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Gabriel V Brass Ensemble presents Celebration in Brass an inspiring collection of fanfares, beloved hymns, and masterworks arranged for brass by twentieth-century composers. Music lovers will know the hymns Be Thou My Vision, Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, Be still, my soul, God of Grace and God of Glory, All Creatures of our God and King. Gabriel V's charge to promote excellence in music for worship for all generations is embodied in this program, featuring works by James Curnow, Karl Jenkins, Jack Stamp, John Stevens, and others. Music lovers will revel in these resounding works of praise, meditation, and faith-filled celebration. Joining Gabriel V are the award-winning members of Spirit of America Band's Winter Percussion Ensemble. Recorded in the stunning acoustics of Mechanics Hall, Worcester, this Super Audio CD provides the listener with all the warmth and brilliance of hearing Gabriel V perform firsthand.
I can't be the only twenty-first-century American for whom That Old-Time Religion is just fine, thank you, and doesn't need to be improved on by megachurches and their megawatt ministers. I include as well the old-time religious music known as hymn tunes. At least that's my thinking when I hear what passes today for Christian music, the pallid soft-rock settings of Bible verses featured in contemporary church services. I usually have a similar bone to pick with jazzed-up versions of hymn tunes such as those on the current disc from the very talented players of Gabriel V Brass Ensemble and their collaborators, the young (twenty and under) Spirit of America Winter Percussion Ensemble. However, with playing as suave and spirited as this, I really can't object.
The program leans heavily on arrangements by James Curnow, who's written extensively for brass band, including arrangements of traditional music. The settings on offer here are all as professional as the playing. Included are tunes old as Slane (the music to which Be Thou My Vision is set) and as new as Karl Jenkins's Benedictus, an original piece taken from the composer's lavish The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace, dedicated to the victims of the war in Kosovo. Slane, dating from the eighth century, was inspired by a moment of defiance from Saint Patrick at a pagan festival on Slane Hill. The text of Be Thou My Vision is even earlier, penned by sixth-century Irish poet St. Dallan Forgaill, known as the little blind one.
My favorite pieces on the program are Steven Sherrill's Variations on Down Ampney, based on a hymn tune by Vaughn Williams, and Curnow's Fanfare Prelude on Lobe den Herren, both of which transform their originals in the most interesting and memorable ways. (My least favorite is the music of Seagull Seven, which, except for Easter Fanfare, doesn't have much of a churchy or celebratory vibe to it.) The grand finale, Welsh composer Jenkins's Benedictus, has an appeal
GABRIEL V BRASS ENSEMBLE offers the best in fanfare and solo brass works, presenting distinctive programs from classics of the Venetian School to contemporary works, as well as elegant jazz, patriotic favorites, and holiday fare. Gabriel V collaborates frequently with Glori‘ Dei Cantores, and has toured 23 countries in the UK, Europe, and Russia, and by invitation performed works by Gabrieli for the 900th anniversary celebration of Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy. In the U.S. they have performed in 49 cities from New York to San Francisco, and they can be heard at their annual concert series in the Church of the Transfiguration.