Achilles Liarmakopoulos, one of the five members of Canadian Brass, first played the trombone when he was 10 years old. “The Queen of Salsa Music, Celia Cruz, came to Athens, Greece, and did a concert, and there was an amazing trombone player in the band. I fell in love with the instrument,” he said.
After completing degrees at San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Curtis Institute of Music and Yale University, Liarmakopoulos joined Canadian Brass in 2011. He was the trombonist with the quintet when they performed at BJU during the 2013–14 Concert, Opera and Drama Series season and will be returning on March 17. Liarmakopoulos has fond memories of his visit.
“We love (BJU),” he said. “It’s amazing. We remember the hall. The kids, the people, I remember they were all so nice because after the concert we meet and greet our audience. Bob Jones University is one of the places that I really remember.”
With its 2020 season, Canadian Brass is celebrating its 50th year. Chuck Daellenbach and Gene Watts, who founded the group, loved displaying the versatility of brass instruments. Liarmakopoulos said that the group still enjoys “discovering the beauty of brass and the versatility that brass can have. … You play so many styles. You can play from classical to pop, even rock.”
Liarmakopoulos said he is blessed to work with Daellenbach, who is the foundation of the group: “Chuck is amazing. He’s a genius. He’s an incredible tuba player. He’s a legend in the brass world. He’s the guy that pretty much changed a lot of the history of brass music and where it’s heard.
“He plays beautifully. He has a very distinct sound, and I think that’s one of the things that make Canadian Brass recognizable. The tuba is the bass of everything, so that sound has been there for 50 years.”
Not only is Daellenbach responsible for much of Canadian Brass’s success, he’s to blame for the lighthearted, comedic tone of the group. “He always likes to joke around. He’s very funny,” said Liarmakopoulos.
Fitting with their performance style, Canadian Brass has a signature look: colorful socks and white sneakers. In the early years, the group played a piece titled “Tribute to the Ballet” during which they wore ballet shoes. From the audience, however, the ballet shoes looked like sneakers. The group decided to switch to white sneakers because they were more comfortable.
“It’s become a trademark,” said Liarmakopoulos. “The group wears white sneakers.” The socks add a touch of whimsy, and the group sells its own branded socks.
For a sneak peek of the Canadian Brass performance, watch the Youtube video of “Flight of the Bumblebee.” Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. performance March 17 are available online or by calling Programs & Productions at (864) 770-1372.