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University of Iowa News Release

Release: Nov. 7, 2003

Iowa Brass Quintet Introduces New Player And New Piece Nov. 19

A new player and a new piece will be among the features of a free concert by the Iowa Brass Quintet -- a resident faculty ensemble of the University of Iowa School of Music -- at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 19, in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

The new player will be tubist David Spies, a visiting faculty member at the School of Music. Spies replaces Robert Yeats, who retired last year after more than 25 years on the UI faculty. Continuing members of the group are David Greenhoe and Barbara Deur, trumpets; Jeff Agrell, horn; and David Gier, trombone.

The new piece on the program will be the world premiere of "Ensembles" for brass quintet by Allan Blank, who studied composition at the UI in the 1950s.

Assisting the quintet will be Stephen Swanson, a baritone and member of the School of Music voice faculty, who will read the narration of John Harbison's "Christmas Vespers," the closing piece on the program.

Other works on the Nov. 19 concert program will be "Morning Music" (1986) by David Sampson, and "Trois Chansons de Charles d'Orleans" (Three songs of Charles of Orleans) by Claude Debussy, arranged for brass quintet Kenneth Singleton.

Blank is professor emeritus at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he taught nearly 20 years, 1978-1996. In addition to his career as a composer, he played violin in the Pittsburgh Symphony and was conductor and music director of the Richmond (Va.) Community Orchestra. His many works have been published and recorded widely, and he has received numerous awards, grants and prizes for his compositions.

"Ensembles" is a set of seven pieces for varying combinations of instruments, all drawn from the five members of the brass quintet. They range from a duo for trombone and tuba and a trio for two trumpets and horn -- the first two pieces Blank wrote -- to movements that use the full quintet, including the opening "Fanfare" and the "Finale."

The movements vary also in mood, from what Blank calls the "calling to attention" of the "Fanfare" to the "clownish" "Frolic." The more serious "Finale" "starts out with high hopes as a double fugue," Blank says, "but metamorphs into music that is both rhythmic and driving, with a touch of the fanfare attitude."

Harbison is one of America's most prominent composers. Among his principal works are four string quartets, three symphonies, the Pulitzer-prize winning cantata "The Flight Into Egypt" and three operas, including "The Great Gatsby," commissioned by the Metropolitan opera and premiered to great acclaim in 1999.

Fanfare magazine wrote in 1993 that Harbison's music is "original, varied and absorbing -- relatively easy for audiences to grasp and yet formal and complex enough to hold our interest through repeated hearings."

His "Christmas Vespers" has three sections: "Two Choral Preludes for Advent"; "The Three Wise Men," which uses text from the King James version of the Book of Matthew as accompanying narration; and "Little Fantasy on 'The Twelve Days of Christmas'."

The Iowa Brass Quintet, a resident faculty ensemble at the UI School of Music, performs on the UI campus each semester and for schools, universities, civic concert associations, and professional meetings throughout the United States. Founded in the early 1950s, the group has been widely acclaimed for its artistry in the performance of music of all periods and premieres of new compositions.

The quintet's CD "Americana: A University of Iowa Celebration" features works by composers associated with the UI, either as faculty or students in the School of Music, or whose works have been favorites of the group over the years. It was released as part of the celebration of the UI Sesquicentennial in 1997.

Spies comes to the quintet from seven years on the faculty of Southeastern Oklahoma State University, during which time he also taught at Northwestern State University of Louisiana. He currently teaches euphonium and tuba and coaches brass chamber music at the UI School of Music.

Spies is an active performer and teacher throughout the United States. In addition to numerous solo recitals, he has performed with the Fort Worth, Shreveport, Richardson, New Haven and Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestras, Dallas Wind Symphony and U.S. Coast Guard Band. A freelance musician in Dallas-Fort Worth for nearly a decade, he has performed with popular artists including Kenny Wayne Shepherd, LeAnn Rimes, Roy Clark and James Taylor. An active chamber musician as well, Spies has performed with the New York Woodwind Quintet, Meridian Arts Ensemble and the Canadian Brass.

Greenhoe has been on the faculty of the UI School of Music and the principal trumpeter of the Quad City Symphony since 1979. He is also chair of the brass area at the UI and is active as a soloist and recitalist. During summer seasons he performs as solo trumpeter with the Lake Placid (N.Y.) Sinfonietta, a post he has held since 1975.

Deur is a member of the Quad Cities Symphony and has been a trumpet instructor at UI. She has performed widely as a soloist and clinician, has been principal trumpet of the Des Moines Symphony and has been a member of the Cedar Rapids Symphony.

Gier came to the UI in August 1995. He has taught at Baylor University and Central Connecticut State University. He began his professional career in New England as a member of the Springfield (Mass.) Symphony and Orchestra New England. He has performed with numerous professional ensembles, including the New Haven, Hartford, Waco and San Angelo symphonies, and Keith Brion's Peerless Sousa Band. He is currently principal trombone of the Breckenridge (Colo.) Festival Orchestra.

Agrell joined the UI School of Music faculty in 2000 after a 25 year career as symphony musician. At the UI he teaches horn, directs the Horn Choir, coaches chamber music and performs with the Iowa Brass Quintet. Before coming to Iowa, he associate principal horn with the Lucerne (Switzerland) Symphony Orchestra 1975-2000, playing symphonic music, opera, operetta, ballet, musicals choral music and chamber music.

Swanson has become well known for his performances in the Iowa City area since joining the UI faculty in 1994. Since coming to Iowa City, he has presented solo recitals, appeared in and directed UI Opera Theater productions, and performed with the Chamber Singers of Iowa City.

Swanson had an active operatic career in Europe for nearly 20 years. During that time his repertoire grew to 91 roles in opera, operetta and musicals. He has sung on German, Austrian and Dutch radio broadcasts and has been a featured soloist in European festivals. He took part in the Viktor Ullman-Projekt 1998, a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of a composer who died in the Nazi death camps.

Swanson has also had an extensive career as a concert singer, appearing as featured soloist with many U.S. orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony under Sir Georg Solti, Raphael Fruehbeck de Burgos and Margaret Hillis. He has recorded Mendelssohn's "St. Paul" and Ullmann's "Der Kaiser von Atlantis."

The School of Music is part of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

CONTACT: Peter Alexander, 319-384-0072,