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Foothills Brass plays return engagement

Adam Johnson
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 01/06) - When you ask Chris Morrison what draws people to performances by his group, Foothills Brass, he boils it down to two words: "Serious fun."

"We're classical musicians," Morrison, the brass quintet's co-founder explains. "We have to take seriously that we have to play music in different styles and we have to play it well. But you don't have to be stuffy about it."

NNSL Photo/graphic

Tonight and tomorrow, the smooth sounds of Foothills Brass will return to Yellowknife at the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre. - photo courtesy of Chris Morrison

Tonight and tomorrow, the Calgary ensemble will demonstrate how serious their fun can be (or how fun their seriousness can be) at the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre with It's Christmas. The show will feature a wide variety of Christmas and other timely songs, from sing-along carols to jazz, dixieland, and pieces from Handel's Messiah.

"We're playing a lot of good, rousing music," Morrison says from his home in Calgary. "Some of it familiar, some less familiar."

This is the first time Foothills Brass has returned to Yellowknife since a well-received show in 2000. Each time they play is a bit of a homecoming, Morrison says.

He was raised in the NWT, living in the (now-defunct) community of Pine Point, and going to school in Fort Simpson and Yellowknife. He says his first show was in the old gymnasium of Sir John Franklin high school, when he was in Grade 10. That space later became NACC.

"It's an important space to me," he says.

Returning to Yellowknife periodically has lessened the shock of how much the capital has changed since the '60s, he says, since it has grown from less than 5,000 to nearly 20,000 people.

"We find the city much more metropolitan now," he said. "Heck, there's even paved roads."

In 1981, he and his wife Rosalee founded Foothills Brass in Calgary. Since then, they have visited every province and territory in Canada (save Nunavut) and travelled the width and breadth of the United States, playing as many as 200 shows a year. In the late '80s, they were invited to perform in Israel, "when things were more peaceful over there," playing a Christmas Eve show in Bethlehem.

"We have Christmas credentials, I guess," he says with a laugh.

Morrison credits music fans for the longevity of his group, now in its 25th year. He hopes to maintain this good relationship with the audiences of the North.

"What keeps us going is people seem to want us to keep playing places," he says simply.

Foothills Brass performs its show "It's Christmas" at the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m.