10-piece Brass Ensemble Reimagines Musical Favorites

TenThing's first US tour begins in March
By Catherine Yang
Catherine Yang
Catherine Yang
February 17, 2017 Updated: February 17, 2017

A decade ago, Norwegian classical trumpet soloist Tine Thing Helseth and three friends she’d met in school—all trumpet players, all girls—decided that they were having so much fun playing together as a brass ensemble, why not invite more brass players? 

“It was all girls, so we thought, why not keep it all girls?” Helseth said. They invited other friends, and friends of friends, and soon had a 10-piece brass band. Touring the world as a classical soloist playing Mozart and Brahms is highly fulfilling, but when it comes to the brass ensemble TenThing, it’s all about fun.

“One of the goals is to show the joy of some classical music. It really is just a lot of fun,” she said. The girls incorporate a bit of choreography, popping up in the audience here and there, and audience members often take selfies with them, Helseth added. “It happens spontaneously—that’s the most fun.”

The program includes pieces like Mozart’s “Turkish March” (Rondo alla Turca), Bizet’s “Carmen,” Vivaldi’s “Summer” from “The Four Seasons,” Handel’s “Music for the Royal Fireworks,” and Tchaikovsky’s “Valse Sentimentale.”

“Basically some classical music highlights,” Helseth said.

Of course, none of these pieces were originally written for brass ensembles, so Helseth took the music to her friend Jarle Storlokken, a Norwegian guitarist, who arranged the popular works into medleys for 10 brass players. 

TenThing’s programs also always include pieces originally by Norwegian composers, Helseth said. The U.S. tour includes four pieces by the Norwegian Romantic composer Edvard Grieg, including the prelude of his “Holberg Suite,” one of his most-played works.

“[It] has been our opening piece in every single concert since we started 10 years ago,” Helseth said. Grieg had written it for the 200th anniversary of the classical-era playwright Ludvig Holberg; it was originally composed for piano and he performed it himself at a celebration, and he transcribed it for orchestra soon after. The high-energy prelude is usually heard on strings, but it makes for a great opener on brass as well.

“It’s one of the most joyful and energetic pieces I know,” Helseth said. “It sets us and the audience in the mood, and it’s great to bring some Norwegian music abroad.”

The ensemble has toured all over Europe and is making its first appearance in the United States in March. The group will visit New York, South Dakota, Minnesota, California, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Indiana.