Music News & Reviews

World premiere has Lexington Philharmonic playing with brass and jazz royalty

Chris Brubeck’s “No Borders: Concerto for Canadian Brass and Orchestra” will have its world premiere Saturday with the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra.
Chris Brubeck’s “No Borders: Concerto for Canadian Brass and Orchestra” will have its world premiere Saturday with the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra.

It was during literally the last few moments of 2015 that Chris Brubeck and Lexington Philharmonic conductor and music director Scott Terrell hatched the idea of a project that will premiere this weekend.

The plan was for composer and instrumentalist Brubeck, who had just performed a New Year’s Eve concert at the Opera House with the Philharmonic and with brother and percussionist Dan Brubeck, to write a work for the orchestra. But the twist was that Terrell wanted the acclaimed Canadian Brass to be part of the piece.

“It was at this Lexington Philharmonic New Year’s Eve dinner gathering. There were maybe 40 people there, and Scott said, ‘What about if I put you and Canadian Brass together so you can write a piece that we will premiere here?’ Part of the reason Canadian Brass was on his radar was that he had guest-conducted them with other orchestras. So he realized what fantastic players they were.”

But Brubeck also had been on Terrell’s radar. Terrell had conducted Brubeck’s Americana-inspired “Travels with Time for Three” with the Philharmonic in October 15. Then, as recently as last summer in Aspen, Colo., Terrell conducted a Brubeck-penned work (“Affinity: Concerto for Guitar & Orchestra”) that was commissioned by Grammy-winning guitarist Sharon Isbin.

“So basically, Scott has conducted quite a bit of my music. I’m quite honored that he has faith in me to come up with something that his audience and the Canadian Brass would like.”

Brubeck’s research for the piece began with research on the Canadian Brass. In a way, that had started decades earlier around a kitchen table with his father, jazz titan Dave Brubeck. The two were listening to a version of the latter’s classic “Blue Rondo a la Turk” that the Canadian Brass had included on a jazz-directed 1995 album titled “Swingtime.”

“I remember sitting with my dad, listening to the Canadian Brass doing this arrangement of ‘Blue Rondo’ and he was just so thrilled to think that this world-famous ensemble was playing his music and taking it into their universe. I remember that big grin on his face. So I’ve always had this positive feeling about them. A lot of times, their arrangers are guys that have come out of the jazz world, so obviously, they’re musically open-minded.”

Then it came time to meet the Brass face to face. For that, Brubeck journeyed last year to Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, where the ensemble was performing. It was familiar territory for Brubeck, as he had attended high school there in the late 1960s. Then again, so had Lexington native and Canadian Brass trumpeter Caleb Hudson, a generation later.

“I thought, ‘Well, this is cool. I can see my old haunts, witness the Canadian Brass doing workshops and get to know the guys. I could just hang out and hear them in person and try to check out their strengths and their weaknesses, although I must say, I didn’t find any weaknesses. I wanted to get of a sense of, ‘Are they serious people? Are they funny people?’ I wanted to see what their vibe was like. It was also important because Caleb, who was known as this incredible talent on trumpet, had gone there.”

What eventually resulted was “No Borders: Concerto for Canadian Brass and Orchestra.”

It will be premiered Saturday on a program titled “CB Squared” that will include Rossini’s “Overture to ‘The Barber of Seville,’” Stravinsky’s “Pulcinella: Suite,” and Vaughan Williams’ “The Wasps: Overture.”

“You’re in for a lot of different things,” Brubeck said of “No Borders.” “There are parts that sound like modern classical music. Some of it feels like more of a throwback. The first movement, I can’t even totally describe what’s going on. When I played the finale demo for (Canadian Brass trumpter) Chris Coletti, he said, ‘This really goes to a lot of places I didn’t think it was going. That part sort of sounds like Shostakovich. That part sounds like Bernstein. It sounds kind of French, then it sounds Russian. Then it’s a little jazzy.’ It not overtly jazzy at all, but there are some subtle jazz influences.

“The second movement has a really pretty adagio theme. I gave the lead statement of the melody to the trombone player (Brubeck plays trombone as well as bass when co-leading the jazz-directed Brubeck Brothers Quartet). Then the third movement is really fun and very Spanish sounding.

“If all goes right, I think it will be hard not to move with it or shuffle your feet. Hopefully, there will be some kind of reaction along those lines.”

Read Walter Tunis’ blog, The Musical Box, at

If you go

Lexington Philharmonic

What: Concert featuring the Canadian Brass and world premiere of Chris Brubeck’s “No Borders: Concerto for Canadian Brass and Orchestra”

When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 11

Where: Singletary Center for the Arts, 405 Rose St.

Tickets: $35-$85