Don't take the name too literally. When The Canadian Brass takes to the stage of the EKU Center for the Arts in Richmond on Friday night, one of Central Kentucky's own will be among its ranks.
As the newest member of the quintet that has redefined the stylistic breadth of the brass ensemble with a repertoire that runs from Baroque to Dixieland, trumpeter and Lexington native Caleb Hudson is fulfilling a mission of sorts. Not only is he performing with one of the most acclaimed and popular brass groups of the past 40 years, he is doing so on home turf.
"About a year ago, we appeared with the Louisville Orchestra," Hudson says. "But this appearance will be the closest I've been to home since I joined the group. Probably half the audience will be family, friends or church family. That adds a really special touch."
A graduate of the Juilliard School, multiple National Competition winner and veteran of performances with the New York City Ballet, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, among many other ensembles, Hudson's training can be traced back to Lexington, specifically Meadowthorpe Elementary School.
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"My very first band teacher, Gay Barnett at Meadowthorpe, was pivotal just in the way I approached the trumpet," Hudson says. "I remember all the other kids would go out to recess and I would go meet Mrs. Barnett and she would give trumpet lessons in the band room. I ate that up. I was incessantly hungry to learn and hungry to improve."
Private lessons soon followed with Richard Byrd, Associate Professor of Theory and Composition at Eastern Kentucky University. That's makes the homecoming aspect of tonight's performance all the more pronounced.
"Dr. Byrd was a very important part of my musical growth. I started studying with him when I was 10 years old, a few months after I had picked up the instrument. His teaching was crucial in my development."
Hudson cites a long list of regional artists, organizations and family members that supported him as a student, including longstanding instructor and band leader Vince DiMartino, the Central Kentucky Youth Orchestra and, most of all, his parents. The latter allowed Hudson to finish out his high school years at the prestigious Interlochen Arts Academy.
But Hudson acknowledged that playing with The Canadian Brass, which he joined in 2013, is essentially a dream gig for any aspiring trumpeter.
"The legacy of The Canadian Brass is so substantial that virtually every young brass player that is serious about their instrument grows up listening to the group," Hudson says. "It's just one of those groups. Chuck (tuba artist and co-founding Canadian Brass member Charles Daellenbach) and my predecessors have really established that legacy. It's an honor to be part of it. The group started in 1970 and its commitment to audiences, its commitment to music and to the group itself has really helped build this incredible legacy."
Aside from bringing him back home, Friday night's performance comes a mere week after the release of the Canadian Brass' newest recording, Perfect Landing. The album offers The Canadian Brass' typically far reaching variety, from an arrangement of the Third Movement of Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 (which lets Hudson loose on piccolo trumpet) to an original work of the local hero, the lament-style White Rose. In between are the swing-savvy Dixie Bach, the Spanish standard Grenada and the Jewish prayer Shalom aleichem.
"Our choices of repertoire really blossom out of our own individual passions and musical preferences," Hudson says. "You can imagine for five people that would vary quite a bit. For example, Achilles (Liarmakopoulos, the group's trombonist) loves any kind of Latin music, so this new album has a few pieces that are Latin influenced. That really helps to mold the repertoire and the stylistic choices for the recordings and the concerts.
"But it's also a privilege to be able to perform everything from Renaissance to Baroque to Dixieland to Chinese folk songs and Spanish pieces. To be able to capture those styles requires a lot of dedication, an open mind and a lot of listening. But we also have a lot of natural curiosity."