Meet the Brass

Washington Revels Brass
Washington Revels Brass in their "practice room" at the Washington Episcopal School... the "family reunion" begins! Photo by Elizabeth Fulford Miller

Well, it certainly was a big weekend in the life of this year’s Christmas Revels production — the full cast (adults, teens, children, musicians, and actors) finally has an opportunity to work through the entire show… in costume!  The “November weekend” at the Washington Episcopal School is also notable because it is the first time that we get together each year with our wonderful brass quintet.  As Music Director, I can tell you that we have THE BEST brass quintet!  Not only are they great musicians, but they are family.  In fact, they consider each Christmas Revels run (since they started with us in 1996) to be a “family reunion.”

Sharon Tiebert Maddox
Sharon Tiebert Maddox playing her french horn. By day, Sharon is the Director of Strategic Operations in the Office of the Vice President at Johns Hopkins University. Photo by Elizabeth Fulford Miller

Led by Robert Posten (the guy with the beard, above, playing the bass trombone), this group has performed under many “names” over the years — Boar’s Head Brass (2007), Belsnickel Brass (2006), Royall Noyse Brass (2004), Trombadori i Firenze (2009), Puddletown Brass (2010), and more — I wonder what their name will be this year??? Other members of the group are Robert Birch (trumpet), David Cran (trumpet), Sharon Tiebert Maddox (french horn), and Ben Fritz (trombone).

Prior to their yearly gig with The Christmas Revels, these musicians were known as the Annapolis Brass Quintet (at least, most of them).  America’s first full-time performing brass ensemble, this  group spent twenty-two years (from 1971 to 1993) playing in all fifty states and throughout Europe, the Orient, the Middle East, Central America and Canada.  Learn more about them at (and you can even see some great photos of the group).

The next time we see the brass will be on Sunday at our run through at the Sidwell Friends School, and then we all move into Lisner Auditorium on Monday.  I will be sure to get some candid shots of the group in their dressing room.  There are two features that I look forward to each year:  1. A photo retrospective (group photo) from each year that they have performed in The Christmas Revels; and 2. Lots and lots of baked goods and chocolate treats… the brass room is a great place to get a little “nosh” during the show.  Stay tuned …

4 Replies to “Meet the Brass”

  1. The brass are a joy to work with every year. My favorite part about having them on stage is when they assist Don Spinelli, the sound effects guru, in adding a comic emphasis to funny scenes. 🙂

  2. Yes, Don Spinelli will be featured soon. He is the sixth member of the brass quintet (so, I guess is kind of like the sixth wheel?). He plays timpani, drums, tambourine, and many, many sound effects. This year, expect to see him on stage much more than usual… so much of our music this year needs percussion! Thanks for commenting.

    So, if you have seen (or performed in) a Christmas Revels before, what is your favorite Brass or Don Spinelli moment?

    1. Favorite Brass-Spinelli? A lot to choose from, but the one that jumps out at me was the underscoring from Vainamoiren retrieving the sun in 2005 Northlands.

      Favorite Brass ensemble piece? Hands down, “Old Joe Clark” from 2006 Early American. Go trumpets! You always got me revved up for the show with that opener!

  3. Betsy, thanks for this Brass history! I had no idea the ensemble had been around for so long and had such an illustrious past. I always knew we were lucky to have them, but — wow!

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