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Holiday Performance At Trinity Features 'Screaming Trumpets And Blaring Brass'



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From an impactful out-of-the gate welcoming with “Joy to the World” to attendee singalongs, Waterbury Symphony Orchestra’s Holiday Brass & Organ event was enjoyed by close to 200 attendees at Trinity Episcopal Church on November 30.

Internationally renowned Soprano Michelle Johnson performed solos and sang while musicians played their instruments. Organ undertones accompanied brass-led selections, and vice versa, during a variety of compositions. Internationally acclaimed organ virtuoso Christopher Houlihan played the majestic instrument from the loft overlooking the audience and the musicians.

The audience gave a standing ovation to Ms Johnson and Mr Houlihan for their soprano/organ duet of “O Holy Night.”

The mix of festive holiday music included the work of composers from a variety of locations and eras.

“Since we’re traveling around the world and throughout time in this concert, let’s go south,” said Musical Director and Conductor Leif Bjaland, before leading the musicians into one of the pieces.

“I Wonder as I Wonder” was “harvested from folklore in the 1930s around the Smokey Mountains,” Mr Bjaland commented.

The musicians performed Stan Kenton’s mid-20th Century variation of “The 12 Days of Christmas,” which Mr Bjaland described, in advance, in great detail. He explained that the composition would begin similarly to the variety a shopper might hear over the speakers at TJ Maxx or Costco before a build up as the piece unfolded.

“By the 11th day, there are screaming trumpets and blaring brass,” Mr Bjaland said.

“It’s as if Stan and his title arrangers couldn’t help themselves,” the conductor added. “I hope you enjoy all 12 of these days of Christmas.”

There was a bit of education and humor intertwined throughout the concert.

Principal Trumpeter John Charles Thomas provided some background about the trumpet and trombone, including how they evolved throughout the centuries.

“If you look under the pew where you’re sitting, you’ll find a pencil and piece of paper because there will be a test at the end of tonight’s concert,” said Mr Thomas, sparking laughter from the audience.

Mr Bjaland said the symphony was pleased to visit the 1870 Gothic Revival stone structure that sits at the corner of Main Street and Church Hill Road.

“It’s a beautiful church. You’re very, very fortunate to have such a gem in Newtown,” Maestro Bjaland said. Saturday’s performance was the first at Trinity in WSO’s “Music in Great Spaces” series. The series was to have its first Newtown performance earlier this year, but those January plans were changed thanks to a winter storm.

The concert concluded with audience sing-alongs to “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “White Christmas.”

“We’re going to do this in honor of the impending weather tomorrow,” said Mr Bjaland, alluding to the snow, sleet and rain that hit the area beginning the day after the concert.

“The level of musicianship was really terrific but yet someone could come in who wasn’t involved with music and would really enjoy it,” said former Newtown Middle School music teacher Lois Fifthal, whose husband, Don, is vice president of the orchestra’s board of directors.

The Head Trombonist for Saturday’s performance was Scott Cranston. Trumpeters included Gino Villareal and Ryan Storms, and trombonists were Marshall Brown and Garrett Mendez. Lead percussionist was Tim Keane and timpani performer was Peter Coutsouridis.

Torrington-based Ciesco Catering donated time to provide bites at pre- and post-event receptions.

Internationally acclaimed organ virtuoso Christopher Houlihan performed during Waterbury Symphony Orchestra’s Music in Great Spaces: Holiday Brass & Organ concert at Trinity Episcopal Church on November 30. —Bee Photos, Hutchison
Internationally renowned soprano Michelle Johnson was a featured part of the performance.
Principal Trumpeter John Charles Thomas, left, talks about the history of brass instruments, gaining reaction from alto trombonist Scott Cranston.
Musical Director and Conductor Leif Bjaland, left, led an ensemble of musicians from Waterbury Symphony Orchestra in the performance.
An audience of nearly 200 people enjoyed “Holiday Brass & Organ” at Trinity Episcopal Church.
Peter Coutsouridis plays the xylophone.
Musical Director and Conductor Leif Bjaland performs with the guiro.
Principal trumpeter John Charles Thomas performs.
Tim Keane, left, and Peter Coutsouridis play their instruments.
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