July 31, 2008

PSO Brass Bring Tradition to First Friday Show

By Mark Kanny, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Jul. 31--The loveliest summer concert series in Pittsburgh may be First Fridays at the Frick.

It's hardly a secret. Typically, thousands of music lovers show up for the free events that are presented on the lush grounds between the museum of the Frick Art and Historical Society and Clayton, the Frick family mansion that dates back more than a century.

Pittsburgh Symphonic Brass steps up to the First Fridays stage at 7 p.m. in Point Breeze with a program of mainly American music.

"It should be fun. There's a great atmosphere. I love it there," says George Vosburgh, principal trumpet of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and leader of Pittsburgh Symphonic Brass.

"It's the sense of community for me. I get a real nostalgic feeling playing old-time music in that setting. That's why we included Victorian music for this particular setting," he says

The Americana will include selections from the American Brass Band Journal, a reconstruction of the charts of songs, dances and marches used by American brass players in the 19th century for concerts similar to this one at the Frick.

Vosburgh says vocalist Tammy Fire will add another dimension to the concert by singing hits by George M. Cohan and from the musical and film "Meet Me in St. Louis."

The most intriguing composition for most listeners is likely to be Victor Ewald's Brass Quintet in B flat minor, written near the end of the 19th century in Russia. Ewald was a civil engineer and ardent amateur musician who played four instruments.

The concert will conclude with music from Leonard Bernstein's "West Side Story." The trumpeter has gone back to Bernstein's "Symphonic Dances from West Side Story" to improve a standard brass arrangement made by someone else of music from the show.

Vosburgh says the Frick concert calls for a different kind of technique than playing with the Pittsburgh Symphony. At Heinz Hall, "the brass section does our hits and then sits out for 50 bars. It's totally different playing chamber music, where you're playing all the time."

Tuba player Tom Lukowicz will substitute for Craig Knox at the Frick concert. It's an exciting gig for him because he's making the transition from academics to professional life. Lukowicz studied with Knox and bass trombonist Murray Crewe at Carnegie Mellon's School of Music.

Just hired for the 2008-09 season by the Chamber Orchestra of New York and the Canton Symphony in Ohio, Lukowicz is appreciative that his teachers are mentors.

And he agrees that the better the musicians he performs with, the better he will be. "That's completely correct. When I was the substitute for the Christmas Pops -- Craig had an emergency -- I literally ran to the hall and played the show without rehearsal. It's so much easier when you're with highly competent people," Lukowicz says.


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