Bring on the Brass

Unless an introduction to brass instruments is your idea of a sizzling topic, you will probably find Bring on the Brass highly educational (read: nap time). However, you’ll be awakened frequently by delightful music.

Leo McKern, known to PBS fans as the phlegmatic Rumpole of the Bailey in the eponymous series, narrates this 53-minute lesson with good humor, though not much real humor. But then there is not a lot of hilarity in the world of brass instruments, ”all of which are made of gold-colored or silver-colored metal. All of which have a bell-shaped opening at one end and a funnel-shaped mouthpiece at the other. And all of which are played by blowing into the mouthpiece while making a rapid buzzing with the lips.”

Edifying, but after 20 minutes of this stuff, my lips were making a rapid buzzing sound too: I was catching some Z’s. I may have missed McKern’s lectures on the history of horn, from the caveman’s rough version to ”the flügelhorn [which] looks just like the B-flat cornet except that it’s slightly larger.” But I loved the musical demonstrations accompanying them. They include excerpts of ”The Impresario Overture” and ”Stoptime Rag,” as well as a peppy version of ”Bugler’s Holiday,” introduced skillfully by McKern. The Toronto-based Hannaford Street Silver Band adds the crisp, bouncy flavor of a traditional British brass band. If only the whole were as much fun as these parts, Bring on the Brass would be brassy indeed. B

Bring on the Brass
  • Music