Filipino Brass Music!

This post will be short and sweet. Since in one of our last classes in ABEL, I thought about what cultural music to share, and I thought why not share the music from my home country the Philippines!

Below is a playlist of Philippine marches played by the Mabuhay Brass Brand. A fun note: "mabuhay" in our language has multiple meanings including "hello", "welcome", "live great", or "to life!" Most Filipino people are usually sun-shiny and well-tempered people, and the name "Mabuhay" reflects that positive stereotype.

Enjoy the music!

African Brass

Ever since middle school, I was intrigued by the vocal music of African tribal songs. It's just something about them that was so calming thanks to the unrestricted meters, and organic flow. Coming from that thought, I was curious to hear what an African brass group sounded like. Rather than focusing on a single ensemble, I thought it would be more beneficial and interesting to share videos of different groups which is what you're going to see in the three videos below!

I think you'll find that not everything you have to play has to be of the most pristine quality. You may just end up with a very sterile sounding piece. Listen to the energy and look at the "fun" everyone is having!

Hello, World!

Mnozil Brass

I don't know why it took me so long to write about this European ensemble, Mnozil Brass, but I think it may have been due to the fact that they're so popular and a household name in the brass world.

Mnozil Brass is an elite, 7-piece brass ensemble that began in 1992 in Vienna, Austria. The members took advantage of weekly performance opportunities at a restaurant, and found that they were well-liked by a large number of its restaurant audiences of all ages. They began playing folk tunes that were standard at the time and recognizable, however they quickly memorized them with no need for music after a while due to the high frequency in performances. Today, the group performs about 120 concerts a year internationally, and are one of the most entertaining, yet musically impressive brass ensembles in the world.

Below are two videos from them. One is a video of a brass trio, and the other is the full ensemble playing a Bossa Nova piece. It seems that they have found the proper mix of "classical", "pop", and jazz genres that are musically interesting and entertaining! If we as brass musicians would like to thrive in today's cultural environment, we must learn to quickly adapt and embrace the weirdness or the pop-centric music world but fusing it with our favorite musical styles!

I chose these videos because they may be the least known, and are just a blast to listen to!



"Hurts Like Heaven" Cover with Brass!

There is a group from Paris called Elessar (which now appears to be a re-branded group, 'No Mountains'), and they were not well-known but several years ago, I stumbled upon their music and covers, and was amazed at what they were able to do with their creativity! Although covers are quite a common phenomenon today, I thought that this one was worth sharing.

The information that used to exist on their website and Facebook page have been deleted, possibly to the group unfortunately disbanding. With this being the case, I made note of the ensemble somewhere, and wrote that this group, particularly the brass musicians seen in the video are from the Paris Conservatory of Music. Similar to the band Lake Street Dive (that came from NEC), I am assuming the brass musicians wanted to have experience in a different genre other than “classical”, or at the very least were asked to participate in the recording of this cover of Coldplay’s song, “Hurts Like Heaven". I go back and forth on which version I like more; the original and more upbeat Coldplay version, or this fantastic cover. Here's Coldplay's version for comparison:

How cool would it be to have high-quality arrangements of music like this for brass that merge both the “classical” and pop genres? In my opinion, it would certainly draw larger audiences.

What amazed me was the way this arrangement was written. The vocals and piano part primarily remained unchanged, however the guitar and bass parts were given to the brass, and seamlessly shared throughout each instrument of horn, euphonium, and trombone. Enjoy the video!

CAKE Brass Trio

So in a previous post, I mentioned that I am part of a graduate brass trio called the CAKE Trio. It is made up of myself on trumpet, Anna Marshall on horn, and Caleb Lambert on trombone. If you put our name in the correct order, part of our names contribute to the word CAKE (Caleb, Anna, KEnken).

On Sunday, April 9th, we performed a benefit concert for the ACLU which was one unique performance. For starters, we performed in an uncommon venue for a chamber brass ensemble, which was a coffee shop called High Ground Cafe. The owner, Wesley Ward, was gracious enough to allow us to play inside his establishment and set up a donation basket. Next, as the date came closer, more ideas began coming through between the three of us. I wanted to have my roommates who are both graduate students of the Visual Arts college, paint or draw pieces of art live while we performed music, and Caleb wanted someone to read poetry in between movements of pieces.

Well, when the time came, everything fell into place! One of my roommates was extremely ecstatic to be a part of this benefit concert and try something out of her comfort zone, while the other donated a piece of hers for the cause. We then had our next door neighbor who is a master's student in his final semester in the college of library sciences read poetry and narrate for one of our pieces. Anna brought her enormous speakers, and the performance went on without a hitch!

Within an hour, we raised $150 in art sales and donations that with 100% of it going to the ACLU of Iowa. The performance overall was excellent, and it was much needed since we've been rehearsing all semester (since late January) and I guess we were all itching for something to push us, and this performance definitely did that.

This experience has been a wonderful one, and I am fortunate to play with such stellar musicians and friends! The bonus to this concert was that almost my whole family was able to attend! 

ABEL In-Class Shared Listening #2

In our Advanced Brass Ensemble Literature class, we had another day where we shared a piece of brass ensemble music with each other and Professor Manning. 

Below is what everyone shared:

Elegy for Brass - Anthony O’Toole - Southern California Brass Consortium - Kenken


Symphony for Brass and Percussion - Alfred Reed - Hora Decima - Mark




Weltreise - Sandor Balogh - Berlin Philharmonic Brass - Komsun


Shadowcatcher - Ewazen - Western Brass Quintet - Anna




The Madding Crowd - Lansing McLoskey - Frost School of Music - Caleb


Suite for Three Trumpets - Tomasi - Evan

Cantus Brass Trio

As some of you may know, I am in a graduate brass trio at the University of Iowa, and I have been enjoying every moment of it! Chamber music playing is some of the most rewarding experiences one can do, and has really pushed me to become a more accurate player and a more active listener. We have been playing some challenging repertoire, and I'd say most of it lands on the "newer" music side of things. 

While I was looking into more brass trio music, I stumbled upon this trio called Cantus, from Croatia, on Youtube.  The group played a composition titled simply "Brass Trio" by Boris Papandopulo. The piece has elements of Ewazen, Stravinsky, and Sampson intertwined. Unfortunately, there is virtually no information to be found of the Cantus brass trio which just makes me even more curious to learn about them! 


ABEL Listening Party #2

Due to Professor Manning’s solo tour during our regularly scheduled Advanced Brass Ensemble Literature meeting time, we as a class had a 2nd listening party in his absence. Below is what each classmate shared:



Fugue in D-minor (little fugue in G) arr. Mexi, Budapest Festival Horn Quartet. Miklos Nagy, Laszio Rakos, Laszio Gal, Tibor Markuzsa

This was some rather impressive horn playing, and really showed the versatility and range of the horn.




Tromba Mundi Victory Fanfare - Benjamin Blasko

A friend of mine wrote this piece for his teacher, William Stowman (Messiah College) and his ensemble, Tromba Mundi. Ben is now finishing his DMA in conducting at UNT.





Divertimento for Brass & Percussion - Karel Husa

This piece reminded me of the music of Jack Stamp and a little bit of Grainger. Perhaps Husa shares similar compositional elements to Stamp and Grainger.




Clarino Quartet - Ellen Taffe Zwillich/Thierry Gervais

From a trumpeter’s point of view, I winced in pain even though I wasn’t the one playing in the recording as I heard the high piccolo trumpet part! Although this piece as Evan described was a non-trumpet ensemble sounding piece, it still sounded like one to me.


Quidditch - John Williams

I enjoy hearing the music of John Williams, and I think I have heard this live many times!






Jazz Suite for 4 Horns, Harpsichord, Guitar, Bass, Drums - Alec Wilder

I thought that the use of harpsichord in the jazz idiom was bizarre, but it was pleasant to listen to, and rather humorous!