February, aka “Chamber Music Month at ULM”, continued this week with a performance and several other events presented by the Mirari Brass Quintet, a relatively new professional ensemble that’s been doing quite a bit of touring recently. The members are Eddie Ludema and Alex Noppe, trumpets, Jessie Thoman, horn, Sarah Paradis, trombone, and Glen Dimick, tuba. All are active as teachers, soloists, and chamber and orchestral musicians. Alex Noppe is also the newest member of the brass faculty here at ULM, where he has been doing an outstanding job. Mirari spent most of the day Monday on our campus, teaching some private lessons in the morning, working with two student brass quintets that afternoon, and then sitting down for an informal Q&A session with several music students. They finished out their mini-residency with an exciting program on Monday evening. I was very impressed with everything Mirari did, whether it was teaching, performing, coaching, or providing thoughtful answers to questions from various students. Besides the evening recital, the most interesting part of the day for me was the Q&A session, when the group spoke about their beginnings and how they put together this ensemble. The quintet was formed by graduate students at Indiana University a few years ago, and their members have gone on to professional playing and teaching positions around the country. For detailed information on the group and its history, you can check out their website. Something they kept coming back to in their discussion was perseverance, and how crucial it is in the music business to keep going after something, even if the path to get there isn’t always a straight line. Mirari’s perseverance is certainly starting to pay off, as the group continues to get bookings for tours, residencies, and other performances. Another topic they touched on was promotion and how to get booked for performances. They stressed how crucial it was to have a website, since the first thing most people do when they’re looking for something is to run a search on Google. Their personal and group websites look fantastic, by the way, and they also have a Facebook page and a blog.
Their recital was full of variety, including a Renassiance transcription, new works commissioned by the group, and tunes by Chick Corea and Charles Mingus arranged by Noppe especially for this ensemble. Though everything they did was polished and musically convincing, I was especially impressed by their performance of a new piece written for them by Eric Nathan. Titled “Spires,” the piece was filled with extended techniques and lots of timbral and textural effects. For a brief summary of the work and some sound clips, visit the composer’s website. Another highlight of the performance were the Corea and Mingus arrangements, not exactly standard fare for the average brass quintet. They pulled off these difficult charts with great style and energy, and I think the group has definitely found a niche with these kinds of works. If you consider the really big names in the brass quintet world – Boston Brass, Canadian Brass, Dallas Brass, Empire Brass, etc. – you’ll find that each group has carved out a place for themselves in an extremely competitive market through creative programming along with brilliant playing. In my opinion, Mirari Brass is well on their way to making a name for themselves by doing the same thing. Bravo again for a wonderful performance!