“New” Music for Brass Trio

As mentioned previously in this post, the Chamber Arts Brass recently performed at the Big 12 Trombone Conference in Lubbock, TX.  We just received the recording from the concert, and overall I’m very pleased with it.  The hall had a nice resonant sound, but you can still hear articulations very clearly.  You can check out recordings of two of the pieces we performed at the end of this post.  The first one is Daniel Schnyder’s Trio for Trumpet, French horn, and Trombone, a relatively new work composed in 1996.  The other piece is one I’m fairly sure most people aren’t familiar with, Diversions for Brass Trio by Roger Jones.  Dr. Jones taught theory, composition, and tuba at The University of Louisiana at Monroe, and retired a few years before I joined the faculty.  I came across this piece while looking over some old Chamber Arts Brass programs from the late 1980s and early 1990s.  I contacted Roger and asked him if he would be willing to send us the piece, and he graciously provided our trio with a full set of parts.  As an introduction to the piece I’ve included some program notes that Roger wrote.

Diversions for Brass Trio was sketched in the spring of 1980 as a compositional exercise to explore the medium made standard by Francis Poulenc’s Sonata for Horn, Trumpet and Trombone. Like that milestone piece, Diversions is neoclassical and at times whimsical. The completed sketch was set aside until 1989, when a few revisions were made, and the work was premiered at The University of Louisiana at Monroe (then Northeast Louisiana University) in April of that year.

Diversions consists of five movements. The first, “Statement”, presents a bold motive that is then developed imitatively. Though starting somewhat brashly, the music leads to a soft conclusion. “Invention” follows with a new motive based on a rising line. Its six sections explore that material contrapuntally and include modified quotes of the “Statement” motive. “March” is the most whimsical of the movements and is set in an ABABA structure The primary melody in “Song” is derived directly from the “Statement” motive. It contrasts with the rising-line motive that has now become a melody itself. “Finale”, also on the whimsical side, is a rondo with most of the episodes containing developmental material. However a new idea is inserted late in the movement for contrast. The “statement” motive again returns several times, and with an abrupt slowing of tempo allows the rising-note theme to appear one final time. It is followed by a last hearing of the “Statement” motive just before the short and brisk conclusion.

Roger Jones 2011

To my knowledge the piece is not published, but it really should be!  It is well-written, accessible to a wide variety of audiences, and very playable.  I do hope that Roger considers publishing the work in the future and making it available to other brass trios.

Chamber Arts Brass, live performance at the Big 12 Trombone Conference, Texas Tech University, January  2011

Alex Noppe, trumpet; James Boldin, horn; Micah Everett, trombone

Daniel Schnyder, Trio for Trumpet, French horn, and Trombone

Movement 1

Movement 2

Movement 3 

Movement 4

Movement 5

Roger Jones, Diversions for Brass Trio

Movement 1

Movement 2 

Movement 3

Movement 4

Movement 5

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Brass Trio Recording Update

When I last posted about our brass trio album, we had just wrapped up a three-day recording session in January (you can read that post here). The project is moving forward, and I’m anticipating a release sometime in the fall of 2018. The tentative title is Scenes from the Bayou, which is the same title as one of the works we commissioned for this recording, composed by Gina Gillie. Here is a complete list of what will be on the disc.

Although the actual recording was a major part of the process, there are still many steps to complete before the album is ready to go.

Step 1: Sift through all of the material from our recording session and select those takes to be used in the first edit. After three days of recording, we had roughly 4.5 gigs of wav files, over 650 tracks! For those who might be interested, these were rough 16-bit mixes, not what things will sound like after final editing and mastering. Sometimes the recording producer and/or engineer will assemble a first edit for the client, depending on their contract, but in this case I was the one going through and providing the take list. Luckily, our producer Gina Gillie took great session notes. These notes helped me group our takes into three broad categories: usable, possibly usable for a spot or two in a given set of measures, and not usable. Lots of these decisions were arbitrary, but I feel good about the choices made for the first edit. From there, the take list was sent off to our engineer, Dave St. Onge.

Step 2: Dave worked incredibly fast (but very accurately) and put together a complete first edit within a matter of days. The first edit sounds very good, and I think the album is going to be an enjoyable listen – high quality, lots of variety, and musically interesting. But, there is still some work to be done. One of my summer projects (already in progress) will be going through the first edit with an even more critical ear to find any issues that need to be addressed for the second (or possibly third) edit. Things like small intonation concerns, precision of attacks (a few cases), and any other rough spots missed during the first edit will be the priorities. Unlike the first edit, I won’t be listening for long stretches of usable material, but instead trying to find small bits and pieces which can be dropped in to address a specific issue. For example, a 16-bar take might be great except for a single chipped note or other small imperfection. I tried to account for these when choosing takes for the first edit, of course, but I’ve already found a few things that slipped through the cracks the first time.

Step 3: Mastering will include tweaking the balance of all three voices to arrive at the final sound of our recording. Again, a very subjective process!

From here there are lots of production-related items to discuss with Mark Custom Recording Service, who will be manufacturing and distributing the album. These include:

  • Mechanical licenses (mostly handled at this point)
  • Package design, cover and interior art (in progress)
  • Liner notes (another summer task)

It’s exciting to see another recording project take shape. Stay tuned for more updates!

Equipment Update: Budget Recording Gear for the Classical Musician

Departing a bit from my previous “Equipment Update” posts, this one is not about horns, mouthpieces, or mutes. Instead it is a basic introduction to recording equipment for the classical musician, with some inexpensive, but functional, recommendations. I’ve owned recording equipment of one kind or another since my undergraduate days, starting with a Sony Minidisc recorder paired with a small Sony microphone, and later upgrading to a variety of handheld audio and video recorders manufactured by Sony, Roland, and Zoom. These were all great devices; portable, easy to use and of high enough quality to use for auditions, recital recordings, and YouTube videos.

Recently, however, I began to wonder if it might be possible to purchase individual components and put together a relatively inexpensive system suitable for live classical recording. I knew from the outset that it was neither feasible nor desirable to purchase the high end gear I’ve seen professional engineers use. My purpose was primarily educational (I teach an Introduction to Music Technology class), though I do plan to use my equipment for some future projects. I’m happy to say that for around $300, I succeeded in finding decent components which get the job done at a level equal to, or better than, the handheld devices listed above. So, what will you need if you want to do the same? Here’s a quick rundown.

  • Laptop or Desktop Computer For the amateur (as I most certainly am when it comes to recording equipment), this is probably the single most expensive component. Luckily I already own a slightly older, but still perfectly serviceable, laptop (13-inch MacBook Pro). A desktop computer would be just fine as well, although less portable than a laptop. If you are in the market for a new laptop or desktop, don’t worry about needing lots of computing power for basic recording needs. Games and other graphic-intensive applications require far more RAM and processing speed. My 4 year old laptop runs my recording equipment just fine. In my opinion, either Mac or PC is fine, choose the platform you are most comfortable using.
  • Audio Interface The next piece of essential equipment, the interface serves several functions: it converts the analog signals from your microphones into digital signals that your computer can process, provides phantom power to your microphones, and functions as a preamplifier. They can be relatively cheap (less than $100), or very expensive (thousands of $$). It all depends on what features you want and how many microphone inputs you need. After some searching around and inquiring from knowledgeable sources, I decided on the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, available for around $150. For my purposes – live solo or chamber music recording in a recital hall – I didn’t think I’d need more than two microphone inputs. I can always upgrade at some point if more inputs become necessary. So far I’ve been very pleased with the Focusrite, it’s sturdy, easy to connect and set up, and functions as advertised.
  • Microphones This is a deep rabbit hole, and my ignorance about them was one of the big reasons I avoided going beyond handheld recording devices. However, after familiarizing myself with the various types (see this tutorial video for a great introduction), I decided to take the plunge and purchase my own. As with audio interfaces, microphones can be had for $100, $1000, or $5000+, depending on the brand, type, and various other technical details. For brass instrument recording there are lots of good options, but I went with a matched pair of small-diaphragm (cardioid pattern) condensers, the Samson C02. These are definitely on the low end of the price spectrum, but they had good reviews and came with stands and cables (these are NOT the microphones pictured at the beginning of this post). Other microphones I considered at a similar price point include the Rode M5 and ART M-Six. There are certainly better microphones out there, but for the money spent, I think I got an excellent value.
  • Software (DAW) The term DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is generally used now to refer to recording and editing software, but at one point in the not-too-distant past actually meant a separate device or devices. If you’ve been keeping up with the math, you know that I’ve already reached the ca. $300 budget mentioned at the beginning of this post. The great thing about the DAWs I frequently use is that they don’t cost anything, and are fully functional. For several years I’ve used Audacity, a free, open-source DAW that incorporates many of the features of more expensive software. It is user-friendly, and simple to set up with my audio interface. I have also been using Studio One 3 Prime, a free version of the popular Studio One software by PreSonus. GarageBand is free for Mac users, and is another great way to get into the world of DAWs. There are lots of great options out there, many with free trial versions. As a teacher, I prize ease of use pretty highly, and all three of the DAWs mentioned above perform well in that category.

So there you have it, a bare-bones but hopefully useful guide to recording equipment for the classical musician. There are so many other great tutorials online that I felt it unnecessary to go into too much depth about any of the various components. Far more knowledgeable contributors have written and recorded excellent demonstrations on a plethora of recording topics. Among my favorites is a series produced by Murray State University. See below for the links:

If you’re a novice like me, it’s perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed by all of the technical information on recording. However, as a 21st-century teacher and performer I felt I owed it to myself and my students to learn something about technology which has become so ubiquitous. It took me a little while to wrap my head around the basics, but now that I have a grasp on them I’m excited to experiment with different microphone setups and other parameters. If you are curious what the gear mentioned above sounds like, here is a rehearsal recording made using it. The excerpt is from the Trio for Horn, Trombone, and Tuba by Frigyes Hidas, which my colleagues and I will be performing this summer at the International Trombone Festival and the International Horn Symposium. It was recorded in a small classroom using a fairly close X/Y pattern microphone setup. So that you can get a clear sense of how the equipment performed, no editing has been done other than trimming the beginning and end of the clip in Audacity. I’m very pleased with how everything worked, and am looking forward to recording with this equipment in our recital hall and other venues.

 

Brass Trio Recording Session Notes

©2018 David St. Onge

Black Bayou Brass recently wrapped up a 3-day recording session of new music for brass trio. Recording took place on January 5, 6, and 7 in the Emy-Lou Biedenharn Recital Hall at the University of Louisiana Monroe. The session went very well, and we are excited to move forward with the project. Here are some details on the upcoming album.

Repertoire: The album (title TBD) will feature all world-premiere recordings. In addition, we either commissioned or arranged all but one of the works. Here’s the list, with publisher information where applicable.

When finished, the recording should be about 60 minutes, with a good mix of contemporary and historical styles.

Engineer and Producer: Our engineer for this project was Dave St. Onge, a veteran of numerous recordings with Mark Custom Recording Service. Dave did a fantastic job, and I would recommend him without reservation to anyone looking for an engineer. More details on the recording process below. Gina Gillie, who composed Scenes from the Bayou for us, lent her critical ear to the recording as producer. A great engineer and producer are essential to the recording process, and we were fortunate to work with both Gina and Dave.

Recording Process: Prior to this project, I’d recorded twice before in our hall; first for a solo album with piano and harp, and next for soprano, piano, and horn. And although I’ve been performing in a brass trio for over ten years, this was really our first opportunity to experiment with high-quality microphones and various mic placements. As you’ll notice from the photo above, there was quite a bit of equipment on stage with us! *One note about professional microphones – they really do make a huge difference. While the handheld audio and video recorders out there (Zoom, Sony, Tascam, etc.) do a fine job for rehearsal and practice purposes, they really can’t compare to what you’ll hear with great mics. We were fortunate to be able to have a separate sound check in the hall the night before recording began. This saved us time and chops on the first day of recording. Timing for a soundcheck can vary depending on a number of factors, but in our case we spent about an hour or so just trying to find the right sound/balance/blend. Based upon our impressions, as well as input from the engineer and producer, we decided to use microphones in the hall and close mics on individual players. This combination seemed to provide a good balance between clarity and resonance/reverb for all three players. While I’ve only heard the rough mixes at this point, I think the final product is going to sound great!

Equipment: For my part I performed on a Yamaha 671 double horn, with a stainless steel mouthpiece by Balu Musik. The stainless mouthpiece was a fairly recent change for me, but for this recording I felt like it gave me the right kind of clarity and projection to compete with trumpet and trombone. I’m not 100% sold on it as my regular mouthpiece, but for this project it was the right decision.

Rest/Recovery/Next Steps: We recorded in two three-hour sessions each day for three days, with a two and half-hour break between the morning and afternoon. If this sounds like a lot of playing, it was! There was a lot of stopping and starting (common on most classical recordings), and we took a short break at least every hour, so the playing wasn’t constant. I managed to make it through the entire three-day session in good shape, but took the next day off completely.  On the day after that I practiced for about an hour. My embouchure was a bit stiff (no surprise there), but after 20 minutes or so of light playing things started to loosen up and feel more or less normal again. As always, recording was a challenging but ultimately rewarding experience. The next step in the process is to go back through our choice takes and decide exactly which ones we want to use for the album. From there we’ll send it off to be edited together into a complete recording.There are of course many more steps between now and the final commercial release, but it does feel good to have a major portion of the recording finished.

Stay tuned for more details on this project!

 

Summer Project: Solo and Chamber Music Repertoire List

One long-postponed project I began this summer was to create an annotated list of the solo and chamber music pieces I’ve performed over the last 20 years. I should have begun this project years ago, but my memory has generally been good enough to keep track of most of the details about my performances. Additionally, most of the information is preserved in the form of old programs in either electronic or hard copy format. I always told myself if I really wanted to know the last time I performed a work I could dig back through my files and find out. This is of course easier in theory than in practice, and the benefits of having all the info in a central place outweigh the time and effort it has taken to put it together.  It’s nothing fancy, just a Google doc that I can update as new works are added. It contains the following fields:

  • Composer
  • Title
  • Instrumentation
  • Year Performed

In the “Year Performed” field I’m also making a note if the work was performed at a conference and/or was commissioned by me. Here’s a small screenshot showing the first few entries. (If you would like to see the complete list please email me and I would be glad to send you a copy).

While I do have access to the majority of my solo and chamber music programs, the list is not complete, for a variety of reasons.

  • There are some works that I know I’ve performed, but don’t have documentation to prove it or to provide the year. These include works performed for studio and/or master classes, works performed on tours, and other situations where a printed program was not produced. I’m debating what to do about these works; perhaps I’ll just put the info down and give my best guess as to the year.
  • In most cases I did not include arrangements or occasional works like Christmas and other holiday selections. To keep the list to a manageable size I needed to draw the line somewhere. One exception to this is arrangements which are major works in the repertoire, like Robert King’s brass trio arrangement of the Beethoven Trio, Op. 87 for example.

If you don’t already have a list like this, I strongly recommend starting one, regardless of your level. It’s very easy to set up, and the information will come in handy for future recital programming and other endeavors. Trust me, the longer you wait, the more difficult the task will be!

Upcoming Performances Part 2: International Women’s Brass Conference

Shortly after the New Music on the Bayou Festival, my colleagues and I will be traveling to Glassboro, New Jersey for the 2017 International Women’s Brass Conference, hosted by Dr. Amy Schumaker Bliss at Rowan University. If you haven’t had a chance to attend an IWBC, it’s a wonderful conference, with lots of great performances, presentations, and exhibitors. Of particular interest to horn players is Featured Artist Michelle Baker, Second Horn of the MET Orchestra (she recently announced her retirement after 27 years with the orchestra). I had the opportunity to work with her for a brief time at the Round Top Festival Institute. She’s a fantastic performer and teacher, and an all-around nice person! For more information about Baker’s career, see Barbara Jöstlein Currie’s interview with her in the May 2017 issue of The Horn Call.

At this year’s IWBC I’ll be involved in two performances, as well as running an exhibit table for Mountain Peak Music.  The first performance will feature Black Bayou Brass in performances of music by Gina Gillie and Adriana Figueroa Mañas. Here’s our program:

Trio for Brass, Gina Gillie (b. 1981)

  1. Fanfare and Chorale

Triad, Adriana Isabel Figueroa Mañas (b. 1966)

  1. Magic Dreams

Scenes from The Bayou, Gina Gillie

The first work by Gina Gillie is one of our favorites in the repertoire, and makes a great opener. It’s published by Veritas Musica Publications. If you’re looking for a fun, challenging, and musically rewarding work for brass trio be sure to check it out.

Adriana Mañas has composed some very fine works for brass trio, including her Three Chorals and Triad. Magic Dreams, the final movement of Triad, is notable for the variety of timbres and articulations it employs. It makes for a nice contrast with the opening work on our program.

We’re especially excited about performing the newly-commissioned Scenes from the Bayou. We premiered this work locally back in March, and are looking forward to sharing it with a larger audience. This commission was funded in part by the Meir Rimon Commissioning Assistance Program of the International Horn Society, and is a substantial addition to the repertoire. Here is a video compilation of several excerpts from the premiere.

On the last day of the conference I’ll be collaborating with several University of Wisconsin-Madison alums (Gina Gillie, Sarah Gillespie, Stacie Mickens) for a performance of Gina Gillie’s Horn Quartet No. 1. Like her brass trio compositions, Gillie’s horn quartet is a really strong work with lots of great writing for all four parts. Like Paul Hindemith’s Sonata for Four Horns, the final movement of Gillie’s quartet is a set of variations on Ich schell’ mein Horn. Here’s a recording of the piece with the following performers: Gina Gillie, Mark Robbins, Gustavo Camacho and Becky Miller.

If you’re planning to attend the conference, we’d love to see you at either (or both) of the above performances, or at the Mountain Peak Music booth. I’ll also be posting regular reports to this site during the conference. If you won’t be attending the 2017 IWBC , I hope you’ll consider attending some kind of a conference or festival this summer. They are wonderful opportunities to hear great performances, and to network and connect with friends and colleagues.

Brass Trio Performance Videos

Here are some videos from two of our recent brass trio performances. The first is from our recent faculty recital at ULM, and features excerpts from Gina Gillie’s Scenes from the Bayou, a work we commissioned with assistance from the International Horn Society’s Meir Rimon Commissioning Assistance Fund. It’s a great piece, full of catchy melodies and fun writing for all three parts. We’ll be performing the piece again this summer at the International Women’s Brass Conference in at Rowan University in New Jersey.

Next is our complete Contributing Artist Performance at the 2017 Mid-South Horn Workshop. We performed Diversions for Brass Trio, by Roger Jones, another composer who, like Gina Gillie, really knows how to write well for brass trio.

One interesting thing for me with this work is that I performed it as a member of the same ensemble (but with different personnel) back in 2011 at the Big 12 Trombone Conference in Lubbock, TX (you can check out the recording here). Both performances went really well, I think, and it was quite interesting for me to listen to these two recordings back to back and hear how my playing has changed in the last six years.

Equipment Update Part 1: A New Horn

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Yamaha 671 Double Horn, with Custom Work by Houghton Horns

In an earlier post, I briefly mentioned an upcoming review about a new horn. After several weeks of playing it, I have some thoughts on my new double horn, a Yamaha YHR 671. Earlier this year at IHS 48  I did some preliminary testing on both the 671 and the higher end 871 Custom, with the following reaction.

I spent a few minutes in the exhibit rooms this afternoon, and tried out a few of Yamaha’s new horns, the 671 and 871. My initial impressions were quite good. Both horns are very well balanced and even across the range. I have to say though that based on the two horns I tried, my preference was for the less expensive 671. Of course, more thorough playing on both models would be necessary to come to any firm conclusions. If you have the opportunity, try out both horns for yourself.

Stepping back a little, here is a short list of reasons why I was even looking for a new horn in the first place.

  • I’ve played an Engelbert Schmid ES1 double horn for the last five years, and overall was very pleased with it. Schmid’s horns are incredibly light, well balanced, and built to the highest mechanical and artistic standards. I was comfortable performing on it as a soloist, and in orchestra and chamber music. But…
  • I was not 100% satisfied with my sound, especially in my university’s recital hall, where I do the majority of my solo and chamber music performances, and where I plan to record my second solo CD. Both my colleagues and I noticed a tendency for the sound to “break up” at higher dynamics. I’m sure this is due to more than just the lightness of the horn, and I definitely don’t want to take anything away from Schmid’s very fine horns. However, after trying various mouthpiece and bell options (over the course of a few years) without obtaining the desired result, I thought it might be worth looking at some different instruments.
  • In addition to looking for a slightly different sound, I was also curious about Yamaha’s new models. While I’ve played a Schmid for the last five years, I played Yamahas for the previous fourteen years before that. In many ways, returning to a Yamaha horn felt like coming home.

Ok, now for a bit more about the new horn. First, it isn’t a stock Yamaha 671. Houghton Horns, who sold me the instrument, did some custom work on it, including installing a Schmid bell ring and removing the lacquer. Out of the box the horn played great! As mentioned above, returning to a Yamaha even after so many years I felt like all the notes were in the right places. With the Schmid I always seemed to be fighting something, especially in the high range. Like the YHR 667V I played all through graduate school, this one has a great high B-flat. In addition, the horn has more “core” to the sound, and I’m able to keep that core at loud dynamics. After rehearsals with the faculty brass trio, my colleagues agreed that the sound was preferable to the Schmid. As mentioned earlier, Schmid horns are fantastic instruments, but at this point in my career the right choice for me was the Yamaha. However, in the interest of fairness and full disclosure, there are some noticeable differences with the Yamaha.

First, the horn is a little heavier than the Schmid, which I had to adjust to. For the first several days I needed to take frequent breaks while playing to rest my left arm. You wouldn’t think that a difference of a few ounces would matter, but it does. Second, and most significantly, in my opinion is the valves. I suppose I’d gotten spoiled by Schmid valves, which are more or less perfect, but the Yamaha valves are definitely slower. On top of that, they became so sluggish after a few days (despite repeated oiling) that I ended up sending the horn back to Houghton Horns to have them check it out. Houghton provided excellent service at no charge, and got the valves back in working order. I’m not exactly sure what was wrong, but Dennis (Houghton) said that spinning the valves in oil got them going again. He also sent back a bottle of Hetman piston valve oil to use for a while. As of this writing I haven’t had any major issues with the valves. The third and final difference – though not a drawback – is that both sides of the horn settle at a slightly lower pitch than the Schmid. I had to be very mindful to keep the pitch low enough on the Schmid, but it isn’t quite as much of a struggle with the Yamaha.

In summary, though it isn’t a perfect horn (none are), the Yamaha 671 is a very well made instrument, and I’m really enjoying playing on it. I’ll post some audio and video recordings of it in action very soon.

Stay tuned for part two of this series: testing mouthpieces on the new horn.

Upcoming Performances: New Music on the Bayou Festival

Next week I’ll be performing in several concerts for the inaugural season of the  New Music on the Bayou Summer Festival. This event will involve numerous composers and performers from throughout the region and across the country, and I’m really looking forward to it! Here’s a brief description of the festival from its website:

The New Music on the Bayou Summer Festival is a chance for contemporary composers to work with professional performers during the rehearsal process and to have their new works performed by professional ensembles and musicians in an intense four-day festival. The festival features concerts at traditional and non-traditional venues. All submissions will be eligible for the Black Bayou Composition Award monetary prize.

Concerts will take place in several different venues, including concert halls on the University of Louisiana-Monroe and Louisiana Tech University campuses, a local art museum, an art crawl, and even a national wildlife refuge! The festival promises to be not only a great venue to hear new music, but also a tour of the area’s many attractions. You can peruse the festival website for more details on the above.

The festival’s organizers, Dr. Mel Mobley and Dr. Gregory Lyons, have done a fantastic job coordinating all of the various elements: composers, performers, venues, rehearsal space, etc. With rehearsals set to begin next Tuesday and the first concert on Wednesday, individual preparation by the musicians is imperative. I personally like the challenge of preparing new and unfamiliar works, and feel that all of the works our group will be performing are high quality (though sometimes quite difficult). Here’s a listing of the composer, title, and instrumentation of the works I’m involved with next week. You can follow the links to each composer’s website for additional information and audio/video samples of their music.

Each work presents some unique and rewarding challenges, but here are a few general observations.

  • Range/Endurance: New music can sometimes be unreasonable in terms of range and endurance requirements, but the above pieces are actually very playable. They aren’t simplistic by any means, but they do take into account the actual possibilities of the instruments. As a performer, this is much appreciated! Believe it or not, after playing lots of brass trio music brass quintet is a bit easier on the face.
  • Rhythm: This has probably been the most challenging (at least for me) in terms of individual preparation. A few of the pieces have lots of mixed/asymmetrical meter, and in past experiences I’ve found that rhythms which seem clear cut during individual practice can become much more difficult to “feel” during ensemble rehearsals.
  • Dynamics/Articulation/Timbre Spectrum: As one might expect with new music, composers often want to break away from the traditional sounds of a particular instrument or ensemble. None of these works calls for any unusual or rare extended techniques, but they do make full use of the dynamic and articulation spectrum, as well as multiple timbres (everything from ff flutter tongue to pppp stopped horn).

Other than Covering, which I’ve performed multiple times, all of these pieces are brand new to us, and we look forward to rehearsing them for the composers as well as performing them during the festival. If you are in the area and looking for something to do after Memorial Day, check out one or more of the concerts on the New Music on the Bayou Festival. On a larger note, if you are a performer, consider seeking out and advocating for new music. Working with living composers can give you a fresh perspective as a performer, which will carry over into other areas of your musical career.

Upcoming Brass Trio Recital

blackbayoubrassBlack Bayou Brass will be performing a faculty recital at ULM on Thursday, March 24th at 7:30 p.m. in the Emy-Lou Biedenharn Recital Hall. We’ll be joined by several guests for this multimedia performance, which includes the world premiere of a new work for brass trio by Roger Jones. In addition we’ll be performing two brief works for brass trio and piano (with Deborah McClung-Guillory, a member of ULM’s piano faculty), Abe Lincoln’s Songbook, by Douglas Hill (with Jay Curtis, narrator), and Capital Dances, by Steven Winteregg. Here is some more information on each work, adapted from our program notes.

Bandera for Trumpet, Horn, Trombone, and Piano, by Kerry Turner (b. 1960) Kerry Turner’s music is ubiquitous in the horn world, especially his original works for horn quartet.  He also has some very fine works for brass ensemble, including this trio for brass with piano. When compared to the brass quintet, brass trio is a more limited medium, but the addition of a piano opens up a whole new realm of harmonies and textures. Here are some more details, taken from the composer’s notes in the score:

In the summer of 1979, I was employed on the Mayan Ranch in Bandera, Texas, located about sixty miles south of San Antonio. It was there that I encountered all of the excitements as well as the hard work associated with ranch life. Cooking breakfast out on the trail for ranch guests, cleaning out ancient tarantula-ridden bunk houses, and chasing away rattle-snakes and water-moccasins were some of the typical duties I had to perform. It was here that I experienced the traditions of the Old West that were to later influence my compositional style. Bandera for trumpet, horn, trombone, and piano is a tribute to these people who keep alive the venerable cowboy life.

Bandera has been recorded on the album Unlikely Fusion.

Heart of the Andes, by Daniel Baldwin (b. 1978) Baldwin’s music is accessible, fun to play, and musically fulfilling. Inspired by the landscape painting of the same name by American artist Frederic Edwin Church (1826–1900), Heart of the Andes conveys the breadth and grandeur of the original work. The following information about the painting is found on the website of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/09.95/.

Fully ten feet in breadth and rich in botanical detail, The Heart of the Andes is Church’s largest and most ambitious painting as well as the most popular in his time. It represents the culmination of two expeditions to Colombia and Ecuador in 1853 and 1857, inspired by the writings of the world-renowned naturalist Alexander von Humboldt. Humboldt conceived the equatorial landscape of the New World as a kind of laboratory of the planet in which the range of climatic zones, from torrid to frigid, could be studied from the jungles at sea level to the perpetual snow of Andean mountains such as Chimborazo, in Ecuador, represented in Church’s picture. Within its classical landscape format, the artist literally attempted to convey the variety of earthly life, most conspicuous in the lush foreground. At its three-week premier in 1859, The Heart of the Andes was housed in a huge windowlike frame and illuminated in a darkened room by concealed skylights. Twelve thousand people paid a quarter apiece to see it in New York, whence it toured Great Britain and seven other American cities until the eve of the Civil War.

Originally scored for clarinet, bassoon, horn, and piano, the piece can also be performed by any trio combination with piano. The textures and harmonies are reminiscent of Eric Ewazen, and it makes a very nice addition to the brass trio repertoire. During the performance we will be projecting an image of Church’s painting onto the rear wall of the stage.

Capital Dances, by Steven Winteregg (b. 1952) Winteregg has written a number of works with horn, many of them for Richard Chenoweth. We’ve known about this great trio composition for some time, but haven’t had the opportunity to program it until now. This being a presidential election year, we thought the political theme of the work would be quite fitting. The following information is from Chenoweth’s liner notes to the recording Flights of Imagination: Chamber Music of Steven Winteregg.

Commissioned by the University of Dayton Brass Trio, Capital Dances was inspired by the cartoon dance sequences of political cartoonist Jules Feiffer. These dance sequences followed an imaginary performer through various dance movements accompanied by satirical political commentary and often ended with an engaging twist or thought. In Capital Dances, Steve composed a musical version of these political dances, attempting to capture the spirit of the artistic commentaries.

Sketchbook for Brass Trio, by Roger Jones (b. 1944) Jones has written two other works for our trio, and we are excited and honored to perform the premiere of his latest composition for us. Here are his notes about the piece:

Sketchbook for Brass Trio is a Suite of four movements designed to be performed as a whole or in various reorganizations including fewer movements if needed by the performers. The work, written in 2014 and dedicated to the Black Bayou Brass, in residence at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, is designed to provide ensembles with recital material that is colorful, playable, and interesting to the audience as well as the performers. Each movement is named with a sketch concept. No actual drawings inspired the writing. Players are encouraged, if desired, to find one or more sketches to display for each movement before or during the performance. It is the composer’s hope that this work will bring some pleasure to both performers and audiences.

A slideshow of various paintings and other public domain artworks will accompany this performance.

Abe Lincoln’s Song Book, by Douglas Hill (b. 1946) These charming arrangements of several of Lincoln’s favorite melodies are a delight to play, and are available for several different combinations of instruments. Hill writes the following about this unique work:

Abe Lincoln’s Song Book” was written in 2008 in celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday on February 12, 2009. This Brass Trio (Trumpet, Horn, Trombone) with narration has a selection of Abraham Lincoln’s favorite melodies. Lincoln felt a deep love and abiding respect for all kinds of music, similar to his extraordinary ability to feel compassion and respect for all kinds of people. These wonderful little songs capture a glimpse of his time and his place on this earth. Through Lincoln’s favorite songs we can celebrate the boy who became that most remarkable man who grew beyond us all as an example of a timeless, extraordinary human being.

We’ve chosen seven of our favorite arrangements for this performance, which will be narrated by Jay Curtis, General Manager of KEDM Public Radio in Monroe. To hear an excerpt from the piece, see the video below, which features the Contrapunctus Brass Trio with the composer narrating.

We hope that you can join us for this concert!

 

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