Every year around this time, the Maine-based quintet known as The Downeast Brass (Andrew Foster, trumpet; Mike Peterson, trombone; Mark Mumme, tuba; D. Loren Fields, French horn; and Dwight Tibbetts, trumpet) put on a concert for brass and organ to kick off the holiday season. I hadn’t interviewed Mr. Tibbetts, a Windsor resident, in a while so I decided to kick off my December columns using a chat with this longtime interviewee, who was actually not where I expected him to be.

Q: So, I’m calling Florida now?
Tibbetts: Yes, Melbourne, it’s about an hour and 20 minutes below Daytona on the East Coast, and it’s still here, thank God.

Q: So you just go down during the winter months, I take it?
Tibbetts: Yeah, we come in October and come back the end of April/first of May, but I come back in December for our concerts.

Q: Talk about a perfect segue, I understand that there are some changes coming up with this year’s Christmas concert?
Tibbetts: Oh, yeah. So, we left South Parish a year before last due to several issues: We play very difficult music and to do that with the organist at our back it was just tiring to put that together; and we were all spread out in a balcony playing to the audience’s back. I was a trade-off, though, because the sound there is incredible, and we were there for 10 years.

Q: How does the new venue compare to South Parish?
Tibbetts: Well, before it was a church and with dates for the concert, we found with Green Street it’s a lot easier and more conducive. Also, we’re on the same stage as the organist, who can look right at us, we’re playing at the audience and the quality of sound is still there. It’s a phenomenal venue. But the one disadvantage is size because we were talking about over five hundred people at the end of the South Parish run, and I realized that that was going to be a risk — dropping the numbers in the audience because of changing venues.

Q: So last year was your first time at Green Street, how did it go?
Tibbetts: We had a fair audience. There was probably a couple of hundred maybe — we didn’t get the word out very well. It was the first year there, so that’s why I decided to call you to help get the word out because, when you did it last time (Dec. 12, 2017), attendance almost doubled. And I want to do this every year in Augusta. I want this to be Augusta’s baby, something special that’s high-level in that area for the holiday season.

Q: I remember you telling me that you like to mix up the program every year to keep it fresh for the audience and for the players, as well, so my next question is this: What are you doing this year?
Tibbetts: This year we’re going to have a chorus, so it’ll be an organ, brass and chorus song. We’re just dipping our toe into the lake, at this point, so it’s going to be the finale of the performance.

Q: From where does this chorus originate?
Tibbetts: We’re starting with the Green Street chorus but we’re also contacting other groups like the folks from the Methodist church up in Waterville. The conductor of the Green Street chorus is Sue Pattershall, my old friend from Cony. She’s also the music director at Green Street.

Q: And who’s the organist, the same one from South Parish?
Tibbetts: No, we have our own organist which means we could rehearse with this person anytime we wanted to and it wasn’t limited to that particular church. I mean, she’s an organist from Waterville, and we’ve been doing the brass and organ thing up there, as well, for the last three or four years. Her name is Sharon Saunders, and she’s phenomenal, she’s amazing and can handle this really hard stuff with ease. Sharon is actually facing us, we can move the organ, so that allows us to play even more challenging stuff, which I’m very excited about.

Q: What’s the program going to be like this year?
Tibbetts: Well, the first half is just the brass, and we have about eight tunes there. Then the other half is brass and organ. Then we’re going to finish the concert with brass, organ and chorus.

Q: What song will be that finale?
Tibbetts: It will be “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty,” I’m very excited about this concert, the only concern — the drawback — of having it at Green Street is kind of like South Parish and that’s the parking is limited.

Q: Do I remember correctly that you also do arrangements for brass?
Tibbetts: Yeah, there will be a few in this concert. I always try to include two or three of my own arrangements in each concert that are published and legal. I’ve got about 45 out there in the world for mostly brass.

Q: Do you do anything for brass and organ?
Tibbetts: I do not. I should because there is a shortage out there — it’s really difficult. I mean, if you knew the hours spent in scouring the internet for good brass-and-organ music, there’s not a lot of it out there.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to pass on to the folks reading this article?
Tibbetts: Come out and feel the holiday spirit, that’s what it is all about, coming together. There’s so much stress in the world right now, so much tension and unrest and finger-pointing, let’s take a break from it. Turn off the TV and go out to a concert and feel the love!

Lucky Clark has spent 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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