Walking into the sanctuary of Lord of Love Lutheran Church on a Wednesday night during the school year, one hears the sound of trumpets reverberating throughout the room.
Wednesday nights are practice nights for the church brass band, one of the few such bands in Omaha. Members of the group, which include two French horn players, three trumpeters, two trombonists and one tuba player, saunter in around 6 p.m. Brass instruments are put together. The musicians laugh, they smile, and their friendship shines brighter than their instruments.
“Stop!” said trumpet player Kirk Conyers during a practice of the song “In Christ Alone.” “So, leggiero is light. I don't think I was playing it light.”
The group played the tune again.
“You know, I think it would help if we slowed it down a bit in that middle part,” said fellow trumpet player Rex Quadhamer.
“I'm OK with that,” shrugged director and trombone player Brian Lund. The group played the tune through again, then began nodding at one another in agreement.
The group performs about one Sunday a month, mostly for festival Sundays and other special occasions. This particular day, the group practiced for Reformation Sunday, the festival commemorating the day on which Martin Luther posted his 95 theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, on Oct. 31, 1517.
“You should come,” Conyers said. “You'll get to hear 31 flavors of 'A Mighty Fortress.'”
Lord of Love's brass band has been around for nearly 40 years, starting soon after the church was built in 1972. Horn player Helen Jordon has played with the group for many of those years.
“Originally, I didn't have my own horn, but the group said, 'if you can get a horn, you can play.' I borrowed a horn several times before I bought one from a friend.”
Jordon said one of her favorite parts about the group is when it becomes unified.
“When we're really going, it ceases to be eight individuals, and it becomes one organism that breathes and moves together. When that happens, we all kind of sit back and go, 'yeah! That was good!' ”
Jordon credits the unification to leader Brian Lund.
“It's his incredible patience, his willingness to listen to everyone's input,” Jordon said. “His knowledge of music and his love for it.”
Lund, who has a degree in music education from Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D., arrived in Omaha with his wife in May 1979. They began attending church at Lord of Love almost immediately.
“We went that first Sunday we were in town, and we really enjoyed the service there. We found the music to be wonderful.”
It didn't take long for Jordon to discover that Lund could play brass instruments.
“He was watching us play, and one of the other French horn players had a problem with a string,” Jordon said. Horns have strings that connect the valves to the levers. “He helped her with her horn and has been part of the group since then.”
Jordon helped Lund organize the brass group at that point.
“Helen pretty much knew who everyone was,” Lund said. “We played that Easter, and it went pretty well. After that we started playing different festival Sundays. Our pastor at the time, he really enjoyed having the brass play.”
Lund became immersed in the group, using it as a way to express his faith.
“I think for Brian it's a very concrete way for him to express his love for the Lord,” Jordon said. “It's a service. Nobody gets paid to do this, including Brian.”
“We quickly found some music that was a little more jazzy to play than traditional church brass music,” Lund said.
On a warm October Wednesday, the group went from playing the more traditional “In Christ Alone” to “Stand Up and Shout.” The hour-long practice session resulted in about half an hour of playing and half an hour of laughter, but that's the beauty of this group.
The camaraderie is what brought Conyers to the group. He does not belong to Lord of Love, but was recruited by Lund through the Nebraska Wind Symphony, a group they both play in.
“This group is just a lot of fun for me,” Conyers said.
Lund often allows young people to join the group, as well as those who don't profess to be good musicians but simply want to play.
“I played from high school into college,” said trumpet player Chris Ramsay. “Then I did not play from about '87 on. I picked it up again four years ago. My dad mentioned they had the brass band here, and I called Brian and he said come on in.
“It's taken a couple of years to become good again. I practice for two to four hours a night.”
The group members enjoy performing as much as they do spending time together.
“Every time you have a chance to play, it's great,” said Quadhamer. “So many people play in high school and never play again.”