Similar instruments, two different sounds

2011-11-03T18:30:00Z Similar instruments, two different soundsBy Sarah Payne, The Entertainer Albany Democrat Herald
November 03, 2011 6:30 pm  • 

CORVALLIS — At 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6, the Oregon Brass Society Band and the OSU Wind Ensemble — both directed by Chris Chapman, director of the bands at OSU — will put on a combined concert at the LaSells Stewart Center, 875 S.W. 26th St, giving concert-goers a chance to hear two very different styles of music come from many of the same instruments.

The Oregon Brass Society band is Oregon’s only British-style brass band and is based out of Eugene. And according to Chapman, a British-style brass band is “a completely different sound than what we’re used to.” 

A British brass band shares many similarities to an American brass band, but the key distinction is in the instruments. For example, British brass bands use British and European instruments like flugelhorn and the coronet — in place of a trumpet — which contribute to heavily to the difference in sound.

“All of the instruments that (British brass bands) play on are a little bit darker sounding, and all of the instruments that we play on are brighter sounding,” Chapman said.

“We could put the Chicago Symphony next to the Concerto Bau Orchestra and you’ll be able to tell right away which one is American and which one is European just by the overall darkness of tone or brightness of tone.”

In terms of sound, the difference between British brass bands and American brass bands is harder to describe verbally, but there is a distinct aural shift in the tones.

“It’s hard to put into words because it’s such an aural concept,” Chapman said. “It’s a darker sound and you would think that if you had a whole bunch of brass players it would be really loud, but it does just the opposite — it gets softer, more mellow sounding than a stereotypical, modern wind band.”

“You have so many different sounding brass instruments all in one place that it melds into a real mellow-dark, chocolatey sound.”

The band, which plays British-style compositions, will be playing three original, older compositions, including a piece written in 1909. “That’s old for bands, that’s very old. Whereas the orchestra can play a piece from the 16oos. We probably wouldn’t do that in our concerts,” Chapman said. 

The first two pieces the Oregon Brass Society Band will play are also pieces they will be performing at the Northwest Brass Band Festival in Bellevue, Wa., in January.

This combined concert is also a sort of practice concert for the OSU Wind Ensemble as well, who will be going to and performing at the  College Band Directors’ National Association Conference in Reno, NV., in March.

Unlike its British-style counterband, the Wind Ensemble is distinctly bright and rich, with golden rises that have the ability to conjure up the image of a dawn that rises and helps slake off the early morning’s dreamy sleepiness.

The OSU Wind Ensemble is an example of a modern wind ensemble, Chapman said. Prior to 1952, being in a band meant that you were one of hundred different musicians on the stage. In 1952, the Eastman Wind Ensemble came out with their version of the “band” sound, putting just one musician on each part and creating a purer, clearer sound.

“We have the Eastman Wind Ensemble in our band room every day,” Chapman said. “The clarity that you can get, the sound, the articulations, everything, is very soloistic.”

With fewer players on a part — having three trumpet players instead of 12 — the music stays bright instead of being dark and heavy.

The OSU Wind Ensemble will also play three pieces, including a piece composed by Paul Hindemeth in the 1950s and guest conducted by Portland Youth Philharmonic director David Hattner. 

Between a brass band and a wind ensemble, there is some overlay of instruments. Despite their similarities, the two groups will produce two completely different sounds — with the key instrumental difference being the coronet. In British brass bands, the melody is played entirely on the coronet. In a wind ensemble, the melody is played with several different instruments at once, such  as flutes, piccolos, oboes, clarinets and bassoons.

“If you’re going to take a snapshot of what each group sounds like, with the modern wind ensemble there’s a huge palette of colors that you have to blend together,” Chapman said. “With the british brass band, you’ve got one sound. They try to get one sound, so they try to mend their sounds all into one particular kind of sound.”

Having two different bands is also sure to appeal to a wider range of audience members. 

“They’re different sounds completely, and we might appeal to a different kind of an audience,” Chapman said. “Most of the time for our concerts we get a lot of moms and dads, but we don’t get Corvallis elites. So we’re trying to get them to come to a band concert.”

Tickets to the concert are $10 and can be purchased at the door. There is no admission cost for seniors. 

Copyright 2015 Albany Democrat Herald. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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