THE 5 BROWNS Siblings put their own spin on classical music
Their second album was No. 1 on the classical charts for 20 weeks.
By JOHN BENSON
Classical music is getting a shot of youthfulness from piano-playing siblings The 5 Browns.
The quintet -- Ryan, 20, Melody, 21, Gregory, 23, Deondra, 25, and Desirae, 27 -- hails from Salt Lake City but honed its ivory tickling craft while studying at New York City's prestigious Julliard School. In fact, during a five-year stretch, all five Browns were in the Big Apple at the same time.
It wasn't until Deondra and Desirae approached graduation that their future was solidified as The 5 Browns. During a recent phone call to their home in Utah, the five siblings explained their brief journey.
"We kind of were like, oh my gosh, what are we going to do with our lives?" Desirae said. "Then a manager approached us and said, 'I think there is something here.'"
The family decided to pursue the notion of performing simultaneously on stage; however, there was one big problem -- they didn't have five pianos, so how could they practice?
"We actually would drive to the Steinway Piano dealership closest to our home in Salt Lake City," Desirae said. "We probably drove them nuts just playing all of the time. They let us practice there and eventually they worked it out so we could get five pianos on loan."
From there, the five-piece recorded its self-titled debut, which landed them on the top of the Billboard classical charts. Ostensibly refurbishing the classics for a newer, and decidedly younger, audience is the modus operandi of The 5 Browns.
"What we do is take familiar classical pieces and arrange them differently," Deondra said. "We arrange it for the five pianos so you can kind of get a new sense of how these pieces are, and we also try to throw in some maybe less familiar pieces for the people that are classical connoisseurs to give them something as well to listen to. So we have a great time doing a mix of all sorts of classical music."
On its recently released sophomore album, "No Boundaries," which was No. 1 for 20 weeks straight on Billboard's classical charts, The 5 Browns recorded Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," Copland's "Simple Gifts" and Lecouna's "Malaguena from Andalucia Suite."
So what is it that has attracted not only classical music lovers but pop fans as well?
"I think music has been kind of the same for quite a while in the pop industry. Maybe people are looking for something new," Desirae said. "This is the age of iPod, and everybody has a little bit of everything. The classical options for people as far as regular mainstream America, what they've heard in the classical music world, it's not that broad so maybe they're picking it up because they've seen us on TV or read about us."
She added, "So we're pretty lucky in that way that we've been able to be advocates of classical music in a form that's usually reserved for pop artists."
Seemingly overnight the outfit has become pop stars with national coverage ranging from "The Oprah Winfrey Show" to "60 Minutes," "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and "People Magazine." The outfit says comparisons to another Utah-based family -- and Mormon -- group The Osmonds are natural, but The 5 Browns are a classical group with a pop edge.
Audiences have flocked to see the group, which is currently touring nonstop. This includes a Thursday date at the W.D. Packard Music Hall in Warren.
"We have such a great time playing," Melody said. "It's been such a great experience just having five pianos on a stage. The sound is immense, and just seeing all of our individual styles coming together and kind of making this sort of synergy, it's just a lot of fun and really cool to see that everybody can enjoy this music."