Arts & Culture

Second City brings new musicians, unusual instrument to its Spotlight

Think “virtuosic solo instrument” and the euphonium isn’t likely to come to mind. A smaller cousin to the tuba, it’s still a hefty brass instrument with a low pitch and a less-than-flashy reputation. But in the hands of Tacoma native Jason Gilliam, it shines.

This Sunday at First Lutheran Church, it’ll be in the spotlight as Gilliam teams with pianist Jeff Orr for a Second City Chamber Series Spotlight concert of solo music for euphonium.

It’s a first appearance for both Gilliam and Orr with Second City, but it’s a long-overdue one. Gilliam has been wowing South Sound audiences for two decades as euphonium soloist with the Tacoma Concert Band, including recent concertos and a European tour (fingers flying on a YouTube recording of Sarasate’s virtuosic violin piece “Introduction and Tarantella”). He also performs throughout the nation and in Europe as an official Yamaha performing artist. With two degrees from the University of Puget Sound, he also teaches at Pacific Lutheran University.

Orr, another UPS alum, is the longtime organist at Mason United Methodist Church and is an in-demand pianist around Tacoma.

“Jason Gilliam and Jeff Orr are two South Sound institutions,” said SCCS artistic director Svend Rønning. “They’re both magnificent musicians.”

As with other rare instrument players, euphonium soloists have to get creative with repertoire. On the program for Sunday are works by Hungarian tuba player Roland Szentpali, as well as contemporary composers like Yasuhide Ito (Japan), Derek Bourgeois (Britain) and Philip Sparke (United States). There’s a concertino by 20th-century German film composer Rolf Wilhelm, a “Slavic Fantasy” by late-romantic German composer and cornet player Carl Hohne, and the Impromptu op. 35 no. 9 by Russian romantic composer Rheinhold Gliere, originally written for bassoon but with lyrical phrases that work just as well on euphonium.