Men fill nearly all of the seats in the brass section for most prominent American orchestras, as over 95 percent of trumpet, trombone and tuba players are male, according to a study by computer programmer Suby Raman.
Not so for the members of the Seraph Brass Quintet. Saint Vincent will be hosting this all-female brass ensemble on Feb. 17 as part of the college’s forty-sixth annual Concert Series.
Thomas Octave, assistant professor of music, has conducted the Westmoreland Choral Society and the Pittsburgh Baroque ensemble, among others.
“It is true that a large majority of orchestras have male trumpet players, but I have seen it changing in the last ten years,” he said.
Ensembles like Seraph Brass may be helping to drive that trend.
“I think that ensembles like Seraph Brass are wonderful for the music industry for creating great music while championing the idea of women playing in ensembles that historically have been populated by mostly males,” Octave said.
Fr. Cyprian Constantine, Concert Series director and director of liturgical formation, agreed.
“It does seem to be true that a majority of performers on brass instruments are male, so it is a special treat to have an all-female quintet assembled to perform this concert. Certainly, the Seraph Quintet’s performance may encourage younger students to try their wings and begin to study the brass instruments,” he said.
Members of Seraph Brass have performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic and the San Francisco Symphony. The ensemble has toured the United States, Mexico and Europe.
Saturday’s performance will feature a wide-ranging program, Constantine explained. The Romantic period will be heavily featured, but selections will range from Mozart to the present day.
The quintet will play a number of arrangements of well-known arias, such as Queen of the Night from the Magic Flute and selections from
Bernstein’s West Side Story and Puccini’s “Turandot.”
Arrangements of music originally written for piano, such as Debussy’s Clair de Lune and Lizst’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, will be included as well. A few pieces – “Asteria,” by 20th-century American composer Catherin McMichael, and Michael Kamen’s appropriately-named “Quintet” – were composed specifically for brass.
“It should be an interesting and entertaining program,” Constantine said.
Octave believes the concert series is a valuable cultural contribution to the Saint Vincent community and encourages his students to attend.
“In my Music Appreciation and Art and Music of Western Culture courses, I make it a requirement for students to attend concerts, and highly encourage them to attend the Saint Vincent College Concert Series. I believe the College Concert Series, allows our students to hear world class musical artists on campus without traveling far and without any cost,” he said.
The concert will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the Basilica. A free reception with the performers will follow in the Parish Assembly Room, adjacent to the Basilica. Tickets are priced at $25 for the general public and will be available at the door; students and faculty can attend for free.
Upcoming performances in the Concert Series include flautist Anthony
Trionfo on March 17 and cellist Edgar Moreau on April 7.
Photo: Gulf Shore Life