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Balanced Variation: A Performance Review
Michael C. McDonough


Balanced Variation a review of the performance by Trombones de Costa Rica at The Bermuda Festival in Hamilton, Bermuda on Friday, February 7th, 2003. Personnel: Alejandro Gutierrez (Director), Leonel Rodriguez, and Martin Bonilla - Tenor Trombone; Ivan Chinchilla - Bass Trombone; Freddy Melendez - Percussion With a special guest appearance by: Kenneth Amis- Tuba

One can understand and appreciate balance living and working atop a dormant volcano eight hundred miles from the nearest point of land. Balance in Bermuda is important. We have enough rain to keep away our thirst and enough sun to keep the several hundred thousand guests we attract each year coming back for more, balance! In such a small place, we also crave a bit of variation now and then. We do see tend to see the same faces among our friends and family. Bermudians heartily welcomed five new friends and wonderful performers from Costa Rica who on Friday February 7th, 2003 gave us a hefty dose of both balance and variation.

One could almost imagine a matador striding to the center of a ring in any Central American country bringing the crown to its feet by his presence and deportment. That is exactly the impression Alejandro Gutierrez left with this reviewer when he began to stomp his foot bringing to life the other members of the quartet appearing from the dark in various corners of the City Hall auditorium to play Elegy For Mippy II by Bernstein especially arranged for the group; a very impressive opening!

In Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by J.S. Bach the theme and variations seamlessly passed from player to player and the dynamics and range displayed by the group was inspiring. Mr. Gutierrez stated one of the goals of Trombones de Costa Rica is “to perform at such a level that the audience should have some difficulty detecting which member is carrying the theme”. The group’s goal was more than accomplished during this concert.

City Hall Theater was the venue in the capital of Bermuda, Hamilton. This stately structure and hall designed by one of Bermudas leading architects, Will Onion. Also includes the Bermuda National Gallery. The perfect setting for Trombones de Costa Rica to perform Vinicio Meza’s piece Images. The playing of this piece evoked many of the images found in the National Gallery’s collection.

World premiers can be exciting, disturbing and a bit risky. The Episodes, for Tuba and Trombone Quartet by the same Vinicio Meza was technically challenging for the players, melodically interesting for the audience and superbly executed by the group. Kenneth Amis demonstrated why he is currently a member of the Empire Brass with his interpretation of Meza’s work. Mr. Amis, a native Bermudian and local favorite, skills at composition and arranging were showcased when the quartet played his Variations for Trombone Quartet a contrasting piece in structure and style demonstrating the ability of this group to transform and vary its performance.

Concluding the first half with Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Macavity Cat captured the crowd. The choreography and execution of the arrangement were tasteful and entertaining.

The second half began with a story about Costa Rican young men serenading their lovers and Amanda Mia by Jose Nogueras was played by the quartet strolling through the audience. The percussion accompaniment of Freddy Melendez was a tasteful addition.

This group did not deny their culture or musical roots. They displayed them to perfection with driving renditions of Tico Tico by Vinicio Meza. and The Missing Samba composed and arranged for the ensemble by Alvaro Esquivel with the help of Melendez on percussion.

Trombone are one of the few instruments that change shape as they are played and the sonorous and elegant Edwards trombones heard at this concert worked to keep up with the changes they were driven through by the Trombones de Costa Rica . Their upcoming tour of the United States should not be missed.

For more information on the Trombones da Costa Rica, please visit their website.


Michael McDonough was trained at the Philadelphia Musical Academy. He studied with Robert Harper, Bass Trombone with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Richard Genevese, and currently lives in Bermuda and continues to play in the brass quartet Brassorks and for the Gilbert & Sullivan Society.

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