Brass Night features student soloists, ensembles, faculty

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Students are still grateful for an opportunity to perform. Even if it’s just a livestream reaching an audience is good experience. Photo courtesy of Yrsala Peterson.

Katarina Rothhorn

Reynolds Recital Hall is normally full of students, faculty and staff and community members as the Department of Music puts on multiple performances to close out the semester. However, this year, the pandemic has made live performances nearly impossible.

Still, Mark Flaherty, a professor of music, has managed to help organize a few virtual music performances throughout the semester. All of the shows are being live streamed from the music department’s live performances page and recorded versions of every concert can be found on their YouTube page at NMU Music Department.

“It is not quite as packed as the schedule usually would be towards the end of the semester, just because it has been a strange term,” said Flaherty.

During this strange term, Flaherty has had students perform at virtual jazz concerts and recitals. But as the semester comes to an end, he will be in Reynolds Recital hall on Monday, Nov. 9 to celebrate Brass Night with other faculty and students. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. and is expected to last about an hour.

The evening will feature student soloists, a student brass quintet, a larger brass ensemble and a performance by Flaherty with two other professors of music, Stephen Grugin and Nancy Zimmerman, as well. 

“The piece Dr. Grugin and I are playing is by a contemporary American composer who is known a lot for brass named Eric Ewazen. That piece is interesting; it is loosely based on some Elizabethan poetry. Each movement has to do with a specific poem that was written by a poet during the Elizabethan era,” Flaherty said. 

One of the soloists, Arabella Olson, a senior majoring in music performance, will be performing on the trombone an accompanied piece called the “T-bone Concerto” by Johan de Meij.

“I initially picked it because the movements are rare, medium and well done like a steak and I thought it was kind of funny, but it also just sounds cool,” Olson said.

Olson, who has played the trombone for nearly 11 years, will also be performing with the eight person brass ensemble.

Another soloist is Yrsala Peterson, a senior majoring in secondary music education. She will be performing a piece called “Intrada” by Otto Ketting which features only an unaccompanied trumpet.

“It is a rather modern 20th century piece and is pretty impressionistic. It is more of a soundscape than a structured piece of music,” said Peterson. “I chose to perform this piece because I really love playing unaccompanied pieces. Oftentimes when a trumpet performs, it is either with a piano or an organ or an orchestra. As I’m a vocalist [as well], I love how much expression you can have with a solo voice, such as just the trumpet alone with no accompaniment.”

Peterson, who is a part of the brass quintet and ensemble as well, said rehearsals have been a little difficult during COVID-19. Bell covers have to be worn over the ends of the instruments and the students have to meet in larger rooms in order to sit further apart.

“It is a very tight knit group and we rely on each other for visual cues as well as just for listening purposes, but now we are spaced out a little but further,” Peterson said. “In brass quintets, intonation and listening to each other and expression are all decisions made as a group rather than as one individual so it has been challenging.”

These safety precautions will be followed on performance night as well, even though their audience will be watching from a screen. The audience will not be completely empty during the solo and small group performances since the rest of the players will be there, but during the full ensemble pieces, they will have a near silent room to play to.

“It makes it interesting. Thankfully in this case, except for the larger groups where we are going to have almost everyone onstage playing, [there will be someone in the audience],” Flaherty said. “It is sort of strange to be in a large room and somebody finishes a solo and nothing happens, and you’re hoping at home everyone is clapping.”

However, even with the strange performance atmosphere, students are still glad they get to perform.

“It is really hard to have collaborative music right now, just because of distancing and trying to be safe with everything. I’m excited to be able to get together with some other brass players and share some music,” Peterson said. “Even though we can’t have an audience in person, we are really appreciative of the people who watch it through the stream. I’m hoping to have a lot of people to share our music with.”

Other upcoming events from the music department:

NMU Percussion Ensemble Concert

Saturday, November 7, 2020 • 3:00 p.m.

Available via livestream

Brass Night at NMU

Monday, November 9, 2020 • 7:30 p.m.

Available via livestream

NMU Choral and Orchestra Concert

Sunday, November 15, 2020 • 3:00 p.m.

Available via livestream

NMU Jazz Concert

Wednesday, November 18, 2020 • 7:30 p.m.

Available via livestream