Jason here. One of my favorite brass quintet arrangements is Just a Closer Walk with Thee as popularized by the Canadian Brass. The arrangement emulates the New Orleans jazz style and divides the tune into two parts- the first part a dirge portraying the slow walk to the grave; the second part a joyful portrayal of the deceased being received into heaven (…at least that’s how my interpretation of it goes…)
I remember going to hear the Canadian Brass in the 90′s at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia with members of my dad’s brass quintet, The Jubilant Brass, and their families. I can’t really remember if they played this tune that day, but I do remember that it was a fun concert.
If you’re looking for a local group you can book for a great evening, look no further than The Jubilant Brass. They play a huge variety of different music- from sacred, to classical, to jazz. They even do Just a Closer Walk oftentimes, and in my opinion, my dad does an even better job with the trumpet solo than Fred Mills! Unfortunately, no video of the Jubilant Brass performing it exists, so you’ll just have to book them for a concert to hear it (go here)…in the meantime, “make do” with the Canadian Brass.
Besides studying their music, there is a lot to be learned from the actual lives of the great composers. I’ve always been fascinated by composers’ lives and often fantasize about being in their time, seeing them day to day, and what they were actually like. The “Big 3″ of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven tend to be deified to such a degree that we can’t imagine the musical world without them. We may be right to think this way, but they were human just like us, and I think we sometimes lose sight of that fact- when we play a glorious piece by Mozart for example, that seems as though it were given straight from the heavens. This is why I enjoy reading about their lives- it helps me understand their humanity and their strivings…what they were reaching for, and what inspired them.
Being a church musician myself, I’ve always been intrigued by J.S. Bach and the fact that virtually everything he wrote was in service to the Lutheran church. This would be unheard of nowadays. Sure, there are full time church arrangers and composers, but they are not generally composing on a weekly basis. Bach managed to write new music every week for services. Was he simply churning out pieces as fast as possible for a paycheck, or was there something else driving him?
It turns out that Bach was in fact a very religious man. Some other composers such as Schubert and Beethoven wrote religious works and masses, but were not overtly religious themselves from what we can tell. But Bach’s faith is evidenced by his repeated use of one simple phrase – Soli Deo Gloria. To God Alone be the Glory. Bach wrote this phrase on every work he completed, even non religious pieces. He was not writing only for his church- he believed in the greater responsibility of personally giving glory to God through his music. He even took this idea a step further with the following statement (and I believe I’m paraphrasing): “There are two purposes of music – to give glory to God, and the refreshment of the soul.”
This is inspiring to me as I play weekly at church, as I know it is to countless others.
Inspiring words to the hymn, Just Where He Needs Me. I’ve included a link below to a video of one of my first cornet teachers, Derek Smith. He is playing this hymn with a Salvation Army Staff Band, one of which my dad was the principal euphonium player (New York Staff Band).
The words remind us that whatever our current situation, God goes before us and prepares the way. We may not feel we are in the perfect location or living the life we intended for ourselves. But God knows where we are needed in the plans He has for us. Let’s remember that His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts!
On December 15th, 2013, the Jubilant Brass will be performing at Lansdale Presbyterian church at the 8:45am and 11:15am services. For more information on the church and directions, go to their website at:
Anyone in the New York City area on December 15th at 3:00pm- be sure to catch Phil Smith, my childhood friend, fellow Salvation Army member, and principal trumpet of the New York Philharmonic in concert. He is performing with other principal brass players from the orchestra in their holiday program. Besides being a fantastic trumpet player, Phil is a great personal friend and wonderful Christian.
December 15, 2013 — 4 p.m. Service of Lessons and Carols The glory of Christmas will be celebrated in this beautiful traditional service of music and Scripture readings by the choirs, orchestra, and handbells of Doylestown Presbyterian Church. This service will surely remind us of the true meaning of this blessed season. Plan to join us as we tell the story of the birth of our Savior. Free-will offering will be taken.
The church is located at 127 East Court St., Doylestown, PA 18901
On Saturday, December 21st and Sunday, December 22nd at 7:00pm, the adult choir and orchestra, under the direction of Dr. Carol Habegger Ward, will be presenting the Christmas musical, All Is Well, Christ is Born.
Church of the Open Door
1260 Fort Washington Avenue
Fort Washington, PA 19034