Musicians play bare brassed

They’re not carrying violin cases, but they still pack a punch. And they’re here to kick some bad brass.

“Between the three trumpet players we’ll have maybe 12 trumpets,” laughed Todd Jenkins, one member of the sextet called Crescent Brass.

The six musicians with the shiniest instruments in the orchestra tour the Southeast during the holidays each year, spreading holiday cheer and humor wherever they go.

“We tour every Christmas because that’s the only time we’re all out of school,” Jenkins said, as the members teach at various schools and colleges. Jenkins himself is the music minister for East Cooper Baptist Church in Mt. Pleasant, S.C.

But it’s also because the music they play is so incredibly challenging. Playing a brass instrument is physically tiring, and composers give their brass players plenty of musical rests to — well, rest. Because when a player’s lip goes, their range suffers, which means that reaching higher notes is much more difficult.

Crescent Brass member and trombonist Chris Woods arranges all of the group’s
music, which involves translating passages from “The Nutcracker” and Handel’s
“Messiah” from woodwind and strings.

“Some of ‘The Nutcracker’ is hard. We recorded a CD two years ago and the thing that took us the longest to get on the CD was ‘The Nutcracker,’” Jenkins said.

Brass instruments tend to play in the lower range, and high notes can be unpleasantly loud on the listener’s ear. So when the band moves in to “Ding Dong Merrily on High,” Jenkins pulls out a kind of piccolo trumpet capable of hitting the notes the song requires.

“It makes it tough. It’s tough to play. Those instruments are built to do different things than brass. You have to have someone like Chris who knows how brass instruments work and what he can change to make them work,” Jenkins said.

This is the group’s first appearance at the Morris Museum, and it wasn’t easy to get them.

“Actually, this year we’re doing a very reduced tour because this summer we are doing another CD with members of the Charleston Symphony brass section,” Jenkins explained. They’ll play in the recital room at the Morris Museum, with refreshments and conversation with the artists to follow.

But they always make an effort to play here whenever possible. Jenkins’ home church, Christian and Missionary Alliance Church, is where he first experienced the kind of music ministry that influenced him to choose it as a career. It helped to develop in him a passion for the art form that drove him into the arms of the harsh mistress of music.

“I went to college to be an English major but I couldn’t stand the thought of music being just a hobby,” Jenkins said.

Crescent Brass
Morris Museum of Art
Sunday, Dec. 16
2 p.m.


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