September of 2015 was such a memorable time for me. I had plans to go on one final graduate school "tour" to have lessons with professors at potential schools. I went with two of my closest friends. It took a few weeks to plan the best dates, but the weekend we decided to go had one special event happening which was the world premiere of the National Brass Ensemble in Chicago's Symphony Hall. It was one of the greatest concerts I have attended, and I was able to get two seats for $35 each at the student price. Even though I got seats in the upper balcony, just being in the hall for this concert was just so remarkable! The concert was sold-out, and went wild as soon as the musicians walked on stage. I have never felt so much energy at a "classical" concert in my life! Just seeing the camaraderie between the musicians and hearing them all play in one hall was spectacular; it brought me to the point of tears.
The ensemble was made up of primarily principal members from the United States' "top" symphony orchestras, such as Cleveland Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Detroit Symphony, LA Philharmonic, San Francisco Ballet & Opera, Boston Symphony Orchestra, and Chicago Symphony Orchestra. I was hearing sounds made up of gold at this concert! Luckily, I was one of the first to purchase a physical copy of their CD, which I have hidden away somewhere.
Sidenote: I recently attended the 1/20/17 Cleveland Orchestra concert at Hancher Auditorium, and had a Q & A session with Michael Sachs. He said that the date the NBE selected was last-minute and was the only time all members were available. He then said that members of the NBE thought that music director of CSO, Ricardo Muti, would love to conduct some Verdi arrangements for the group. They handed him the score, he agreed, and he did not know what he was getting himself into. Backstage, he heard the audience erupt in a loud roar and applause, and thought "I have never heard the hall sound like this before!" He apparently did not even know that the concert featured members of many incredible musicians from fellow orchestras, and that it was pretty much a once-in-a-lifetime event! It was Michael Sachs' idea to have this group assemble for roughly 20 years, and it finally happened. When he was given the music, he was also given the privilege to assign parts. In our Q & A session, he said that it was like a dream come true and being in a candy store selecting which trumpet players he'd want to hear play each piece.
Below are some tracks from the NBE album. 16 of 17 tracks are Gabrieli arrangements by Timothy Higgins (trombone, San Francisco Symphony), and one is a work written by John Williams specifically for this world-class ensemble.
Enjoy hearing some epic tracks of the new John Williams piece and the iconic Canzon per Sonar No. 2 arranged by Timothy Higgins.