The ghosts of Christmases Past were out in force when the Annapolis Brass Quintet took center stage for an evening of holiday music Sunday at historic St. Anne's Episcopal Church.
The quintet had not played together as Annapolis' "official" representative to the world of brass chamber music since April 1993. It was a delight to hear the ensemble at work again, paying tribute to Christmas, to the past lives of its members and to the spirit of Charlie Byrd, the master guitarist and quintet colleague who died last year.
For the reprise of those much-loved "Byrd and Brass" programs of yesteryear, trumpeters David Cran and Bob Suggs, trombonists Wayne Wells and Robert Posten, and French hornist Sharon Tiebert were joined by guitarist Steve Abshire, drummer and vibist Chuck Redd, and Charlie Byrd's brother, bassist Joe Byrd.
The result of their efforts was an evening that ran a gamut of musical styles, genres and moods.
The evening included the classic sounds of J.S. Bach's "Little" G minor Fugue joined by the baroque chorales of Michael Praetorius and the ripping "Canzona Bergamasca" of Samuel Scheidt.
Seasonal fare was represented by such standards as "We Three Kings," "I Wonder as I Wander," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," and what is surely the most hopelessly syncopated "Jingle Bells" ever arranged.
Charlie Byrd's love for the Brazilian idiom was honored by Abshire's superb work in such guitar-dominated pieces as Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Meditation" and "Girl from Ipanema."
And in the zippiest moments of the evening, the quintet mutated into a big band and joined the trio for jazz-inspired numbers like C. Warren Kellerhouse's marvelous "Silopanna Samba."
I thought the evening a howling success on all levels - artistic, seasonal and personal.
A joyous reunion was had. The brass playing was splendid, imparting sparkling warmth and honor to some of the loveliest Christmas music composed.
And as the program ended with a hushed "Silent Night," wafting in gently from off-stage left, the spirits of Christmas, of musical nostalgia and of Annapolis' Charlie Byrd seemed to meld together in beautiful old St. Anne's, creating an incandescent moment that captured the essence of what the evening had been about.