Snyder: Mixing it up

Published: April 15, 2017

When it comes to music, you can't get more traditional than Johann Sebastian Bach — who was born in 1685 and whose music is still played all around the world.

And you can't get more modern than the Gaudete Brass Quintet.

The Chicago-based group, which started in 2004, is a fixture at area performance halls.

Though its members play brass chamber music — a traditional format — they are "committed to expanding the brass quintet repertoire by commissioning new works from modern composers as well as historically informed performances of Renaissance music."

Bringing these two forces together is Laura Rexroth, a music professor at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside and the conductor of the college's Community Band.

Rexroth invited the Gaudete Brass Quintet to perform with the band — made up of adult musicians (including myself) who perform for the sheer love of making music — at its Thursday night concert.

And she couldn't be more excited about the music the quintet is playing.

(It isn't Bach,but we'll get back to him in a moment.)

The brass quintet will join with the Community Band to perform "Concerto Grosso for Brass Quintet and Symphonic Band" by American composer Fisher Tull.

(If you confused Fisher Tull with Jethro Tull, you're far from alone. I was convinced we were performing music from the British group, led by Ian Anderson, the world's only rock flutist superstar, through the first few weeks of rehearsal.)

Fisher Tull — though no flute playing rock musician — was no slouch either. He started composing seriously in the early 1960s, eventually publishing more than 80 works for orchestra, band, chorus and chamber groups.

Rexroth says the Gaudete Brass Quintet "is a top-notch group" and audience members "are in for a real treat hearing them. The piece allows each member of the quintet — two trumpets, horn, trombone and tuba — to shine as soloists."

Back to Bach

As for Bach, the concert will feature two works by him, which Rexroth chose in honor of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation — the dark chorale prelude "Komm, Süsser Tod (Come Sweet Death)" and Gustav Holst's transcription of Bach's "Fugue in G Major," which Holst named "Bach's Fugue à la Gigue."

The only problem? Rexroth says it's not a Bach piece — even if the sheet music clearly says "J.S. Bach" on top.

"Holtz was asked to write something for the BBC," she says of the 1928 piece. "And he always wanted to 'get his paws on' a Bach fugue. He liked this piece, but it turned out it's not by Bach, though it was thought to be a Bach piece. That's a spurious belief."

The Community Band will also perform Ron Nelson's "Homage to Perotin," from the "Medieval Suite." Rexroth says this piece "is a party. Medieval people loved to throw huge parties and banquets."

Wind Ensemble and James McKeever

The UW-Parkside Wind Ensemble will open the concert, performing music by American composers, including Aaron Copland's "Down a Country Lane," Clifton Williams' Symphonic Dance No. 3 "Fiesta" and "Tournament Galop" by Louis Moreau Gottschalk.

James McKeever, a longtime professor of music at UW-Parkside, will perform as a piano soloist with the Wind Ensemble, playing "Introduction and Capriccio" by John Barnes Chance.

The 1966 work "allows the soloist to explore both the lyrically expressive romantic nature of the 'Introduction,' followed by the energetic and more contemporary 'Capriccio,' " Rexroth says.

McKeever, who has been on the UW-Parkside faculty since 1982, has performed extensively as a soloist throughout the Midwest and South. He also performs with his wife, Susan — also a pianist — as the McKeever Duo.

McKeever is retiring in May and "wanted to play one more time with the students," Rexroth says.

Have a comment? Email Liz at or call her at 262-656-6271.

If you go

What: A concert featuring the University of Wisconsin-Parkside Wind Ensemble and Community Band, with the Gaudete Brass Quintet and pianist James McKeever

When: 7:30 Thursday night (April 20)

Where: Bedford Hall in the Rita Tallent Picken Regional Center for Arts and Humanities on the west side of the UW-Parkside Campus.

Tickets: $10 for adults; $5 for students and senior citizens

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