Scottish and Irish Music Enlivened by Uncommon Instrumentation,
Top Notch Arrangements and Remarkable Musicianship
BRASS LASSIE, a bold new band based in the Twin Cities of St. Paul/Minneapolis, combines traditional tunes, songs and style with dazzling modern horn lines, sparking their own genre of eclectic, remarkable music. 10-member strong, the ensemble performs extraordinary takes on Scottish, Irish and French music, traditional and new, featuring a powerful 4-piece horn section, a terrific rhythm section, fine fiddles, flutes, pipes, concertina, vocals and some fabulous step dancing. Their smart, joyous horn arrangements are by top-notch jazz arranger Peter Enblom, plus some great ensemble arrangements from Dr. David Milne.
The founder of BRASS LASSIE Laura MacKenzie carefully envisioned this big band for several years. It was realized at last in 2016 with a triumphant summer debut. In 2017, MacKenzie received a highly competitive Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board to further develop the repertoire for this ensemble concept. Since their debut, BRASS LASSIE has added engaging, exciting new arrangements to every performance. They released their first studio recording Fall 2018, with significant airplay on NPR's Thistle & Shamrock, MPR's Radio Heartland and SHMU-FM Scotland as "Album of the Month".
Some of BRASS LASSIE’s notable performances have been at the Celtic Junction Arts Center, McNally Smith concert hall (both in St. Paul, MN), the Minnesota Scottish Fair, the international Vintage Band Festival (Northfield, MN), The Irish Fair of Minnesota, Normandale Lake, Icehouse MPLS, Rock Bend Folk Festival, and a major stage at the Minnesota State Fair.
“Joyful and sophisticated” – Dáithí Sproule, Altan
“Pioneering Celtic Fusion” -- Phil Nusbaum, KBEM/Jazz88
BRASS LASSIE's members have come together from a broad spectrum of expertise and experience: Traditional music, big bands, show bands, jazz, orchestral, roots and world music, step-dance, and education.
Laura MacKenzie - wooden flutes, whistles, concertina,
pipes, vocals; founder & director
Mary Vanorny - fiddle
Patrice Pakiz - piano, oboe
Kate DeVoe - trumpet, flugelhorn
Tricia Lerohl - French horn
Lauren Husting - trombone
Brooklynne Audette - bass trombone
Marc Anderson - percussion
Enrique Toussaint - bass
Peter Enblom– principal horn and rhythm arranger
When MacKenzie inquired around the region for “the best” horn arranger, it quickly became clear that “the best” was trombonist Pete Enblom. BRASS LASSIE is very fortunate to have this great musician, experienced in big bands, jazz ensembles and Latin bands, on board as their horn and rhythm arranger.
Laura MacKenzie, founder and leader, has received numerous honors and performing arts awards for her participation and dedication in the realms of traditional music, including being selected for the original Cherish The Ladies series (National Endowment for the Arts) featuring noted women in Irish music in America. Laura has also been awarded a Bush Foundation Fellowship in Traditional and Ethnic Performing Arts, as well as two McKnight Foundation Artists Fellowships. In 2014 the City of St. Paul proclaimed a “Laura MacKenzie Day” for her contributions to traditional music in Minnesota, and in 2018 she received a lifetime achievement award from the Minnesota Scottish-American community. She has been lauded as a “Celtic music wizard” by the Minneapolis Star Tribune and a “High priestess of Celtic music” by Minnesota Public Radio. Laura performs on an array of wind-powered instruments, including wooden flutes, whistles, concertina, Scottish smallpipes, border greatpipes, French cornemuse and voice. Enjoying a richly varied career in traditional music, Laura has performed and recorded with diverse ensembles, worked with theatrical productions and for public radio, and has performed at festivals across the United States. She can be heard on a multitude of recordings and on several documentaries. www.lauramackenzie.com
BRASS LASSIE's extraordinary repertoire, enriched with brass, fiddles, flutes, pipes, vocals, dance steps, standard and ethnic percussion, bass and piano, includes....
- Modern and traditional Irish reels, jigs, hornpipes
- Scottish and French Canadian tunes
- Ancient Irish airs featuring brass
- New arrangements of Scots Gaelic waulking songs
- Cape Breton dance tunes and puirt à beul (mouth music)
- Scots and Scottish Gaelic ballads
- Music from Brittany and Central France
- Latin-infused Celtic dance tunes
The ensemble’s influences are the French-Canadian powerhouse band La Bottine Souriante, Irish super-group Altan, Chicago Irish fiddler Liz Carroll, the Scottish band Salsa Celtica, and the many traditional musicians they have met along the way. While celebrating these inspirations, their sound and arrangements are expressly and uniquely Brass Lassie in spirit, concept and delivery.
A notable feature of BRASS LASSIE's music is the loving treatment of the tunes and songs. The melodies are set to shine through the arrangements, without being reconstructed in rhythm or melodic shape. In a fan's words: "To have horns on traditional tunes was an unexpected and dynamic change that did not lose the songs or tunes in the transition but actually brought them forward."
EDUCATION & OUTREACH
In addition to concert hall and festival performances, BRASS LASSIE offers presentations and master classes for schools, colleges and festivals:
- Traditional "Celtic" Music
- Irish and Scottish Music
> Techniques & Styles
- Percussive Dance and Step-Dance
- Brass Arranging and Performance
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