The Florida Orchestra comes blasting back today with a full-blooded pops program of music for brass and percussion at the Mahaffey Theater.
That’s right, it’s a holiday for strings, and woodwinds and the others. The program, “Daniel Black and the (TFO) Brass Cats” (at 2 and 8 p.m.) features approximately 20 musicians, all of them either brass players or percussionists.
TFO’s brass ensembles, says conductor Black, have been spectacularly popular with local audiences for several years. Hence, this program, which features arrangements (and original compositions) created specifically for this combination of players (in other words, Black didn’t just redact the string or woodwind parts – they don’t exist).
“There’s actually a whole huge repertoire for brass, and also for brass and percussion,” he explains. “Because it turns out brass players like to play just by themselves sometimes!”
The eclectic program includes John Williams movie music (Star Wars, the Harry Potter series), classic swing (Louis Prima’s “Sing, Sing, Sing”), Souza’s good old “Stars and Stripes Forever” and even the Beatles’ “Penny Lane,” with its high, thrilling piccolo trumpet solo played by TFO principal trumpet player Rob Smith. Trombonist Ross Holcombe arranged the theme from Back to the Future.
Also included will be four pieces by composer Chris Hazell, “Brass Cats.” Each section, Black explains, is named for one of Hazell’s own felines. “They’re really fun pieces,” says Black. “They’re kind of in this ‘70s jazz fusion kind of style.
“Apparently he loved cats – he had at least four of them. It make a pretty great title for the concert, as it turns out.”
Black, whose official TFO title is Resident Conductor, spent the early days of the pandemic fine-tuning his editing skills, crafting the orchestra’s impressive multi-player videos (each musician was recorded separately, and no one – not even Daniel Black – was ever in a room with another person).
“It was about an eight-month layoff for me, between concerts that I conducted,” he says. “Which is the longest that I’ve been between musical performances since I started playing music when I was 11 years old.”
TFO returned to the concert stage in October, in a Mahaffey limited to 25 percent capacity, and with smaller groups of musicians masked and seated, with six feet of space around them in all directions.
Other Covid compromises included shorter concerts with no intermissions.
“So it’s been a bit of a surreal year,” Black admits. “On the other hand, I’m very, very pleased and impressed, and grateful and happy, that The Florida Orchestra has really worked hard to find a way to do concerts this year. There’s not actually a lot of orchestras that are doing that right now. So we’re sort out at the forefront.”
Black’s own comeback began in October, when music director Michael Francis asked him to take on the orchestra’s very first rehearsal after the long break.
At the time, he recalls, he really didn’t think about the significance of the rehearsal. “It kind of hits you at different times. Because once you get on the podium, you’ve got a job to do, and you’re listening, and your concentration has really got to be there. So there’s not a lot of room for emotion on top of that.
“But then afterwards, it was like ‘Oh my gosh, it’s been eight months.’ I don’t even know what emotion to call that. It was a combination of gratitude and relief, and also a little bit of feeling like, well, a bit rusty. Getting back into shape is a bit like going to the gym for the first time.”
Details and tickets here.