Brush Street with Brass & Strings Unwrap the Holiday Songbook for 3rd Annual Christmas Shows

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Local Music,   From Issue 801   By: Robert E Martin

04th December, 2014     0

There are certain artists who’s talent, expertise, life experiences, and spirit regarding the ways they communicate with an audience converge together at some point to catapult them into an entirely higher level of performance; and Michael Brush is such an artist.

From his years as a teen rocker with The Paupers to his formidable excursions into the world of jazz & popular song, through his work as an educator at the Saginaw Arts & Sciences Academy, and following up to his experimentations in recent years with orchestration, Brush has proven to be constantly reaching for a higher rung up the ladder of professional achievement, with each song that he writes a new gift to be unwrapped, opened, and savored.

And with Christmas right around the corner, Brush is busily tinkering with his creations to assure that an assortment of fresh musical presents will be plentiful when he presents Holiday on Brush Street for his third annual holiday orchestral holiday performance with Brush Street with Brass & Strings, featuring vocalist Julie Mulady at Bay City’s State Theatre on December 5th and then on December 11th at Saginaw’s Temple Theatre.

Both shows begin at 7 PM and the program will feature original holiday music composed by Brush, as well as many holiday classics all performed with fresh arrangements. “This is our third consecutive Christmas show at the State,” reflects Brush, “so this year I’ve pulled together new arrangements and an ensemble of fourteen musicians.”

In a concert in support of the Educational Programs of the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra, Brush Street with Brass & Strings will be joined by eighteen of the Saginaw Bay Youth Orchestra Strings under the direction of Rod Bieber. Educational programs supported include Beginning & Intermediate Strings in addition to the Youth Orchestra. Tickets for the State Theatre show will be $22 and $12 for students and $15.00 and $8.00 for students at The Temple.

“Some of the song selections are the same because I just like and enjoy the songs,” continues Brush, “and others I’ve pulled out from different places.” Additionally, Brush will perform original holiday compositions he has penned over the years ranging form his groundbreaking work on Decembering to newer compositions such as Christmas Eve for Two and Can You Feel the Glow?

Now that Brush has had time to explore orchestrations for a few years, is it as enriching as he thought it would be?  Does he prefer writing orchestrations as opposed to songs for small combos; and is the orchestral work more rewarding?

“I remember the first time when I tried this a few years ago and was looking at these guys like Archie Sawyer, Kunio Ouellette and Matt Wicke from the Saginaw Elite Band and thinking to myself that Kunio & Matt are music teachers, as are Matt Corrigan, Jordan Edwards, Mike Curtiss and Ron Bieber.  Plus they are all pretty established players, which made me feel somewhat intimidated,” confesses Brush. “I handed them charts and revisions with letters in different places on different charts and it was kind of a nightmare, but now I’m at a point where I really enjoy it.”

Brush says that when he sits down to write new songs and material, he doesn’t necessarily start thinking in the context of writing for an orchestra. “Some of the songs have more musicality to them and those are the ones that I get excited about orchestrating,” he explains. “Two years ago when I was a guest with the Saginaw Choral Society I wrote a song called Blue and thought it would be cool to orchestrate that song, because there’s a lot going on inside the piece. Mainly once I get the song down and decide what the function of the song is, then I’ll know where I want to take it.”

Brush also reflects on how writing the music for four shows at Pit & Balcony taught him important lessons about the process of creating orchestrations. “I wrote the music for four shows there in collaboration with Robert Sorbera, then Artistic Director: Green Gold, Stocking Stuffers, Under the Christmas Tree and Hans Brinker. I learned a lot about character-acting songs by doing that.”

Given that much of Christmas music involves tradition and material that is familiar to mass audiences, what kind of spin does Brush feel can be given to these songs to make them different?

“That’s the trick and challenge of what I’m trying to do,” reflects Mike. “For this upcoming show we’ll be doing original songs that I’ve written, plus I have one instrumental piece called Snow that we may be performing.  But in looking at the program, mainly all the songs will have some meaning to them.”

“For people that have experienced our holiday shows in the past and for those that have yet to attend one, we strive to give everything that we do fresh arrangements and a fresh dusting of Christmas spirit.”

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