By Katherine Karlson
It was three years in the making, but, on April 2, the Binghamton Philharmonic will finally host one of the city’s most popular and acclaimed musical sons as he showcases his trombone talent.
Christopher Bill, the most subscribed-to brass musician on YouTube, has given some school clinics locally in the past, but this will be his first public performance in the Triple Cities. For this Binghamton debut, Bill will be joined with three world-class trombonists: TJ Robinson, Dan Levine and Melissa Gardiner. Gardiner, a Syracuse native, recently played with a funk band in a sold-out concert at Madison Square Garden.
A classically trained musician (SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Music), Bill, 29, found himself arranging the music he was listening to — be it the Beatles or Pearl Jam — in the manner he knew from his collegiate studies.
“I treat it like a Bach chorale, and the melody just happens,” he said.
Bill, who, as a student, lent his talents to the Binghamton Youth Symphony and various ensembles at Union-Endicott High School, considers himself an arranger first and a performer second, a result born of sheer necessity.
“The trombone has been overlooked — not many people write for it — but what’s cool about trombones is that they’re part of every kind of band: jazz, wedding, classical,” he said in a recent interview. “People think of us doing only one thing with the trombone, but there’s a deep history of the many sounds you can make with it.”
In his recording studio, Bill will typically lay out a basic track and start building on it with his trombone. Those multi-track, foot-tapping tunes have shot him to the top of the YouTube music charts (classicaltrombone).
The quartet’s performance will feature trombone arrangements of Bill’s favorite subset of music: movie and television scores. During the pandemic, he would livestream and often improvised a solo after laying down the cornerstone tune. Audience members shouldn’t be surprised if this happens at next month’s concert.
The downtown Holiday Inn will provide a more intimate venue for the audience to become acquainted with the unfamiliar sound of a trombone quartet, Bill said. Think of it as chamber music for brass.
The trombonist-arranger will offer a demonstration to middle and high school students at Binghamton High School the day before the concert. Bill will show student musicians how he creates his multi-layered tracks, building sound upon sound through the use of various technologies. “I use it as a jumping-off point for creativity,” he said.
Bill is often told that “it looks like you’re having fun,” when he plays, especially in a quartet such as this one, and he promises that’s what the audience will experience. “Come wearing your dancing shoes,” he added.
IF YOU GO: The Christopher Bill Quartet will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 2, in the Holiday Inn, 2-8 Hawley St., Binghamton. General admission tickets are $25. For more information and to order tickets, call the box office at 607-723-3931, ext. 1, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, or visit the BPO’s website, www.binghamtonphilharmonic.org.