Seraph Brass - Asteria (Summit)
"When I was growing up listening to live concerts, my favorite groups were Canadian Brass and Dallas Brass, and they were all male, which never bothered me but I just thought to myself, why not have an all-female group? And my favorite part of touring with Seraph Brass now is seeing young female brass students or musicians who are just so excited to have female role models."
Trumpeter Mary Bowden is the founder of Seraph Brass, which has just released its first recording titled, Asteria. It's filled with arrangements of some of Mary's favorite classical pieces, and a few new works commissioned by the ensemble.
How did you choose the name for this ensemble? Why are you Seraph Brass?
"Seraph has a relationship with trumpets and angels, but I also really like just the way it sounds. And, also around that time I really loved Alison Balsam's recording of a new piece that she commissioned by James McMillan called Seraph. And so I felt like that was sort of meant to be because it's my one of my idols who's a female trumpet player and it just really tied the name of the group together for me."
Of the many pieces on this recording, some are new works that you commissioned, and then you also have arrangements by Jeff Luke of the Utah Symphony. Tell me about Jeff and what he does that attracts you to the works that he arranges.
"When the group was forming and I really just wanted some original arrangements for Seraph, he offered to arrange some new pieces for us and so I just gave him a few names of some of my favorite pieces and he made these really great arrangements that really highlight the strengths of our group and the virtuosity of the brass instruments so it's really great to work with a close friend who you can really handcraft these really special arrangements for the group."
How did you select these pieces? Because it's kind of a mixture — we've got everything from Mendelssohn to Edvard Grieg, and then also some Spanish music. And then of course wrapping things up with that fabulous Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 by Franz Liszt.
"It all comes from my imagination and what I think can work well with brass and then Jeff makes his own voice through that and actually the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 is an arrangement he made a long time ago. He used to tour with Atlantic Brass Quintet and he was the main arranger for that group and he made this arrangement many years ago. And so no one's been performing it because of its difficulty and so he asked me if I would resurrect this arrangement. And now it's become one of our concert staples."
The new recording is titled Asteria, which is the goddess of falling stars. It's also the title track of your recording. You commissioned this piece from composer Catherine McMichael. Tell me a little bit about this work and the different movements, all of which have celestial connotations.
"Catherine McMichael — you might remember her from my CD Radiance and I played one of her works for trumpet, that piece told the story of different totems. And so when I was thinking about which composers I wanted to hire to commission for the group, Catherine came to my mind right away and so we immediately started brainstorming themes and she came up with the idea of constellations.
"And so she chose the different movements for the constellations and each one has a completely different character. The first one Andromeda, the chained princess, is a vision of panic and so you hear a lot of vibrant energy and some slurs in the trombones which depict the Sea Monster.
"Then you really bring the energy down to a very meditative state with Virgo and the beautiful colors of the flugelhorn.
"And then we end with Pleiades. I get to play the piccolo trumpet and the other trumpeters playing E flat. So, we really brighten up the colors of that movement."
To hear the rest of my conversation, click on the extended interview above, or download the extended podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.