A Carnegie Hall debut, Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring,” a live recording and a new album under a new label.
For being veteran performers, The 5 Browns have enjoyed a number of exciting firsts and dreams-come-true recently.
The piano quintet is comprised of five siblings — Desiree, Deondra, Gregory, Melody and Ryan, respectively — originally from Alpine.
Gregory and Melody Brown discussed the experiences during a phone interview, having made their Carnegie Hall debut less than a week before.
“It was probably one of the most exciting and memorable concerts of our whole career,” Greg said. “It was a huge honor — and a huge relief that it all went well because we were pretty nervous. But it was so fun at the same time, so much fun that I can’t even put it into words.”
Melody said there was certainly an “Oh my gosh, this is Carnegie Hall!” feeling for all five of them, but that the experience also helped them realize how far they had come.
The Browns have played on all sorts of stages in their time, she said. Those stages have included the Grand National Theater in Beijing and the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia.
“There was almost this kind of comfortable feeling of knowing that it was just another hall, just like any other hall that we’ve played in, except of course, that it’s the most iconic.”
She explained that the family grew up watching performances at Carnegie Hall and, coupling that with an audience including many old friends, teachers and professors, the experience was really like coming home.
“At the end I think all of us were on the verge of tears,” Melody said. “We’ve lived through a lot, and to be on that stage, taking those bows — it feels very triumphant.”
Another exhilarating performance took place earlier this year at the Arthur Zenkel Music Center in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. It was May 29, 2013, and The 5 Browns performed a live recording of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” for their latest album on the 100th anniversary of the piece’s original debut.
“It's actually been kind of a dream of ours to get the full ‘Rite of Spring’ arranged for five pianos,” Greg said. “Ever since we started playing together, we’ve wanted to do that.”
The Browns described their arrangement of “Rite of Spring” as “savage” and “revolutionary” on their website. It is one of Russian composer Igor Stravinsky’s most famous works.
The siblings memorized the entire 30 minute-plus piece, and they practiced for months. A lot of the practicing has to be done separately, as they don’t all live in Utah. They’d come together for intense rehearsal in the small amount of time they have together.
Melody explained that the combination of having it memorized, recording it, and doing it all in front of an audience added a “whole other layer of interesting” to the performance. The group had never done a live recording on an album until now.
“This is something totally new for us and something slightly challenging,” Melody said. “Usually we go into the studio where we have our own little space. This was just a lot different.” It was a fresh experience, she said, for a group that has “kind of seen it all.”
The album, titled after “The Rite of Spring,” is their first under the fairly new Steinway and Sons record label. It was released Oct. 29.
“We’re very honored to now be working with them,” Greg said, pointing out that the group has always played on Steinway pianos. “The relationship just sort of made sense to us.”
The album also includes three works from Holst’s “The Planets” and “Dance Macabre: Bacchanal for Five Pianos,” based on Saint-Saëns' “Danse Macabre.” Each of those pieces have been audience favorites for years, Melody said. They were excited to finally get them recorded.
They were also thrilled to be back into album-making after a couple of years. Their last album, “The 5 Browns in Hollywood,” was released in April 2010.
As Melody mentioned, the family has been through a lot in recent years, and they have been busy with everything from touring to school to raising families of their own. Desirae and Deondra started the Foundation for Surviving Abuse, and Desirae and Melody keep a fashion blog on the side.
And from here, they’ll just keep going and just keep growing. Greg said their wheels are always turning about new projects, and they’re already talking about their next album. But first they'll have a busy touring schedule and television appearances.
“Things are always exciting for us, that’s for sure,” Greg said.
To order the album, "Rite of Spring," visit www.the5browns.com.