Canadian Brass tuba player Chuck Daellenbach is reclining in an easy chair at his Rosedale home, sharing anecdotes about his music career.
One tale in particular that stands out involves his role in one of the most iconic photos in Canadian history: former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau doing a pirouette behind Queen Elizabeth II.
“The picture of me shaking hands with the Queen, he was doing the twirl,” Daellenbach says, adding the photographs picked up their tempo when Trudeau upstaged him. “It was a command performance in the National Art Centre, and Buffy St. Marie and Leona Boyd were there.”
Daellenbach bridges his recollection to a time when the arts were blossoming in Canada.
The Canadian Brass got their start in 1970, at a time when Trudeau’s Liberals were conducting official business in Ottawa, Bill Davis was premier of Ontario and Peter Lougheed was premier of Alberta. Daellenbach is the only original member still with the band.
“The convergence was perfect,” he says, as he glances off into space. “Without getting too political, we had the Liberals up in Ottawa, and they loved music — that was Trudeau, and they said he would sneak out as a private citizen and sneak into the National Art Centre.”
Such positive reinforcement from several levels of government, as well as national broadcaster CBC, allowed the Canadian Brass to gain momentum, and eventually international acclaim.
So, the group’s April 27 performance at the Mooredale Concerts at Mount Pleasant Road and Crescent Road was literally a homecoming — a tip of the hat to the city that gave them their start.
He lives just around the corner from the venue with pianist wife M.B., and sons Chris and Willis, 23 and 18 years old respectively.
“This was an amazing time to start something, and those of us lucky enough to hit into something that could be taken internationally — we just killed it as a general group of Canadian-born attractions,” he says, adding that ballet and comedic talents were making it big abroad.
“It was an amazing time.”
Daellenbach is coy when it comes to answering the age question (he’s in his 60s), preferring to admit he was fresh out of college when he struck up the band with colleague Gene Watts, and then offers a joke as a sign of good humour.
“There’s a weak joke about tubas, and it’s about how old you have to be to play a tuba, and the answer is, ‘Old enough to lift it up, and young enough to still want to’.”