Conductor and teacher Hector Salazar may not be having the best year of his life, but he seems to be weathering the pandemic with unusual sangfroid. Retired from his full-time job at El Camino College, he has not slowed down, and the shutdown has just brought out more determination in his character. His year culminates with the Southern California Brass Consortium, which he founded, playing a leading role in the 61st Annual L.A. County Holiday Celebration.
Presented in conjunction with The Music Center in downtown Los Angeles and filmed on location at both The Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and Jerry Moss Plaza and at sites around Los Angeles County, the three-hour Holiday Celebration spotlights 22 L.A.-based groups and will air on PBS SoCal starting at 3 p.m. PST on Dec. 24, and simultaneously stream on pbssocal.org/holidaycelebration, kcet.org, and holidaycelebration.org.
Acts include Latin folk band Cuñao, Hawaiian music from Daniel Ho Trio and Hālau Keali`i o Nālani with special guest Tia Carrere, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, Jung Im Lee Korean Dance Academy, Pacifico Dance Company, Gospel choir Praizum led by Lorenzo Johnson, Infinite Flow – An Inclusive Dance Company (comprised of dancers with and without disabilities), and Salazar’s Brass Consortium, which has taken part twice since 2013, when the group was founded.
The SCBC, says Salazar, is neither a brass quintet nor a traditional brass band on the English model. Its 26 players include a harpist and, of course, percussion (useful for marches and such). The band’s repertoire is often arranged from within, by members such as trumpeter Drew Ninmer and also Drew’s brother, Scott Ninmer (not a member of the band), who has arranged and composed for a wide list of industry professionals and groups (classical and not) and who is currently staff arranger for “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band.
For the big broadcast, SCBC was, of course, recorded separately and their contribution will include the Advent hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” plus a medley of “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” and “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” that was arranged by legendary Hollywood composer Jerry Fielding. The group will also lead the annual finale in Drew Ninmer’s arrangement of “Silent Night,” featuring many of the show’s musicians and dancers singing together.
Salazar’s group was one that began recording remotely in isolation soon after the lockdown began. Using the engineering talents of another in-house musician, Preston Shepherd, they’ve now produced nine “singles” of various repertory. Salazar says he was unfazed by the call to participate in the Holiday Celebration. “With the pandemic and the new format, we were speaking to the show’s producers and we said, ‘Well, we’re already doing that, the virtual performances. So if you agree to what we want to offer you, we’re good to go.’ We got creative with the editing on our end in order to do something visually as well as musically appealing.”
With the show wrapped, Salazar returns to the round of duties of friend and family man. “Locked down Christmas is going to be spent at home and sending remote salutations and greetings to loved ones and friends. Zoom is a good thing.” If Salazar gets along with Zoom, you know he’s chill.