Edinburgh Fringe 2015
French-Canadian Buzz Brass capture the whole history of music in a whirlwind hour, with some sublime brass and silliness thrown in. A must for anyone with even the slightest interest in music.
To the elegant New Town Theatre for The History of Music which is billed as a children’s show but actually works for any age. Sure, there are plenty of families with youngsters scattered around the cavernous arena but there’s a fair smattering of wrinklies as well. And the entertainment appears to have already started as we saunter in – what sounds like a lot of brass instruments warming up in fact morphs into something resembling one of those modern classical pieces that sends music critics rushing for their dictionaries in the hope of finding ever more hyperbolic adjectives to describe what they’ve heard.
No need for that here though. This is entertainment that educates and speaks for itself. Our wonderfully narcissistic master of ceremonies forms an immediate connection with the audience, especially an entranced family in the front row, as cave men canter around demonstrating percussion – vocal, hand and foot – that probably formed man’s first attempt at music although, with no MP3 recordings available, we’ve only his word for it.
It’s then a helter-skelter rush through the thousands of years over which music has developed, visiting genre that included antiquity, religious, baroque, classical, musicals, jazz and several others. Each is genre cleverly illustrated with classics encompassing Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Vivaldi, Gabrieli and many others. No time is wasted explaining to people what they’ve just heard, the musicians let the music do the talking for them. But it’s fun to hear polyphonic church music and plain chant played by a brass quintet.
Rapid and multiple changes of costume on the part of the quintet signpost the variance periods they are covering. Slapstick, prat-falls, some very neat choreography and an enormous helping of silliness ensure that the young audience stays completely in tune with what’s going on. Never patronising, always engaging, our MC even manages to convey the essence of opera – one plot covers the lot and they go on for hours just about summed it up.
Make no mistake, behind all the larking about are five very serious musicians and an MC with an art for clowning and communication. They never lost touch with their audience, young or old. You can always tell when kids are enjoying themselves – they want to join in the fun and they don’t want to go at the end. And judging by the amount of shooing that was needed to get the audience out of the arena at the end, Buzz Brass have nailed it. An absolute must for any music lover and it’s a sure-fire cure for bored kids.