ABQ script

The Annapolis Brass Quintet

Biography and History

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The Annapolis Brass Quintet was organized in 1971 as America's first full-time performing brass ensemble. During the course of its twenty-two year career through 1993, it concertized in all fifty states and throughout Europe, the Orient, the Middle East, Central America and Canada. The ensemble earned an international reputation for its dedication to excellence in the presentation of brass chamber music.

The original ABQ, 1971

The founding members of the ABQ believed that by totally dedicating their careers in music to the performance of brass chamber music, they could make a significant contribution to the medium. They established their quintet on that premise as a full time performing ensemble, which was from 1971 to 1993 the exclusive performance vehicle and sole means of support for each of its members. As an independent ensemble, the quintet members guided and governed all aspects of the group's activities. They introduced brass chamber music to thousands of people all around the world, actively encouraged quintet performances by fellow brass players, expanded the repertoire through their own editions of early music and by commissioning a large number of new compositions, and achieved a truly high standard of artistic excellence.

The Quintet toured Europe annually between 1975 and 1993. In 1976 they performed the first major concert by a brass quintet in Vienna's Brahmssaal - considered a milestone for brass chamber music in Europe. In 1978 the ABQ won the Critic's Award in Munich for their performance of Elliot Carter's Brass Quintet. On its European tours the Quintet performed with the Bavarian Radio Symphony, the Stuttgart Philharmonic and the Dublin Radio Orchestra. The Annapolis Brass Quintet held residencies at the Festival des Cuivres in Dijon, the Innsbruck Conservatory, the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria, and Vestfold Sommerakademie in Norway.

The ABQ made its first extended tour of the United States in 1972. Throughout approximately half a million miles of travel all across the country, the ensemble performed at leading colleges and universities; on prestigious chamber music series, in many cases the first brass group ever to be engaged; and for people in hundreds of small towns across the country who had never before heard a brass quintet.

The Quintet was appointed to summer residence positions at Yale University's Norfolk Chamber Music Festival and the Peabody Conservatory. For five summers the ABQ was Ensemble-In-Residence at the International Music Camp in North Dakota, and each summer from 1975 to 1982 the Quintet was in residence at Artpark in Lewiston, New York. It was there that they developed the Chamber Music Feast progam - a collaborative concert with string quartet and vocal sextet. This program became an annual presentation of the Artpark Theater and was hailed by one Buffalo reviewer as "one of the great ideas of Western Civilization." The Quintet has frequently performed with other chamber musicians and has had works composed especially for these combinations, including music for brass quintet with harp, vocal quartet, vocal sextet, mezzo-soprano, string quartet, narrator, jazz trio, and multiple brass quintets.

The Quintet in 1975
In 1980 the ABQ established the International Brass Quintet Festival in Baltimore. As resident ensemble during each month-long summer festival, the ABQ invited top professional brass quintets from the United States and Europe to perform as resident guest ensembles. The International Brass Quintet Festival became recognized as a major forum for brass chamber music. A major highlight of the 1989 festival was the combined appearance of both the East Berlin and West Berlin Brass Quintets with the ABQ, an historic collaboration both musically and politically. The festival presented over 200 free public concerts and conducted workshops and seminars for students and professional brass players. In 1987 the ABQ organized the Rafael Mendez competition for brass quintets, designed to help talented young ensembles launch their careers. This competition, like the festival itself, attracted international participants.

In 1981 the ABQ, under the auspices of the US Information Agency, performed a four-week tour of the Orient which included performances in Taiwan, the Phillipines, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, and India. Two years later the Quintet undertook a second tour of the Far East and continued on to North Africa, adding concerts in both Egypt and Tunisia.

The Quintet in 1985
Among the festivals on which the ABQ appeared are the Barcelona Festival in Spain, the Carinthischersommer in Austria, the Festival of American Music in Portugal, the Lille Festival in France, the Chautauqua Festival, the Bar Harbor (Maine) Chamber Music Festival and the Rockport (Massachusetts) Chamber Music Festival. In 1989 the Annapolis Brass Quintet accepted an appointment to the position of Distinguished Artists-In-Residence at Salisbury State University. During the 1992-1993 season the ABQ served as Artists-In-Residence at Mary Washington college in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
In 1985, the ABQ first performed with the Charlie Byrd Trio as Byrd and Brass. This unique and critically acclaimed blending of latin, jazz and classical styles, with one of the world's premier jazz guitarists and his trio, led to a long collaboration including over 50 concerts throughout the United States, Christmas concerts in Annapolis, and two recordings, Byrd and Brass and Christmas with Byrd and Brass.

The Annapolis Brass Quintet has made a strong commitment to expanding the repertoire for the medium and has a list of over seventy-five world premieres to its credit. Among the composers who have written works for the ensemble are Douglas Allanbrook, Michael Brown, Bruce Clausen, George Heussenstamm, Jiri Laburda, Robert Hall Lewis, Allen Molineux, Lawrence Moss, Jiri Pauer, Karl Pilss, Walter Ross, Jerzy Sapieyevski, Elam Sprekle, Robert Starer, George Walker and Robert Washburn. Of special interest are four compositions for quintet and orchestra composed for the ABQ and performed with the Baltimore Symphony, the Bavarian Radio Orchestra, the Stuttgart Philharmonic, the Wichita Symphony and the Dublin Radio Orchestra.

Today's ABQ
United States Senator Barbara A. Mikulski congratulated the Annapolis Brass Quintet for the national record on the floor of the U.S. Senate on April 27, 1993, on the occasion of their final concert on April 25th, and in recognition of the "contributions that the Annapolis Brass Quintet has made to brass chamber music. During its 22-year history, it has entertained people around the world and has positively influenced the development of its genre. Its members have achieved a truly high standard of artistic excellence and, together, represent what is best in American music."

Byrd and Brass
In December 2000, the Annapolis Brass Quintet will reunite for a single performance to honor the life and artistry of Charlie Byrd, who passed away in December 1999. Christmas with Byrd & Brass / The Byrd & Brass Reunion Concert, will be held on December 17th at Saint Anne's Church in Annapolis, Maryland, the venue of previous Byrd and Brass Christmas concerts. The performance will feature the current members of the ABQ and the Joe Byrd Trio, with Steve Abshire on guitar, Joe Byrd on bass, and Chuck Redd on drums.