Canadians [1961]

Despite each of them possessing the requisite technique to succeed as a concert virtuoso, the five members of the Canadian Brass have instead dedicated themselves to the classical-lite market. This decision might be denying us some superb performances of the standard brass fare, but, as the group's many fans will attest, the ensemble can do corny crossover fun like nobody's business. This Christmas special, featuring unsophisticated but undeniably rollicking arrangements of beloved holiday songs (some performed in accompaniment of the reedy-voiced adolescents of the Bach Children's Chorus), ably shows off why the Canadian Brass's popularity has remained so evergreen. Whether tubaist Charles Daellenbach is jovially oompahing the bass notes of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" or Jens Lindemann is spinning out a dexterous line in "Angel Choir and the Trumpeter," the quintet's combination of considerable skill and unpretentious geniality makes up for the occasional crassness of the presentation. A Christmas Experiment's aptly surnamed director Barbara Willis Sweete barely lets a minute pass without focusing on another adorable child's face beaming into the camera, a nudging but still cute touch that's of a piece with the group's anything-to-entertain-you esthetic. Dressing up in silly costumes (extra credit to trombonist Eugene Watts for donning the charmingly ridiculous outfit of a splay-footed spinning top), and positively shameless in their eclecticism (in the course of a single number showy baroque flourishes collide head-on with limber Dixieland workouts and much burbling silliness), the Canadian Brass is all about crowd-pleasing. With music making this merry, it's hard not to be pleased. --Bruce Reid

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