Canadian Brass’ new album cover, a Peanuts-style cartoon spoof of the quintet making merry for Christmas, illustrates the fun-loving personality of the world’s most famous brass ensemble.
Trumpeter Christopher Coletti, 33, is especially excited that he’s portrayed upside down on the cover of “Christmas Time is Here: The Encore!," released Nov. 21 on vinyl record, CD and digital download.
“The vinyl record is what’s new and we haven’t done that since records were a thing,’’ said Coletti, while traveling on Nov. 21 with his family from Ithaca College, where he teaches, to see relatives in New York for Thanksgiving. “The three youngest of us in the group don’t even have CD players but we all have record players.”
The Charlie Brown-style cover art was inspired by caricatures a fan in Japan created of the musicians as a thank you for performing in her city.
The renowned group kicked off its 20-city Christmas tour Friday, and will help Akron ring in the holidays at a holiday concert at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Akron Civic Theatre, part of Tuesday Musical’s Fuze! series.
The concert will include pieces from the new holiday album, which follows the 2013 album “Christmas Time Is Here.” Canadian Brass changed its original plan to simply re-release the 2013 album on vinyl and instead made some musical changes, dropping the recording's non-Christmas tracks and adding some new holiday numbers for the new release.
That includes "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,'' with a new arrangement by trumpeter Caleb Hudson, and Coletti's "Bach's Bells,'' inspired by Bach's 29th cantata. (For the former, see the festive video the quintet shot last year with an iPhone app, edited by Coletti, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gWRXTG8tXKc.)
Coletti combined snippets of the theme from the Bach cantata with "Carol of the Bells" for "Bach's Bells."
"It really is a new piece, so I like to call it my Opus 1, and it's my only piece I ever wrote,'' said the trumpeter, who joined Canadian Brass in 2009.
Canadian Brass, founded in 1970, also features founding member Chuck Daellenbach (tuba), Achilles Liarmakopoulos (trombone) and Jeff Nelsen (horn). The quintet of virtuosos, well known for wearing tennis shoes and even wacky socks while performing, has recorded more than 130 albums. In this international group, Coletti and Hudson are American, Nelsen is Canadian, Daellenbach has dual Canadian-American citizenship and Liarmakopoulos is Greek.
The versatile quintet's holiday program includes everything from the beloved Peanuts "Christmas Time Is Here" to "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" and the jazzy "Glenn Miller Christmas," arranged by Coletti. The group has recorded the Christmas version of the Miller medley for the first time on its new album. In the live show, the audience is encouraged to sing along for the medley and they always do, Coletti said.
The concert also includes classical music by Handel and Bach as well as the celebratory "Renaissance Fireworks" arranged by Coletti and Hudson, which includes the uplifting favorite "All the Pretty Ladies" by Monteverdi.
"It's just an amazing piece and I don't think anybody's probably heard it before,'' Coletti said.
The quintet, which tours about 75 percent of the year, performed 80 concerts last year. Canadian Brass, which plays on signature gold-plated instruments, doesn't take itself too seriously but it always takes the music seriously.
The group's famous habit of wearing white tennis shoes actually stems from ballet: In the late '80s, Canadian Brass started adding subtle movement to a ballet music medley and gradually added full-fledged choreography. Their ballet coach at the time insisted that the quintet wear white ballet slippers during the piece, which audience members thought were white sneakers. That eventually led to the group wearing sneakers for the whole show because they were so comfortable.
The group's Akron program, which will include impromptu holiday surprises, will include the ballet tribute, including music from "The Nutcracker" with the musicians dancing.
"We do our best to take it seriously because we take the music seriously,'' Coletti said. "There are moments that are funny because we're not the best dancers yet."
Tickets for the Akron performance are $40-$45 or free for students. Call 330-761-3460 or see www.tuesdaymusical.org. "Christmas Time Is Here: The Encore!" is available at https://bit.ly/2OXHOE. For more information, see www.canadianbrass.com.
Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or email@example.com. Follow her at @KerryClawsonABJ or www.facebook.com/kclawsonabj.