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A Chat with the Spanish Brass

Abstract:

The emergence of Spanish Brass, a quintet comprising Carlos Benetó, Juan José Serna, Manuel Pérez, Indalecio Bonet, and Sergio Finca, traces back to 1989 when these musicians, then in their twenties, coalesced within the Spanish National Youth Orchestra. Their dedication culminated in a triumph at the 1996 International Brass Quintet Competition in Narbonne, France, catalyzing a pivotal decision to forsake secure positions in esteemed orchestras for a risk-laden commitment to full-time chamber music. Now, nearly three decades since their inception, the quintet, functioning as a musical family, undertakes over 100 concerts annually, navigating a relentless schedule of rehearsals and performances.

As Spanish Brass approaches its 30th anniversary, the ensemble reflects on a relentless itinerary, with upcoming tours, recordings, and demanding programs. The United States features prominently in their global engagements, with Lisa Sapinkopf orchestrating their North American tours, constituting a substantial portion of their annual activities. The group’s recent participation at the ITG Conference in San Antonio showcased their collaboration with renowned trumpeter Jens Lindemann, highlighting their adoption of innovative technologies like BlackBinder, an application streamlining score reading on iPads, enhancing visibility and minimizing logistical challenges.

In addition to their technological embrace, Spanish Brass navigates diverse musical realms, exemplified by their latest album, “Puro de Oliva,” featuring compositions by flamenco pianist and jazz musician Chano Domínguez. Their multifaceted musical pursuits extend to international festivals, such as the Woodstock der Blasmusik in Austria, demonstrating the group’s versatility and dedication to attracting diverse audiences. The quintet acknowledges the critical support from sponsors like the Buffet Crampon Group, technicians, and institutional bodies, emphasizing the collaborative relationships that sustain their full-time concert activity. As they mark their illustrious career, Spanish Brass remains committed to enriching the world with brass music, and the anticipation for another 30 years of musical brilliance resonates in the heartfelt conclusion of this interview.

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Publication date:

ISSN: 2792-8349

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International Journal of Music

In 1989, five young guys in their twenties decided to form a brass quintet inside the Spanish National Youth Orchestra. Their determination and hard work led them to win first prize at the International Brass Quintet Competition in Narbonne (France) in 1996, giving them the “boost” they needed to make the biggest decision of their lives: leave their comfortable jobs in places like the Spanish National Symphony or the City of Granada Orchestra and risk it all, devoting their full time making chamber music with the quintet.

This is how Spanish Brass was born. Today, almost 30 years after their first rehearsal, the five members of the group (Carlos Benetó and Juanjo Serna, trumpets, Manuel Pérez, horn, Indalecio Bonet, trombone, and Sergio Finca, tuba) are almost family. It’s for the best, because they play more than 100 concerts a year together, besides all of the necessary rehearsals (and a year only has 365 days).

The best time to speak calmly with them was now, the beginning of September. “We have just returned to work after a month of vacation. It has been a few days of necessary rest and it was well deserved,” says Sergio. “We are in the year prior to celebrating our 30th anniversary, and the truth is we are just as busy today as we were before. We have many months of tours, recordings and new and demanding programs,” he adds.

Some of these tours are in the United States, a country that the ensemble visits at least three or four times a year. Their manager in the US, Lisa Sapinkopf, organized all the North American tours of Spanish Brass, which is a very high percentage of the group’s annual activity.

“Our last visit was participating at the ITG Conference in San Antonio, Texas, an extraordinary event where we gave an evening concert with a full and appreciative crowd,” says Juanjo, who also points out that they spent a fantastic afternoon: “We were reunited with hundreds of colleagues that we don’t see as often as we would like. It was exciting to attend the concert given by Doc Severinsen, unique and inspiring at 91 years old.”

Searching on YouTube, we can see a video of a Jens Lindemann’s concert with Spanish Brass at this year’s ITG Conference:

We were especially struck, as you can see them all performing, using BlackBinder, the new app that reads scores — we have previously talked about BlackBinder in Trumpet Magazine (and with which we have just reached an agreement so our followers can download it and use it for free).

We are very excited to see that giants like Jens Lindemann and Spanish Brass are beginning to use new technologies in their day-to-day lives as musicians. “We have climbed onto the train of modernity and we like to surround ourselves with quality,” says Carlos Benetó. He points out, “BlackBinder is the ultimate tool; it’s an application where we can follow the score without the need of turning pages: there are no pages, the score moves to the tempo of the performance by scrolling upwards. It offers a visibility of the content that is clear and suitable for everyone, and I know what I am talking about, because we are all around 50 years of age and our sight is not the same as when we were 20!”

According to Carlos, the advantage of BlackBinder, is not only being able to read the score, but “because the iPad has a smaller surface area than that of a music stand and that helps with the circulation of sound. All of this without the discomfort of having to travel with our entire score library!”

The group has just presented its latest album at Café Central in Madrid (it already has more than 20 on the market), titled Puro de Oliva, with music composed by the legendary flamenco pianist and jazz musician Chano Domínguez, who also participates on the recording, along with the percussionist José Manuel Ruiz Motos ‘Bandolero’. Another adventure in sound, and the quintet intends to continue dabbling in all musical styles and attracting new audiences.

This summer, the ensemble has also participated in the Woodstock der Blasmusik (Ort im Innkreis, Austria), “an amazing festival of four or five days, with an audience of 50,000 people, several stages with brass music, and lots of beer … both among the public and on stage! A super experience!”, declares Manuel. And they have also offered numerous concerts in Germany, South Korea, México, Belgium, Lithuania, France …

Indalecio stresses that “Spanish Brass is one of the few groups that is dedicated, full-time, to concert activity, and without the help we receive from our sponsors, it would be very difficult to maintain our activity”. He is referring to the Buffet Crampon Group, a relationship they have had for the past five years, as well as its technicians (the instrument makers), with whom they have very good chemistry. “We are very happy with the instruments that they provide us with and their benefits they give us with the repertory we play. On the other hand, we also have a fantastic relationship with a Valencian brand of instrument cases (Bags), which offer an innovative and aesthetically attractive line. And of course, we are very grateful for the support of the Valencian Political Institution and the Spanish Ministry of Culture, without, as I mentioned, it would be very difficult to do all of this.”

We congratulate them for their brilliant career and we sincerely hope that they will delight us with at least another 30 years of incredible brass music.

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