Asteria – Seraph Brass
“…This wonderful brass quintet has released a pearl of a CD:Asteria. You will be happy to hear these talented performers, who are tight and right for each other…terrific CD…” -The HORN CALL
Seraph Brass is a dynamic brass quintet drawing from a roster of America’s top female brass players. Committed to engaging audiences with captivating programming, Seraph Brass presents a diverse body of repertoire that includes original transcriptions, newly commissioned works, and well-known classics.
Seraph Brass has toured throughout the United States, Mexico, and Europe. They have performed multiple concerts at the Lieksa Brass Week in Finland, and they were the featured ensemble at the International Women’s Brass Conference. Seraph has performed concerts at the Forum Cultural Guanajuato in León, Mexico, Dame Myra Hess Concerts in Chicago (IL), Gettysburg Concert Association (PA), Mary Baldwin University (VA), Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach (FL), SUNY Cortland (NY), Jamestown Concert Association (NY), and they have toured extensively as Allied Concert Services artists. Seraph is on the roster of the Manhattan Music Ensemble. They performed with the Rowan University Wind Ensemble, performing Rick DeJonge’s Prelude and Fantasy under the direction of Joseph Higgins. Many members of Seraph Brass have performed with Adele on her 2016 North American tour.
Enthusiastic about education, Seraph has developed strong relationships with Venezuelan “El Sistema” programs in Philadelphia and Washington D.C., performing fundraising concerts for Play-On Philly! and Bridges: Music Through Harmony. Seraph has given residencies at Stephen F. Austin University, University of Virginia, Wittenberg University (OH), Western and Eastern Illinois Universities, Metropolitan State University of Denver (CO), Penn State Erie (PA), Marywood University (PA), and the Dreyfoos School of the Arts (FL).
Seraph has commissioned and premiered new works including “Wolf” for solo soprano and brass quintet from Philadelphia-based composer, Joseph Hallman. For this debut studio album, Seraph has commissioned new works by Catherine McMichael and Rene Orth. They have also premiered Lucy Pankhurt’s Ouroboros with euphonium soloist Hélène Escriva at the International Women’s Brass Conference. Seraph also has many original arrangements by trumpeter Jeff Luke, featured on this album and Seraph Brass Live!
Members of Seraph Brass have performed with such esteemed ensembles as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Musicians from Marlboro, Luzern Music Festival in Switzerland, National Symphony, Brass Band of Battle Creek, Lake Luzern Music Festival (NY), Daejeon Philharmonic in Korea, and Auckland Philharmonia in New Zealand. They hold positions in the Richmond Symphony, Tucson Symphony, Louisville Orchestra, Artosphere Orchestra, Tennessee Tech University, University of North Carolina at Pembroke, Louisiana State University, University of Richmond, and North Carolina School of the Arts.
Notes from the commissioned composers:
Catherine McMichael, Asteria
The ancient word “asteria” has its roots in both Greek and Latin, and refers to stars. The aster flower with its starry petals, Astraea, star-maiden goddess of justice (also known as Virgo) and even the six sparkling rays of a star sapphire (asterism) are all linked to the word. Its title serves as a banner for the three constellations portrayed in this suite. Andromeda, the Chained Princess, a vision of panic, is a beautiful young princess chained to a rock in the crashing waves, to be eaten by a sea monster, as punishment for her queen mother, Cassiopeia’s vanity. Virgo, also known as Ishtar, or Astraea, Lover of Justice, holds the scales of justice (Libra) in her hand. Many legends surround the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters. Orion the Hunter, their closest astral neighbor, often figures in these legends as their pursuer. In Greek, “Pleiades” means “to sail.” In the ancient Mediterranean world, the day that the Pleaides cluster first appeared in the morning sky before sunrise announced the opening of the navigation season.
Seraph Brass is made up of all women, and the composer is a woman; therefore, the constellations chosen as musical portraits were logically going to be female figures. The timbre of a brass quintet is particularly well suited to the themes of drama, nobility and spectacle featured in this piece.
Rene Orth, Leaugured in Fire, Lagooned in Gold
Inspired by Edith Wharton’s “An Autumn Sunset,” Leagured in Fire, Lagooned in Gold is a brass quintet commissioned by and written for the women of Seraph Brass. We were originally drawn to the poem due to the reference of a Valkyrie and an illustration of strength and feminism. As I dug deeper into the poem, however, I was struck by the colorful and descriptive imagery of a sunset on a windy bay. It feels as if two color palettes are at war with each other, and this is the idea that I was interested in exploring in this piece.