One family, five pianos

Miranda Bader Juice Editor

The 5 Browns, a group of Juliard trained siblings, performed at the Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. on Mon. Sept. 9 for the PAC’s Ten Year Anniversary Gala. 

The group of young mormons have been seen on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Good Morning America, Today, The View to the Martha Stewart Show and Public Radio’s Performance Today. They have also been in popular magazines and newspapers such as The New York Times, Parade, People, The Los Angeles Times, the Sunday London Telegraph and Entertainment Weekly.

The group of talented young adults performs simultaneously on five pianos and practice while on the road in Steinway & Sons own stock rooms. However, the only piece specifically written for five pianos was a piece called Concert Etude Op. 40 No. 3, “Toccatina”, which they explained imitates running water, jazz, Latin and other forms of music.

For the first time ever in the ten years they have performed together, the 5 Browns appeared in South Dakota and were welcomed to the stage with a 15-second applause. 

The family took the stage and began with a breathtaking performance with no music in front of them. The lights turned from blue to a red-orange color, and the smiling faces of the performers turned stiffly dramatic. Not only were they playing the pianos, but putting their entire bodies into an act.

“I have never heard anything like that in my life. When they started playing, my mouth instantly dropped,” said music education major freshman Evy Johnson.

After the dramatic entrance, the lights turned from orange to blue, and the music played softer and at a higher key, while the group shared smiles across the Steinway & Sons pianos.

“These pianos travel with them everywhere they go. They were in Chicago with them two nights ago and will be the exact same pianos they’ll use in two weeks,” said David Reynolds, head of the Music Department. 

The group performed The Rite of Spring: Part One and explained that in order to understand the piece, the audience had to visualize themselves in Paris in 1913. Men would be wearing tuxedos and women would be in Victorian gowns, all going to see a ballet performance. When the curtains opened, women wearing very primitive clothing would stomp all around the stage and the audience who thought they were coming to see a ballet performance would become frustrated and riot, and within the audience would be a circle of wise elders. In the middle of the wise elders would be a young woman dancing herself to death. The piece created drama and darkness, which was what the Browns wanted. 

One thing that was apparent was how professional the performers were. Their wardrobe matched their classy performance and their stage presence was suitable for the amazing music they played together. Even The Rite of Spring was so well thought out, visually and musically.

Josh Jasper, junior music education major said, “It’s pretty incredible, the talent this family spits out and to see it for our own eyes in South Dakota … on our own stage.”