tenThing Brass Ensemble is coming to the Phillips Center on Dec. 6

BY MIGUEL MOLINA, Alachua Chronicle contributor

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Tine Thing Helseth says tenThing Brass Ensemble is excited to spread some holiday cheer.

The group, which is making its first appearance in Gainesville, will perform on Dec. 6 at 7:30 p.m. at the Phillips Center. Hosted by the University of Florida Performing Arts, the show will feature a new holiday-themed program. Tickets cost between $20 and $40, but University of Florida students pay $10; tickets are available from the Phillips Center box office or at tickets.performingarts.ufl.edu.

Helseth, the leader of the ensemble, says this is the first time the group’s Christmas tour has come to the United States. After performing in Naperville, Illinois, the ensemble is looking forward to the warmer weather in Gainesville. What makes this show different from the past tours is the crossover between classical and jazz songs. This Christmas tour has more jazz songs than the other Christmas tours the ensemble has done. 

The performance is 90 minutes long in addition to the intermission. The first half will begin with traditional Norwegian music. For example, the show will open with the folk song “Eg veit i himmerik ei borg.” The first half will also feature classical Christmas music from Germany, England, Italy, and Ukraine. Two songs that will be played are “Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme” by Johann Sebastian Bach and “Christmas Concerto” by Arcangelo Corelli. The group will also play “Carol of the Bells.” Helseth says she knows the tune is popular in the United States, but the song comes from Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych. The second half will feature American Christmas music, with such songs as “White Christmas,” “Let it Snow,” and “Jingle Bell Rock.” Other selections will have nothing to do with Christmas, like “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

Helseth says the group, formed in 2007, is the first-ever Norwegian all-female brass ensemble. The instruments of the band include three trumpets, one flugelhorn, one French horn, one tuba, and four trombones. At first, the band was something the members did for fun. But after a couple of successful projects, the group saw the potential and began to take things more seriously.

The band often tours internationally in places like Germany, Italy, China, and Russia. But when the group is not touring, Helseth performs as a soloist and the other members go back to their jobs in Norway, including freelance work, music lessons, and performances in orchestras.

Helseth says the show can be enjoyed by people of all ages. The main goal is to have a good time, and the group wants the audience to have that goal as well.  “Hopefully they will get a little bit of a Christmas feeling,” Helseth said.

Brian Jose, Director of University of Florida Performing Arts, says the band brings a lot of enthusiasm. For example, the group’s use of works from Geirr Tveitt and from the opera Carmen are some of the ways they show enthusiasm. Because the band brings both enthusiasm and energy, it is easy to get immersed in the performance.

“The show doesn’t require any prep work to enjoy,” Jose said.

When looking for shows, Jose said he looks to see if the artist has an international presence. The organization strives to expose students and the general public to artists from around the world by showcasing different backgrounds, different skill sets, and different viewpoints.

“What we do at UFPA is bring the world to Gainesville,” Jose said.

However, he says the ensemble’s international presence was not the only reason they were invited. In need of another holiday performance for its show season, the UFPA invited tenThing Brass Ensemble because the performers are top-shelf musicians. The organization looks to bring shows of high quality to its venue. Jose says the other part of the job is to provide an individual experience for each member of the audience so people feel like they have left a performance with more than what they came in with.

“My hope is that each individual comes to this performance and really connects with the artist in a deeper way,” Jose said. “Something of an almost a spiritual experience.”