As concert coordinator for the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, Flanagan knows his way around concert programming. His picks for Project 88 offered a chance for the octet of brass musicians to shine – Dan Price, Michael Terrasi and David Nakazono on trumpet; Katie Seybold and Thomas Vienna on horn; Flanagan on trombone; Terrell Boykin on bass trombone; and Bradley Geneser on tuba.
Case in point: Leroy Anderson’s “Bugler’s Holiday” (Flanagan, Price, Terrasi, Nakazono), a piece that starts out like a race horse jumping the gun and hurtles along with increasing speed until it seems like the ensemble is providing the soundtrack for an extremely high-stakes game of musical chairs. The number is a frenzied celebration that demands the musicians play right up to the edge of sonic chaos before resolving in a major-chord fanfare.
Coming on the heels of that tuba “Nutcracker” (Seybold, Vienna, Boykin, Geneser), it also offered audiences a mini-tutorial in the difference between high and low brass.
The octet regrouped for Bill Reichenbach’s “Jingle Bells,” which starts out with a prolonged riff on “2001: A Space Odyssey” and continues with Sousa snippets and the aforementioned dreidel-dreidel-dreidel theme woven into the sleigh bells.
Flanagan arranged much of the music, including a stripped-down take on Mykola Leontovych’s “Carol of the Bells.” Usually, the elliptical Ukrainian carol is a whirling dervish, the dominant theme circling in kaleidoscopic variations. Flanagan’s arrangement grounded the spin with a deep, tolling resonance, musical roots anchored in ground even as the notes soared heavenward.