at almost every concert. It is the Official March of the United States of America. The Menlo Brass have performed Stars and Stripes as a concert closer or encore for many programs because it is always an audience favorite.

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Contact the Menlo Brass Quintet

For concert information and bookings, please contact Dan Hallock:

  • Telephone
    • (650) 364-8413
  • Postal address
    • 927 Third Avenue
      Redwood City, California  94063-4004  U.S.A.
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