“Visual and Performing Arts students wouldn’t have a reason to be here if they couldn’t sing or hold an instrument or act onstage or spend time in the studio. The arts are a social activity, not something that lends itself…
Syracuse University Brass Ensemble to Present Holiday Fare on Facebook Live
The Syracuse University Brass Ensemble (SUBE), directed by James T. Spencer, is ringing in the holidays with three Saturday concerts on Facebook Live.
Free and open to the public, the online shows are Nov. 21, Dec. 12 and Dec. 19 from 7 to 8 p.m. (ET). Visit facebook.com/SUBrass for more information and links to the events.
The concerts are culled from the group’s extensive archives. “Almost every piece was filmed before a live audience in Hendricks Chapel. The result is a rich array of music that jumps off the page and onto the stage,” says Spencer, who collaborated on the series with Mary Kasprzyk ’03 and TJ James, members of SUBE’s percussion section who respectively serve as a video editor for the University and an instructor in the Setnor School of Music.
The Nov. 21 concert features SUBE’s premiere of the John Williams march from the film “1941.” Spencer considers the piece a musical response to COVID-19 since each member had to individually record his or her own part. “TJ then used advanced software to mix, blend and balance everyone’s playing. Mary added visuals, creating a seamless virtual performance experience,” he says.
Rounding out the November program are popular songs and carols.
The Dec. 12 program is an encore presentation of last year’s “Horns and Harmonies” concert, featuring SUBE and the 70-member Spirit of Syracuse (SOS) Chorus, led by Master Director Kay Crawford. Other guests include organist Jared Shepard ’17, G’18 and WCNY radio personality Bruce Paulsen, the latter of whom performs “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.”
In addition to brass masterworks, “Horns and Harmonies” features vocal renditions of such chestnuts as “We Need a Little Christmas”; “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”; “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”; and “Mary, Did You Know?” The concert concludes with a candlelight singalong of “Silent Night”—a time-honored tradition in Hendricks Chapel.
“We hope to do more concerts with The Spirit of Syracuse when the pandemic is over,” says Spencer, adding that “Horns and Harmonies” followed SOS’ lauded appearance at the 2019 Sweet Adelines International Competition and Convention in New Orleans.
The Dec. 19 program is a best-of collection from over the years, including memorable performances of “The Nutcracker” Suite, “Carol of the Bells,” “Sleighride,” “The 12 Days of Christmas” and other holiday fare.
Soloists include trumpeter Jeff Stockham ’80 in “Joshua Swings the Battle”; Flugel hornist Craig Elwood ’89 in the “Huron Carol”; and soprano Laura Enslin in “The Song of Mary.”
Based in the College of Arts and Sciences, SUBE has been a fixture at University functions for over three decades. The group also enjoyed a 12-year run as co-headliner of the popular “Holidays at Hendricks” series (broadcast on WCNY throughout New York state and southern Canada), before launching the “Horns and Harmonies” holiday concert special last year.
Prior to the pandemic, the 40-member group concertized throughout Central and Western New York and performed at the prestigious Great American Brass Band Festival in Danville, Kentucky, and the Gettysburg Brass Band Festival in Pennsylvania.
Among those who have written for SUBE are Robert Ward (winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his operatic setting of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”), SUNY Potsdam Professor Emeritus Art Frackenpohl and Setnor’s own Joseph Downing.
“The Syracuse University Brass Ensemble is a proud, welcoming community—students, faculty, staff and alumni who inspire one other to be their best and part of something bigger,” says Spencer, who also is a Meredith Professor of Chemistry and Forensic Science in Arts and Sciences. “The music, like the friendships, is timeless.”