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Canadian Brass brings a jazzy mix to Christmas show with a little magic mixed in

November 23, 2018

Canadian Brass brings a jazzy mix to Christmas show with a little magic mixed in

The Canadian Brass comes through Greater Cleveland this holiday season with a medley of classic holiday tunes and a few retooled ones.

The group’s horn player, Jeff Nelsen, wants people to know that although Christmas is the theme, other genres of music will be performed. “A great mix of music will be had in Akron,” said Nelsen by phone while on tour. “Some Renaissance to classics to jazz and Dixieland. We also interact with the audience during the show with talks about the music they will hear that evening.”

The show, “Christmas Time Is Here,” presented by Tuesday Musical, is at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, at the Akron Civic Theatre, 182 S. Main St.

The brass was formed in Canada in 1970. Unlike the ensemble’s American counterpart, American Brass, which plays mostly music written for brass players, the Canadians play all genres, including a really jazzy version of the Beatles’ “Penny Lane.” (Look it up on YouTube.)

The sound emanating from the brass is almost regal. You start thinking, where’s the queen?

A striking piece called “Quintet,” written by Michael Kamen specifically for them, is mesmerizing. Kamen is well-known for his work in such films as “X-Men,” “Mr. Holland’s Opus” and “Band of Brothers” on HBO. (“Quintet” can also be viewed and listened to on YouTube.)

Despite the pomp and circumstance associated with a lot of brass music, Nelsen says the show is popular with kids, parents and grandparents.

Don’t be put off by the group’s signature wardrobe choice, sneakers worn with tuxedos. Here’s the story: That idea came after the group did a tribute to ballet wearing shoes that resembled sneakers. They found them comfortable, and the audience thought it made them less stuffy. So it stuck, said Nelsen.

Canadian Brass has traveled all over the world. A recent trip to Japan was an interesting surprise though.

“In Japan, our band has a rich history since the early 1980s of doing a lot of concerts and bringing some of the masterpiece music with them,” said Nelsen. “We usually have really long lines of people trying to get in. The funny thing is when they applaud us, it’s really loud and they all stop at the same time. It’s like it’s choreographed applause.”

If the brass-playing gig goes sideways, Nelsen is a member of the Academy of Magic Arts in Los Angeles. He doesn’t practice his magic skills a lot onstage except when he’s performing with the band. He’s definitely planning something for the Akron show, but he would only mention blue lights. Stay tuned.

Seating is limited to the orchestra section. Tickets are $45, $40 and free for all students of any age. They are available at tuesdaymusical​.org or 330-761-3460, and at the door that evening if seats are still available.

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