“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

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

img_20161125_101937041

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!

 

Chamber Music Rehearsal Flowchart

Next week our brass trio will be giving a guest recital and master class at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. I’m looking forward to this performance for a number of reasons, one of them being a chance to catch up with Justin Isenhour, a former classmate from my undergraduate days at Appalachian State University. Dr. Isenhour is now an Assistant Professor of Music at OBU, where he teaches applied low brass and music theory. In addition to our performance, we’ll also be giving a master class on chamber music, with an emphasis on the DIY (Do It Yourself) approach. Though DIY usually refers to home repair and/or renovation, in this case our presentation will focus on how to conduct chamber music rehearsals yourself, without the assistance of a coach. While coachings from a faculty member or other mentor are vital to a group’s development, the majority of the work in any chamber ensemble is conducted in closed rehearsals by the members themselves.

In preparation for this class I put together a one-page flowchart for solving problems in chamber music rehearsals, which you can download below. Although they can’t answer every question, flow charts are a great way to help clarify the decision-making process. Feel free to borrow any or all of the ideas in this chart, and use them in your rehearsals. This chart was created using free online diagram software called Draw.io. It’s a great tool, and very easy to use!

Download the PDF chart here. Chamber Music Flowchart

flowchart

If you happen to be in the Arkadelphia area we would love to see you at our performance! For more information about the concert, follow this link.

 

Semester Preview, Part 1: Brass Trio Performances and Guest Artists

free-happy-new-year-2015-clipartGreetings to my readers, and best wishes for a happy and prosperous 2015! Here is my customary semester overview, but this time I decided to break it into two portions. We have a lot of events going on this spring, with quite a few of them occurring in the first few weeks of the semester. Here goes.

Brass Trio Performances

Black Bayou Brass will be very active this spring, beginning with a recital program at the Big 12 Trombone Conference, hosted by James Decker at Texas Tech University. We performed at this conference in 2011 and had a wonderful time, and are looking forward to returning. Our program will consist primarily of original works for brass trio.

  • Flash, by Jérôme Naulais: A great piece which we’ve performed numerous times in recitals and on tour. We’ll be recording this work in May of this year (more on that in a future post).
  • Romanian Folk Dances, Sz. 56, BB 68, by Béla Bartók/arr. David Jolley: This is a fantastic arrangement of these brief piano pieces. They have been recorded by the NY Brass Arts Trio, on an album I reviewed here. They are fun and challenging. Special thanks to David Jolley for making this arrangement available to us!
  • The Brass Abacus, by William Schmidt: A wonderful piece, though seldom performed or recorded. Consisting of five sections which correspond to the letters A, B, A, C, and US, this extended work is full of interesting melodic and rhythmic devices. It is still available, I believe, from Western International Music, which William Schmidt founded. For more info on the composer and his music, check out this blog post by Anthony Plog.
  • Trio for Brass, by Gina Gillie: Completed in 2014, this charming new work was commissioned by the late Elliott Higgins and the New Mexico Brass Trio. Dr. Gillie is Associate Professor of Horn at Pacific Lutheran University, and was a classmate of mine at the University of Wisconsin. In addition to her active performing career on horn, she is also a gifted composer. This trio is very playable, yet encompasses a variety of styles and timbres. We are looking forward to performing it!

In addition to our conference recital, we will be also performing at high schools in Louisiana and Texas, as well as performing our own faculty recital at ULM and a guest recital at Ouachita Baptist University. The Big 12 repertoire will remain the core of our program, with the addition of a few other brief works to round things out.

Guest Artists

The brass area is also excited  to host several fantastic guest artists this spring. The following is a modified version of a press release I recently wrote to publicize these events, hence the slightly more formal language.

Grammy award-winning trumpet artist Dr. Christopher Moore and ULM trumpet professor Dr. Aaron Witek will give a joint recital on January 13th at 7:30 p.m. in the Emy-Lou Biedenharn Recital Hall. Musical selections will include works for two trumpets by Vivialdi, Morales, Pascual-Vilaplana, and works for solo trumpet by Basler, Clarke, Enesco, Peaslee. In addition, Dr. Moore will teach lessons to ULM trumpet students and present a master class while he is in residence.

Faculty members in the Division of Music at Ouachita Baptist University will present a concert of solo and ensemble works for brass on January 26th at 7:30 p.m. in the Emy-Lou Biedenharn Recital Hall. Ensemble members include Dr. Craig V. Hamilton, trumpet; Dr. Heather Thayer, horn; and Dr. Justin Isenhour, trombone (we were undergraduate classmates at Appalachian State University). The group will give a master class for music students on January 27th at 11:00 a.m.

Dr. Nicholas Kenney, Assistant Professor of Horn and Assistant Director of Bands at Southeast Missouri State University, will perform a recital on March 17th at 11:00 a.m. in the Emy-Lou Biedenharn Recital Hall. A frequent soloist and guest clinician, Dr. Kenney was named a finalist in the 2009 International Horn Competition of America. His program will feature the music of Antonio Vivaldi, Paul Basler, Eugene Bozza, and Bernhard Krol. ULM faculty members Dr. Richard Seiler and Dr. James Boldin will also perform on the concert. Dr. Kenney will present a master class on March 16th at 3:30 p.m.

Coming up in Semester Preview, Part 2: Orchestral performances, horn conferences, work on my book project, and more reviews.

Summer Update, and Brass Trio Lists

I’ve been enjoying some much-needed vacation time this summer, complete with an extended hiatus from blogging. Although I haven’t posted any new content for the last several weeks, this time has not been spent idly. Summer is a great time to work on various projects and get in lots of focused practice sessions. Here’s a brief list of what I’ve been up to this summer.

  • New Arrangements: Two have been submitted for publication, and I anticipate sending in a couple more by the fall. More details once they’re in print!
  • Wedding Season: In June I was invited to play at a good friend’s wedding. We became friends in high school band, and have stayed in touch for the last 2o years. My wife and I had a great time catching up with old friends and celebrating at the reception. Here’s a a picture of me playing some pre-ceremony music. Photograph by Urban Bloom Photography.hornpicture
  • Practicing: A short run of Les Misérables coming up at the beginning of August, and a faculty recital (Music for Horn and Organ) coming up in early October. More details on this recital in a future post.
  • Brass Trio Article: I recently submitted an article to The Horn Call titled “Brass Trio Repertoire: Beyond Poulenc.” For a while now I’ve been planning to put together a list of original brass trio compositions, and I hope that others find the article useful. The story behind the title is that I’m often asked by colleagues what other good works are out there for brass trio in addition to Francis Poulenc’s Sonata for Trumpet, Horn and Trombone. The short answer is “a lot!” For part of the article I put together my personal “Top 10” list of works that I consider basic repertoire. Such lists are of course arbitrary, but if you’re looking for music to play in a brass trio in addition to the Poulenc this is a great place to start. Here’s the list, in alphabetical order. Where available, I’ve included a link to a live performance of the work.
  1. Lauren Bernofsky, Trio for Brass
  2. Eric Ewazen, A Philharmonic Fanfare
  3. Arthur Frackenpohl, Brass Trio
  4. Jan Koetsier, Figaro-Metamorphosen, Op. 131
  5. Jean-François Michel, Suite
  6. Jérôme Naulais, Flash
  7. Václav Nelhýbel, Trio for Brass
  8. Anthony Plog, Trio for Brass
  9. David Sampson, Duncan Trio
  10. Daniel Schnyder, Trio for Trumpet, Horn, and Trombone/Bass Trombone or Tuba

Another portion of the article includes a list of currently or recently active ensembles, with links to their websites, if available. This is only a partial alphabetical listing, and I’m sure there are many other fine groups out there. If you are a member of an active brass trio I’d love to hear from you and chat about repertoire.

  1. Auckland Chamber Ensemble (ACE) Brass
  2. Black Bayou Brass
  3. Borealis Brass
  4. Contrapunctus Brass Trio
  5. Del Mar College Faculty Brass Trio
  6. Kalamazoo Brass Collective
  7. Louisville Orchestra Brass Trio
  8. New Mexico Brass Trio
  9. New York Brass Arts Trio
  10. New York Chamber Brass
  11. Old Dominion University Faculty Brass Trio
  12. Ouachita Baptist University Faculty Brass Trio
  13. Pro Musica Brass Trio
  14. Reedy River Brass Trio
  15. Southern Illinois University at Carbondale Faculty Brass Trio
  16. Three Body Problem
  17. Trillium Brass Trio
  18. University of Maryland Brass Trio
  19. V3NTO Brass Trio
  20. Warsaw Brass Trio
  21. Welsh Brass Trio
  22. Wenham Street Brass
  23. Yale Brass Trio

If this brief look whets your appetite for more information about brass trio music, be sure to check out the article in a future issue of The Horn Call!

I’ll only post sporadically between now and the beginning of the fall semester, but plan to resume a more regular writing schedule once school begins. Enjoy the summer!

Upcoming Performance: International Women’s Brass Conference

Although I have a number of projects to work on this summer, one big event will be a performance with Black Bayou Brass at the International Women’s Brass Conference, June 4-8 on the campus of Northern Kentucky University. I’ve never attended an IWBC, but have heard very good things about both the organization and the conference. This year’s conference will feature a number of renowned artists, including Elizabeth Freimuth, Principal Horn of the Cincinnati Symphony. While the title of this conference might suggest that participation is limited only to women, this is not the case at all. The mission of the IWBC is to educate, inspire, and encourage women brass players, and membership is open to all women and men who want to support these goals. For our part, we’ll be performing a program of music for brass trio by women composers. Here’s the lineup.

  • Engelberg: Trio for Brass and Organ, Libby Larsen (b. 1950)
  • Three Chorals for Brass Trio, Adriana Figueroa Mañas (b. 1966)
  • Wandl’ ich in dem Wald des Abends, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel (1805-1847) Arr. James Boldin
  • Trio for Brass, Lauren Bernofsky (b. 1967)

As our presentation time is limited to 20 minutes, we will perform selected movements from the Mañas and Bernofsky. If you don’t know any of these works they are definitely worth checking out. For a more comprehensive list of brass trio (and other) music by women composers, visit the website of Dr. Lin Foulk, Associate Professor of Horn at Western Michigan University. I’ve also included a few program notes below for each of these works. We are very excited to perform at this conference, and as always are looking forward to hearing lots of great brass playing and catching up with colleagues and friends from around the country. On a related note, I just recently learned of a newly completed brass trio by Dr. Gina Gillie, Assistant Professor of Horn at Pacific Lutheran University. This work was commissioned by Elliott Higgins for the New Mexico Brass Trio, and although we won’t be performing it at this year’s IWBC, our faculty trio here will definitely be reading it in the future.

If you are planning to attending the 2014 IWBC we hope that you can hear our performance, and look forward to seeing you there!

Program Notes

Libby Larsen’s Engelberg: Trio for Brass and Organ is based upon the hymn tune of the same name, composed by Charles V. Stanford, and perhaps most well known as the setting for “When in Our Music God is Glorified.” It was commissioned by Ray and Elsie Martin for the Zephyr Brass Trio, to commemorate the birthday of Raymond J. Martin, Sr. on November 5, 2006. Though firmly grounded in tonality, the work makes use of several non-traditional modulations.

Adriana Figueroa Mañas was commissioned to compose her Three Chorals for Brass Trio by Dr. James Bicigo and the Borealis Brass (University of Alaska Fairbanks). Since its premiere by that ensemble, Three Chorals has had numerous performances throughout the world, and has been recorded by the Borealis Brass on their CD Roman Holidays. Though the work does not directly quote any folk melodies from her native Argentina, Mañas has stated that it freely incorporates the colors and rhythms of folk music.

Originally scored for two sopranos and alto on a text of Heinrich Heine, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel’s Wandl’ ich in dem Wald des Abends (I wander in the evening forest…), depicts a melancholy reminiscence brought on by an evening stroll through the woods. Its chromatic harmonies and quasi-imitative texture are well suited to the brass trio medium.

Lauren Bernofsky’s Trio for Brass was commissioned by Mary L. Thornton for the Delmar Trio. The following notes are from the composer:

I wanted to write a piece that would be an exciting challenge for the performers (though not impossibly difficult). The piece is cast in three contrasting movements, following the traditional slow-fast-slow scheme. The overall duration is approximately fifteen minutes, which makes it a relatively long piece for this number of brass instruments; since there are only three in the group, allowing one to rest results in a duo texture, which is notably thinner than a trio texture (as compared to a brass quintet, where the resting of one voice leaves us with the full sound of four others still playing.). I made a real effort to “thin out” the texture in many places of especially the last movement, by which time the players would of course need it the most. I tried to create variety in the piece through different textures. The outer movements often alternate between sections of homophony, where the instruments all play the same rhythms together, and more complex-sounding contrapuntal textures. Much of the middle movement has a clear bass line, middle voice, and melody, and I wrote it as a necessary release from the more harder-to-hear outer movements. Most importantly, my intent was to write a piece that would be fun to play as well as to hear.