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Über-poobah of the unter-tuba

Steven and Misa Mead join Mountain Town Brass holiday concert


Steven and Misa Mead join Mountain Town Brass holiday concert

The Mountain Town Brass, a fast-growing mid-Michigan brass band formed in 2016, is unwrapping a shiny gift package for its holiday concert this year: two euphoniums.

“A Winter’s Night with Steven and Misa Mead” adds a world-renowned euphonium duo from England to the group’s noble, melancholy, very British brass band sound.

We’re not talking about a couple of chartered accountants who moonlight in the town square after a pint or two. In the world of brass bands, Steven Mead is an über-poobah of the euphonium, a mellifluous, smaller relative of the tuba. He’s the professor of euphonium at the Royal Northern College of Music in his home town of Manchester, England, but tours the globe with 75 international solo performances annually. He’s given over 500 world premiere performances so far.

Travis Scott, director of the Mountain Town Brass Band, is in seventh heaven over hosting the duo in St. Johns.

He called Steven Mead “one of very greatest, if not the greatest soloist playing today.”

Seeing Mead perform for the first time changed Scott’s life.

“My high school band director told me about a soloist coming through town I should check out,” Scott recalled. “Mr. Mead gave a concert with the local brass band, and I was absolutely floored. I had no idea a euphonium could sound that beautiful and be played with such technical prowess.”

These days, Steven Mead is at the top of the brass band world, as soloist, recording artist, teacher and leader of conferences and brass band organizations. He’s played with symphony orchestras around the world and done stints with nearly every military band on the planet, including the U.S. Army band.

Misa Mead was born in the city of Kumamoto, in the south west of Japan. They started playing duos almost immediately after they met in 2013 and it seems their euphonia have irrevocably intertwined. When they married in March 2014, she changed her name from Misa Akahoshi to Misa Mead.

“Misa is an emerging euphonium artist well established in the Far East, but she is quickly becoming a well known soloist and composer internationally,” Scott said. Misa Mead is a composer, arranger and music writer as well as an instrumentalist.

As a duo, the Meads have already toured Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy. December 2017 is their first tour in the United States.

Riding the burgeoning brass band movement in the United States, the Mountain Town Brass Band has cracked its cheeks on a wide variety of music, from Wagner to the big band sound of Fletcher Henderson. Last April, they uncorked a brass arrangement of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.”

This time around, they will stick largely to holiday favorites such as Leroy Anderson’s “A Christmas Festival” and Mel Torme’s “The Christmas Song.” However, don’t be shocked if the euphonious star couple sneaks in a golden-toned sonnet from their new CD, “Love’s Joy.” No matter. This time of year, anything played by a brass ensemble sounds like a Christmas song.

Mountain Town Brass Band Steven and Misa Mead, euphonium duo 7 p.m. Sat., Dec. 16 Wilson Center Auditorium 101 W. Cass St., St. Johns free will offering (proceeds go to renovation of Wilson Center)


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