In continued celebration of Leonard Bernstein’s centennial, the QCSO Brass Quintet will animate the recently completed Geneseo High School Concert Hall on Saturday, May 18 with two of the composer’s most enjoyable and colorful pieces. QCSO will also honor Joan Tower and Anthony Plog, two contemporary American composers whose pieces have become standard to the brass quintet repertoire.

Saturday’s program will conclude with the Geneseo High School brass players joining QCSO to perform two Giovanni Gabrieli pieces at the direction Steve Scherer, Geneseo High School band director.

Tower and Plog

Up first is Joan Tower’s Copperwave. Inspired by Tower’s father who worked as a geologist, the piece moves through both heavy and light moments, flowing in waves with a light Latin-inspired rhythm. Composed in 2006, Copperwave was intended specifically for the brass quintet.

“Joan Tower just celebrated her 80th birthday and was writing music at the same time as Bernstein later in his career,” said QCSO Executive Director Brian Baxter. “Stylistically she is quite different and will provide a nice if not biting contrast to Bernstein.”

Following Copperwave is Plog’s 4 Sketches for Brass Quintet. Composed in 1990, the piece consists of four movements and is relatively rhythmic, allowing each instrument within the quintet a moment to shine.

“Anthony Plog, another living composer, ten years the junior of Tower, is a composer who has a special affinity for brass instruments as a trumpet player himself,” Baxter said. “His works pair well stylistically with Bernstein.”

QCSO Principal Horn Marc Zyla, who will perform this Saturday, agrees. “Four Sketches has both beautiful brass writing and technical brass writing, and it really just shows off the group in its virtuosity.”

The Mythological Bernstein

Leonard Bernstein ConductingIt goes without saying that Leonard Bernstein is worth every moment of Saturday’s program that’s been dedicated to him. The historic American composer left an impact on music that echoes through QCSO today.

“Whereas other composers of that time wrote great music, Bernstein took on this kind of mythological, larger-than-life personality,” Zyla said. “He really put himself out there and really connected with the artistic community.”

Without a doubt that connection is most tangible in West Side Story. This weekend’s performance features a brass quintet version of the iconic film score.

West Side Story is a work of genius,” Baxter said. “It’s most certainly the greatest of Bernstein’s pieces.”

Zyla is also looking forward to performing West Side Story. “West Side Story is probably one of my favorite pieces ever. This particular arrangement is fantastic and is really fun to play. The brass quintet makes it really special.”

After West Side Story is Bernstein’s Dance Suite for Brass Quintet. The last piece he ever wrote, Dance Suite premiered in 1990 and is described as light-hearted.

“What Bernstein was able to project into the world and the amount of people that he touched–it really cemented him as one of our great artistic figures in the United States,” Zyla said.

A Tribute to Brass

Saturday’s performance isn’t just about honoring Leonard Bernstein and his incredible legacy as an artist and composer; it is also about recognizing the beauty of the brass quintet and of brass instruments in general.

“The program really features our brass players in both soloistic in collaborative roles,” Zyla said. “If you’re unfamiliar with the composers, you may still be familiar with the instruments: trumpet, trombone, horn, and bass trombone. The QCSO musicians that are on this particular performance are all extremely engaging personalities that connect really well with this community.”

And community connection is central to Signature Series IV. The program concludes with the Geneseo High School brass players joining the Brass Quintet to perform two pieces by Giovanni Gabrieli.

“I’m really looking forward to the collaboration with the high school brass players,” Zyla said. “The program really shows off the brass quintet and all it can do. But it’s also a program that shows QCSO at its best of bringing people together and opening up the concert hall to new audiences.”

Geneseo: A Concert and More

Tickets for Saturday’s performance are available now.

But here’s a question: why not make a full day out of your trip to Geneseo? Besides attending Signature Series IV, here’s what else you can do:

  1. Tour the Geneseo Historical Museum! Guided tours will run every half hour from 11:30 AM – 1:00 PM on Saturday, May 18! Learn about Geneseo’s beginnings as an abolitionist colony while visiting this handsome mansion located in downtown Geneseo. The 1855 home was a “safe house” for runaway slaves on their way to freedom in Canada. Visitors can view the hiding hole and keeping rooms that were part of the “Underground Railroad.”
  2. Shop at Designs on the Boulevard across the street from the Geneseo Historical Museum. Designs on the Boulevard is a boutique in downtown Geneseo that offers unique, quality items in home decor, gifts, home fragrance, and fresh flowers. Bring your ticket to Signature Series IV: Bernstein & Brass and receive 20% your purchase of home décor and candles!
  3. Explore Pegasus Fine Gifts and Four Seasons! Located in downtown Geneseo, Pegasus features a fantastic selection of gifts for every occasion. Vera Bradley, Willow Tree Angels, Isabel Bloom, Byer’s Choice Carolers, Old World Christmas ornaments, gourmet foods, homemade fudge & coffee bar. Four Seasons, located across the street, specializes in delivering on trend fashions for all women of all sizes. Present the coupon below and receive 25% off any one purchase at Four Seasons!
  4. Eat lunch at one of Geneseo’s fantastic restaurants! Bring your appetite to downtown restaurants The Cellar and Raelyn’s. If you’re near exit 19 on I-80, you’ll find awesome entrees at Lionstone Brewery and Sweet Peas Grill & Bar. Discover the different eateries throughout Geneseo!



WVIK/QCSO Signature Series IV: Bernstein & Brass
May 18, 2019 | 2:00 p.m.
Geneseo High School Concert Hall
700 N State St | Geneseo, IL

Purchase Tickets | $25 Adults each | $10 Students each

Last Week, Brian Baxter and Marc Zyla visited Living Local to chat with host Brittany Price about Upcoming Performances Har Mar Superstar & Berstein & Brass!


Article by
Tyler Mitchell
Freelance Writer

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