Chamber Music at the Barn begins America’s birthday celebration week with toe-tapping horn music and ends with virtuosic mandolin playing.
The Minneapolis-based Hornheads will play a variety of jazz, pop and original numbers. This unusual quintet is internationally known and has played together for more than 20 years.
The group was formed by Prince and toured with him for many years. Prince was even responsible for their name. (Once, he jokingly called them horn heads, and the name stuck.)
Because this group of accomplished musicians plays only horns, Michael Nelson, the group’s trombonist, composer and arranger, said there is no respite once they start playing.
“There’s no place to hide,” he said. “It’s quite exhausting and quite physically demanding.”
Because of this high-energy playing, the audience also gets energized.
Dave Jensen, the Hornheads’ trumpet player, said he adores the sound of the group because the music is organic.
“You are creating the vibration,” said Jensen, a graduate of the Berklee College of Music. “You don’t plug it in. You are creating all the sound and energy yourself.”
Nelson, like all the other members of the group, is an accomplished musician on his own. As a top studio performer, he has appeared on more than 100 recordings. Also, most group members — like Jensen and his wife, saxophonist and fellow Hornhead Kathy Jensen — have toured with top groups and played for Broadway traveling shows.
Because of the players’ skills, they each get a solo during the concert on one of the instruments they play. Steve Strand plays the trumpet, and Kenni Holmen the soprano and tenor saxophones.
The instruments range in age from recently purchased to a 1920s baritone saxophone that Kathy Jensen’s father played while he was in the U.S. Navy Band during World War II.
Unlike Nelson and Dave Jensen, who started playing their respective instruments in middle school, Kathy Jensen started out playing the clarinet, then switched to the saxophone family after high school.
The Hornheads have three albums under the Hornheads name and enjoy working together and entertaining others.
“We have a great time together,” Kathy Jensen said. “We laugh constantly.”
Mike Marshall and Caterina Lichtenberg, two highly accomplished mandolinists, enjoy themselves on stage as well.
“We’re very lighthearted,” Marshall said.
Marshall, a Pennsylvania native who grew up in Central Florida, began to play the guitar at age 10 but quickly graduated to the mandolin.
Lichtenberg, born in Bulgaria but raised in East Germany, started on the mandolin at age 6.
Both are accomplished mandolinists, but each musician has a specialty. Marshall resonates with a strong jazz and Brazilian beat, while Lichtenberg, a mandolin professor at Cologne University of Music in Germany, is superb at classical tunes.
Although the two mandolin virtuosos, who have several recordings with others and on their own, knew of each other for years, they had not met.
“I knew about her and had her CDs, but I didn’t meet her until I hired her,” Marshall said. Soon after their meeting, the two mandolinists joined forces in both music and marriage. Their music crosses paths for the concert. But while touring and teaching, Lichtenberg continues her classical venue while Marshall branches out with his own compositions, and folk, rock and jazz tunes. And for this year’s concert at Chamber Music at the Barn, the couple will perform a Bulgarian folk tune.
“Between the two of us, we cover all this mandolin territory,” Marshall said. “I bring in a lot of other elements and spices.”