Members of the Annapolis Brass Quintet say the horn, trombone, tuba and trumpet are the best instruments for expressing Christmas carols. For 10 years, the chamber ensemble has been putting those words into practice by performing classical and contemporary Christmas pieces for its audiences.

The group, which bills itself as America's only full-time performing brass quintet, also released an album, "The Spirit of Christmas Brassed," in 1977 on the Richardson label. The album includes the full scope of seasonal sentiment -- from sad to gleeful.

But the quintet's players are men for all seasons. Undergoing a considerable change in membership in the last decade, the group has released three other albums. Its European and American tours, brass symposiums and performance of new brass works have helped foster a growing interest in brass chamber music.

In addition to officially opening the season for the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre in Rockville in October, the quintet has participated since the summer of 1979 in the first residence program by a chamber music group in a shopping mall. The program, at the Village Square in the planned Village of Cross Keys in Baltimore, includes a series of open rehearsals, master classes, workshops and concerts. It is part of "Art in the Marketplace," a project by the Rouse Co., which designed and developed Cross Keys. The program also is supported by funds from the C. Michael Paul Foundation of New York, the Maryland State Arts Council and the Merchants of Cross Keys. It has developed into an annual international brass quintet festival and symposium.

"We must not limit ourselves to traditional and long-proven audience sources," one member said of the group's shopping mall concerts. "As artists in a medium that has often been thought of as self-exclusive, stuffy, boring and beyond the reach of the common man, we must leave the ivory tower and play where the people are."

The quintet's members are David Cran, trumpet; Robert Suggs, trumpet; Marc Guy, horn; Wayne Wells, trombone; and Robert Posten, bass trombone and tuba.

The Annapolis Brass Quintet will reach its broadest audience when it appears on television at 9 tonight on Channel 22 and 67. The program is titled "Christmas with the Annapolis Brass Quintet." The group also will play a Christmas concert in Annapolis Sunday at 7:30 p.m. at Calvary United Methodist Church on Rowe Boulevard.