Anyone who has attended Canadian Brass concerts knows to expect the unexpected. But who would have thought that the people seated on stage for the group's appearance last night in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall were not part of the overflow audience but rather the Oratorio Society of Washington, there to lead the yuletide sing-along that closed the program?

Assisted by conductor Robert Shafer, the Brass and chorus led several carols and a rousing performance of Handel's "Hallelujah" Chorus to end a thoroughly enjoyable concert that again brought together the many ingredients that make this ensemble unique.

The facile and sensitive playing heard in arrangements of Byrd's "Earl of Oxford's March" and Mozart's "Turkish Rondo" would by itself provide ample amazement and pleasure. When humor and acrobatics are added in -- Pannell's "The Marriage of Figg, R.O." and tuba solos on "Flight of the Bumblebee" and Rossini's "Largo al factotum" -- a brand of entertainment results that is without peer in the chamber field.

It takes real artists to pull all these qualities together, to blend irreverence, wit and phenomenal musicianship into a cohesive musical presentation. The Canadian Brass have the perfect formula. -- Roy Guenther