Luther College Chips

Spanish Brass brings bold style to Center Stage Series

Spanish Brass performed in the Center for Faith and Life with their usual combination of bold music and distinctive humor.

Spanish Brass performed in the Center for Faith and Life with their usual combination of bold music and distinctive humor.

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Spanish Brass performed in the Center for Faith and Life with their usual combination of bold music and distinctive humor.

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Spanish Brass enlivened the stage as the first performance in the 2017-18 Center Stage Series in the Center for Faith and Life (CFL) on Sept. 16. The quintet also taught a masterclass to Luther’s Noble Brass on Sept. 15.

Spanish Brass formed in 1989 and has since performed hundreds of concerts around the world and released 21 recordings. The award-winning ensemble took first prize in the prestigious Narbonne International Brass Quintet Competition in 1996 and received the I Bankia Music Talent Award in Spain for the most influential music artists in 2017.

The five members who perform in Spanish Brass are Carlos Benetó and Juanjo Serna on trumpet, Manuel Pérez on French horn, Inda Bonet on trombone, and Sergio Finca on tuba.

According to Director of Campus Programming Paul Atkins, the quintet came to Luther when Spanish Brass’s American agent was contacted by the former Director of Campus Programming Yvonne Kuhlman to perform on campus as a part of their current U.S. tour. Kuhlman booked the quintet in the fall of 2016. The Performing Arts Committee (PAC) is the organization that sponsors the Center Stage Series and works with Atkins to bring these programs to campus. According to PAC President Melissa Kirby (‘19), PAC was looking to bring diverse musical groups to campus.

Before the show, Benetó expressed his enthusiasm for the opportunity to perform in the CFL in front of Luther students and members of the Decorah community.

“I checked out the concert hall and the community, and I felt excited to be in this large hall, which is beautiful and the sound is amazing,” Benetó said. “I’m for sure going to enjoy playing here.”

Spanish Brass’s performance style incorporates different genres of music into their show, including baroque, flamenco, and jazz.

“We try to make the show easy,” Benetó said. “We explain the music, and we tell some jokes. We try to make people comfortable while sitting down during a two hour-long show and just make it fun.”

Throughout the performance, Spanish Brass spent time connecting with the audience and giving background information on each piece.

Attendee Rachel Bartleman (‘17) enjoyed hearing the different styles of music from Spanish brass.

“I found that the Spanish Brass was very unique in regards to a quintet ensemble,” Bartleman said. “They had switching parts and had quite a variety in regards to music. It wasn’t the same old classical quintets that you hear at college.”

Cara Keith (‘21) | Chips
Spanish Brass member Carlos Benetó instructs Michael Winkler (‘19) on quintet strategies during a masterclass.

The day before the performance, Spanish Brass directed a masterclass for Luther students that play brass instruments. When musical groups are invited to campus as a part of the Center Stage Series, they are asked to teach masterclasses for students at Luther College.

Kirby is familiar with these masterclasses and how they help students by giving them another perspective and new strategies for their own performances.

“A lot of our groups who come in love to work with students, especially out-of-the-country groups,” Kirby said. “It’s really beneficial for our bands and orchestras to hear Spanish Brass’s input, especially since they’ve been playing music for longer than we’ve been alive.”

The Noble Brass quintet, consisting of Michael Winkler (‘19) and Madison Ihde (‘19) on trumpet, Elyse Grothaus (‘19) on French horn, Elliot Douma (‘19) on trombone, and Gavin Schaeferle (‘19) on tuba, worked with Spanish Brass for an hour on the piece “Frost Fire” by Eric Ewazen.

As Spanish Brass listened to Luther’s quintet, they occasionally stopped the musicians and offered feedback on their interpretation of the piece. According to Douma, they focused on helping the Noble Brass quintet work with each other more effectively.

“[Spanish Brass’s] focus during the masterclass was on a brass quintet as its own instrument,” Douma said. “Rather than a collection of five musicians, your goal is to play as one cohesive unit that is playing with the same style.”

After both the masterclass and performance, Douma said he was able to reconize some of the strategies that they taught, such as the quintet’s ability to communicate in a performance and how that helps to maximize the sounds made during their performance. Benetó strives to teach students these techniques.

“The main message I would give to the young players is the way that we should feel the chamber music,” Benetó said. “There are a lot of techniques that we can help to improve their skills.”

By the end of the master class, the students learned a variety of skills and techniques to apply to their next performance.

Spanish Brass will perform next in California and Texas.

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