Upcoming Recital: Transcriptions for Horn and Piano

faculty-recital-poster-10-4-2016On October 4th at 7:30 p.m., my colleague Richard Seiler and I will be giving a faculty recital entitled “Old Wine in New Bottles: Transcriptions for Horn and Piano.” While fun and musically rewarding to prepare, this recital is also being given in preparation for a forthcoming recording project featuring many of the same works. Here’s the program:

  • The Maid of the Mist, Herbert L. Clarke (1867-1945)
  • Adagio from Clarinet Concerto in A Major, K. 622, W.A. Mozart (1756-1791)
  • Six Studies in English Folk-Song, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)
  •  Romance, Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826)
  • Meditation from Thaïs, Jules Massenet (1842-1912)
  •  Vocalise-Etude en Forme de Habanera, Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
  •  Fantasiestücke, Op. 73, Robert Schumann (1810-1856)/Transcribed and Edited by Kazimierz Machala

With the exception of the Schumann, all of the above were transcribed by me, and several have been published through various outlets. The Schumann isn’t slated to be on the CD; instead I have some chamber music arrangements that will be recorded in addition to the solo works. If you would like to know more about the program, I’ve included some notes below. I’m really looking forward to this recital as well as the recording project. Stay tuned for more details.

Program Notes

Transcription: The adaptation of a composition for a medium other than its original one, e.g. of vocal music for instruments or of a piano work for orchestra, a practice that began in Western music by the 14th century; also the resulting work.

~The New Harvard Dictionary of Music, ed. Don Randel

Musicians have been borrowing music from one another for hundreds of years. J.S. Bach transcribed Vivaldi’s violin concertos for the organ, and Franz Liszt transcribed Beethoven’s symphonies and Schubert’s Lieder for the piano. These adaptations served not only to enrich the repertoire for their respective instruments, but also to educate and inform them as composers and performers. None of the music on this program was originally intended for the horn, but it is my hope that you will still enjoy hearing it.

Widely regarded as one of the great cornet soloists, Herbert Lincoln Clarke performed with John Philip Sousa’s band, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, and the New York Philharmonic. In addition to his long and illustrious performing career, Clarke is best remembered for his many compositions and Technical Studies for the cornet. Published in 1912, The Maid of the Mist is named for the famous steam-boat used for tours of Niagara Falls, and features some of the rapid articulations and playful turns of phrase for which Clarke was famous.

Dating from the final year of his life, Mozart’s Concerto for Clarinet, K. 622 was written for his friend and fellow Freemason Anton Stadler (1753-1812). Though the rapid passages found in the first and last movements of the concerto do not lend themselves well to even the modern horn, the gorgeous lyrical writing in the Adagio second movement does. Mozart clearly had a love for the horn, as evidenced by his four concertos and other solo works for the instrument. If the horn of Mozart’s day had been capable of playing such melodic material, perhaps he would have composed similar passages for it.

With his fellow countryman Gustav Holst, Ralph Vaughan Williams is often credited with leading a “Renaissance” of English music in the early part of the 20th century. Though he did make use of modern techniques such as polytonality, Vaughan Williams was especially inspired by English folk song and the modal melodies of his predecessors from the 16th and 17th centuries. Originally composed for cello and piano, his Six Studies in English Folksong have been set for many other instruments, including violin, clarinet, oboe, tuba, and horn. These brief but hauntingly beautiful melodies make excellent studies in both phrasing and tone production.

Though the title “Romance” does appear a few times in the catalog of Weber’s works, there appears to be no such composition for trombone and piano. Is it an unpublished work by Weber that was not cataloged, or perhaps the work of another composer? It is doubtful that the piece was even written for the trombone! Despite its obscure history, the dramatic melodies and quasi-operatic character of this Romance make it an effective and rewarding work to perform.

Jules Massenet’s opera Thaïs is one of the composer’s most performed works. It tells the story of Thaïs, an Alexandrian courtesan and worshiper of Venus, who converts to Christianity. Among the most recognized excerpts from the opera is the “Mediation” for violin and orchestra performed between the scenes of the second act. Though brief in length, it is full of lyricism and emotion.

A gifted musical chameleon, Maurice Ravel displayed equal skill with impressionist, neoclassic, and exotic elements in his compositions. Igor Stravinsky famously derided Ravel as “the most perfect of Swiss watchmakers,” but is in fact this precision, craftsmanship, and attention to detail that have made his works so memorable. Originally for voice, the Vocalise was commissioned by the Paris Conservatory and is patterned after the famous Cuban dance known as the habanera.

Originally for clarinet (or cello) and piano, Robert Schumann’s Fantasiestücke (“Fantasy Pieces), Op. 73 consist of three movements unified by motivic and thematic elements. Schumann gave the same title to three other works in his catalog, all of which have an improvisatory, fanciful character. At times dreamy and contemplative, at others fiery and impetuous, these pieces are both challenging and enjoyable to perform.

Fall 2016 Semester Preview

Chamber Arts Brass Quintet: Marilynn Gibson, Micah Everett, James Boldin, Jack White, Myron Turner

Chamber Arts Brass Quintet: Marilynn Gibson, Micah Everett, James Boldin, Jack White, Myron Turner

With the first week of classes at ULM finished, I now have the chance to catch my breath and post a few thoughts about the upcoming semester.

Ten Years of Teaching: This semester marks the beginning of my 11th year at ULM. I’m extremely grateful that after ten years of full-time college teaching, I still enjoy it! Though working in higher education is not without its challenges, I remain optimistic and excited about my career. I’m planning to post a few more reflections about this, but for now I’ll just leave it as-is. As a throw-back to my first year of full-time teaching, see the picture of our faculty brass quintet at top left, taken in December of 2006.

New Low Brass Faculty: Related to the above post, one of the reasons I still enjoy my job is the opportunity to work with faculty who are both dedicated and gifted. This semester we welcome a new member to the brass faculty at ULM, Dr. Jeremy Marks. It should be noted that our previous Low Brass professor, Dr. James Layfield, recently won a position with the United States Air Force Band in Washington, D.C. Congratulations to both Dr. Marks and Dr. Layfield on their new positions!

Upcoming Recital: On October 4th I’ll be giving a solo recital, collaborating with Dr. Richard Seiler on piano. It’s been awhile since I gave a strictly solo horn and piano recital, having performed with lots of other combinations (horn and percussion, horn and organ, horn and voice) over the last few years. Our program will feature all transcriptions and arrangements, the majority of them by yours truly. More on the program in a future post.

Recording Projects: Now that Solo Training for Horn is on shelves, I will be turning my attention to two recording projects. The first is a collaboration with ULM voice professor Dr. Claire Vangelisti for a recording of voice, horn, and piano works  by Eurico Carrapatoso. We’ve performed several of his very fine compositions over the years, and are looking forward to recording them for this project. Following that will be my second solo CD, this time a collection of my own transcriptions and arrangements for horn and piano and horn with other combinations of instruments. Both projects are still in the planning phase, and I’ll share more details as we move forward.

Orchestra Concerts: Though not a full-time orchestral musician, my work with the Shreveport Symphony, Monroe Symphony, and Rapides Symphony orchestras keeps me plenty busy. I feel very lucky to perform with these groups regularly, and to have the opportunity to play major repertoire with great horn sections. Some highlights of the 2016-2017 season include Brahms’s Symphony No. 3 with the Shreveport Symphony and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 with the Monroe Symphony.

Commissions: Black Bayou Brass has been very active recently in commissioning new works for brass trio. Among these is a new work by Sy Brandon, Inventions for Brass Trio, and a forthcoming work by Gina Gillie. Brandon’s commission was funded by an eleven-member consortium of brass trios, and Gillie’s commission was made possible through a grant from the International Horn Society’s Meir Rimon Commissioning Assistance Fund. One of our trio’s missions is to promote and premiere new works, and we are very excited about performing these new pieces.

Upcoming Blog Posts: I have several posts planned for the coming weeks, including reviews of recent recordings and publications, helpful websites for practicing, planning recital tours, and various other topics. Be sure to follow Hornworld for the latest updates.

To close I want to wish all my students and colleagues a great fall semester!

New Book: Solo Training for Horn

Solo Training HornI’m pleased to announce that my new book, Solo Training for Horn, is now available from Mountain Peak Music. If you follow my blog you probably have heard about this project already, but in case you haven’t, here is a brief summary of the book and its contents.

Solo Training for Horn is designed to help you meet challenges found in eight popular solo works. When practiced regularly and intelligently, these studies will provide the foundation for successful performance of the works on which they are based, and other repertoire as well.

This collection consists of 12-15 studies per solo, each one focused on a relatively short passage or collection of passages. Literal repetition is generally avoided in favor of varied and progressive repetition. Most studies begin from a point of ease, and gradually progress to extremes, often going above and beyond what is required in the original works.

Works include: Sonata, Op. 17 by Ludwig van Beethoven, Villanelle by Paul Dukas, Concerto No. 1, Hob. VIId:3 by Franz Joseph Haydn, Concerto, K. 495 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Morceau de Concert, Op. 94 by Camille Saint-Saëns, Adagio and Allegro, Op. 70 by Robert Schumann, Concerto, Op. 8 by Franz Strauss, and Concerto in D, TWV 51:D8 by Georg Philipp Telemann.

And if you would like to hear a few excerpts from the book, here are two promotional videos.

As with my previous publication for Mountain Peak Music, writing Solo Training for Horn was an incredible learning experience. I hope that teachers and students of the horn find it a practical and effective addition to their repertoire of etudes and exercises. If you have any questions about the book or the writing process I would love to hear from you.

What’s next? Once the semester begins I will return to at least semi-regular blogging, and continue preparations for a recital coming up in early October (more on that later). I have a few bigger projects on the horizon, but for now am gearing up for the new academic year.

IHS 48 Final Thoughts

IMG_20160618_154254072_HDRNow that the 48th International Horn Symposium is officially over, I have a few parting thoughts regarding the world’s largest annual gathering of horn players. First, a huge Thank You and congratulations to host Alex Shuhan and all the students, faculty, staff, and volunteers in the Ithaca College School of Music for putting together a fantastic week of events. Additional thanks should go to Nancy Joy, International Symposium Coordinator, and Rose French, Symposium Exhibits Coordinator, as well as the IHS Officers and Advisory Council. Horn players generally work well together as a team, and the IHS 48 team was no exception – Bravo! Here are a few more summary comments to wrap up this series on the symposium. (Feel free to read the entire series, beginning with Report No. 1)

Symposium Theme: The theme of IHS 48 was “The Natural Beauty of the Horn,” and this was honored in many performances, lectures, and other events throughout the week. There were outdoor Alphorn jam sessions, lectures on the Baroque horn and other historical topics, and some stunning natural horn playing (Pip Eastop, Jeffrey Snedeker, and others), to name just a few. The gorgeous natural scenery and tree-filled landscape on the Ithaca College campus created an almost pastoral backdrop.

Exhibits and Layout: As mentioned in an earlier report, all of the events for IHS 48 were located in two buildings: the Campus Center (exhibits) and Whalen Center for Music (performances and lectures). Navigation between the two buildings was very simple, but the sprawling layout of the Campus Center caused some initial confusion in locating all of the exhibitors. However, numerous signs posted by symposium staff helped point the way. By the end of the first day or so I had a pretty good grasp on where things were located – others were much quicker in figuring things out! As expected, all of the best instruments, equipment, and accessories were on display throughout the week. While sheet music and books were represented, my personal choice would have been to see a few more publishers and dealers in attendance. Perhaps digital downloads and the general availability of these materials online is having an effect? Difficult to know based on this one event.

Etiquette (Concert Hall and Exhibit Rooms): I am going to approach this topic delicately because one of the great things about the IHS symposium is that it brings together horn players from a wide variety of backgrounds, abilities, and interests. I am in complete support of this, and feel that the symposium experience should be as inclusive as possible. During these types of conferences there are multiple events going on simultaneously, and it is not unusual for attendees to visit one concert or lecture for a time and then sneak out to catch part of another one (or two). I have done this myself on numerous occasions, and it is generally acceptable so long as one enters or exits the hall during applause, not during a performance or between movements. For whatever reason, I noticed this happening quite a bit during the week, and it must have been a frequent enough occurrence for the symposium staff to notice because some signs were posted asking audience members to enter only during applause or to use a less obtrusive entrance into the hall.

The second part of this topic concerns Exhibit Room etiquette. I’ve not seen too much written about this, but there are a few rules to observe to ensure an enjoyable experience for all. I’ve listed them below in the form of a “Do” list. The “Don’ts” can be easily extrapolated, I think!

  • Ask permission to try a horn, especially if it is a rare or expensive model. The exhibitors know you are there to try out instruments, but if time permits I think it’s worth the professional courtesy to ask before just picking them up. If the dealer is otherwise occupied, then it probably isn’t that big of an issue. Be sure to thank them after you’ve tried a horn. They went to a lot of trouble and expense to bring those instruments there.
  • Empty the horn before and after you’ve played on it.
  • Ask questions if you don’t know something. European or American taper? What key does this stand in? What’s the compression rating on these valves? Etc., etc. In my experience exhibitors are more than happy to answer any questions you have about their horns.
  • Be mindful of your surroundings. When playing, direct your bell away from others if at all possible.
  • Play intelligently. Play what you think is necessary to test out the capabilities of the horn, as well as have some fun. However, if you need to test out multiple fortissimo high Cs, then you should probably ask the dealer if you can take the horn to a practice room or a slightly more secluded area for more extensive playing.
  • Check your ego at the door. Some of the finest performers in the world as well as students and occasional or comeback players might all be in the exhibit hall at the same time. There is a place for everyone at an IHS symposium, so just relax and enjoy getting to check out lots of different instruments and accessories!

World Premieres: I already mentioned that IHS48 was a fantastic symposium for new music. The final total according to the program book was 14 World Premieres, although I suspect a few other works might also have been premieres but weren’t indicated. Many performers included both new and standard works on their programs, which made for well balanced concerts.

Stuff I Bought: I’m not really in the market for a new horn, but I did find a few useful items that might be of interest. Here’s a brief description of each.

  • Hard Shell Marcus Bonna Mute Case: This is a brand new product from one of the leaders in horn IMG_20160617_085952264_HDRcases, and I am thankful to see it available. I’ve had the unfortunate experience of having a mute partially crushed during air travel, even though it was wrapped in several layers of clothing and inside a hard shell suitcase. Although very happy with my Dampfer Mitt bag, I’ve been looking for something a bit more protective. Bonna’s design is similar to other mute bags, but incorporates the rigid shell used in his horn cases. I did not have my mute with me, but Mr. Bonna was kind enough to bring the case to another exhibit room to let me try it out on the same model. It was a perfect fit, and I am looking forward to using the new case. One note is that some mutes won’t fit in this particular case, although Mr. Bonna told me that he is planning to make them in different sizes in the future. If you have any questions I recommend contacting either Marcus Bonna or Ken Pope, who will probably be selling them soon on his website.
  • Balu/Maelstrom Mouthpiece: Maelstrom is one of the newer names in horn mouthpieces, but I’ve already heard lots of good things about them. Ion Balu of BaluMusik has collaborated with Maelstrom to create his own line of mouthpieces, and I ended up buying one of the brass underparts at this symposium. I’m looking forward to trying this one out with my Houser rim, and will report once I’ve had a chance to play on it some more.

All in all, IHS 48 was a great event, and I’m glad (as always) that I was able to attend. If you’ve never attended an IHS Symposium, consider making plans to attend the next one on June 26-30, 2017 in Natal, Brazil.

 

IHS 48 Report No. 4

This post is the fourth in a series of brief summaries regarding the 48th International Horn Symposium. You can read the first one here, the second one here, and the third one here.

Today I got to hear lots of brass chamber music, first from the Gaudete Brass in a concert featuring  original music for brass quintet. According to their website, the Gaudete (gow-day-tay) Brass is committed to “presenting serious brass chamber music through compelling concerts, commissioning new works and adventurous recordings.” They certainly lived up to their mission in today’s concert, performing these works:

  • Entrance (2003) David Sampson
  • Lighthouse Suite (2014) Daniel Baldwin
  • Still (2013) David Sampson
  • Brass Quintet (2009) Shafer Mahoney

The group sounded very good, with a polished and professional stage presence.

Next I attended a master class by Eli Epstein, “Cultivating One’s Own Voice on the Horn.” In this class he listened to three students perform various works (Rachmaninov, Vocalise; Massenet, Meditation from Thais; Schumann, Adagio and Allegro) and helped them tap into their own emotions to deliver more convincing and authentic performances. For more on this technique (and many more insights!) read his book, Horn Playing from the Inside Out.

After the master class it was time for some more new music. Jeffrey Snedeker gave an impressive performance of Dana Wilson’s Musings for Horn and Piano. I’ve known about Wilson’s music for quite a while, but have not yet performed any of it. After hearing many of his works at this symposium I am definitely planning to perform some in the future. Gene Berger then performed the World Premiere of Christoph Nils Thompson‘s Sonata for Horn and Piano. This has been a great symposium for new music, with ten world premieres thus far. The concert closed with a performance by the Washburn University Faculty Brass Quintet (Dr. Matthew Haislip, horn) of Haislip’s Brass Quintet No. 1 in D Major.

I stayed in the same concert hall for a bit of the next recital, but left about half way through to grab dinner and have some down time before the evening concert. Bravo to Corbin Wagner for his very fine performance of the Christoph Förster Concerto (First Movement) and Bozza’s Sur Les Cimes. On a related note, today I purchased a copy of his book, The How-to Horn Book, and his recording of music for soprano, horn, and piano. More about these in a future post.

I only attended the first half of this evening’s concert, opting instead for an earlier night to rest up for my presentation tomorrow. However, the part I heard was very unique, beginning with some entertaining pre-concert music by the Cornua Irae Quartet. Their blend of humor and solid horn playing was very enjoyable. The concert opened with impeccable playing by Gail Williams on David Gwilt’s Sonatina for Horn and Piano, followed by several works performed by Nobuaki Fukukawa, Principal Horn of the NHK Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo. His program included a U.S. premiere and two world premieres, chief among them being a new work by Eric Ewazen. His Nocturne and Toccata was commissioned by the Japan Horn Society for their 2016 competition, and is sure to become a popular piece in the repertoire. If I had to sum up Fukukawa’s playing in one word it would be “stunning.” His boundless technique is balanced by mature phrasing and finesse. Of the works he played, the Ewazen is probably the most approachable, though it was also quite challenging.

Coming up tomorrow, I have my Solo Training for Horn Presentation and a few more performances and clinics to see. It will probably be my last full day at the symposium, as I am planning to spend Saturday sight-seeing with my relatives. There is some gorgeous natural scenery in Ithaca, and I want to get some more pictures! Here are a couple of shots taken very quickly on campus. The first is looking down from the music building across the Ithaca campus, the second is a similar view, but at sunset, and the third is a deer I saw on campus during my walk back from a concert.

IMG_20160614_122539640 IMG_20160614_213508196IMG_20160616_204854606

 

 

 

IHS 48 Report No. 3

This post is the third in a series of brief summaries regarding the 48th International Horn Symposium. You can read the first one here, and the second one here.

Today I attended a mix of lectures and performances. First was a concert featuring the music of Daniel Baldwin. Baldwin’s music is tuneful, and very fun to perform. Here is a condensed version of the program, with instrumentation and the names of the horn players. For full information, you can view the online program book, page 18.

  • KUI Awakened (Solo Horn; Philip Kassell)
  • Dreams of the White Tiger (Woodwind Quintet; Clare Tuxill McKenney)
  • Landscapes (Horn, Clarinet, Bassoon, Piano; Erin Futterer)
  • Big Sky Country (Horn Ensemble)
  • Firefall (Horn Ensemble)

Bravo to all of the performers on this concert! If you don’t know Daniel Baldwin’s music, it is well worth a look and listen. *I had to step out of the concert early, and missed the last two horn ensemble works. Immediately following this performance I spent some much needed time in the practice room, preparing for my presentation on Friday.

Next I attended a very special presentation, “MRI Horn, The Inside Story: Pedagogy Informed by Science,” by Eli Epstein and Dr Peter Iltis. There was way too much information in this presentation to summarize here, but you can view this video conversation between Sarah Willis and Peter Iltis for an overview of how this powerful technology can improve our understanding of horn playing. The presentation began by reviewing some of the information presented at IHS47 in Los Angeles, and continued with some new discoveries regarding tongue position, and the role of the glottis in brass playing.

The afternoon performance included both new and old, with Dr. Jeffrey Snedeker performing the Nikolas von Krufft Sonata on natural horn, Dr. Erica Tyner Godrian performing a new solo horn work titled “across the plains, to Devils Tower” by Mack LaMont, and Dr. Margaret Tung performing the World Premiere of John Cheetham’s Sonata for Horn and Piano. All of the performances were very solid, and I especially enjoyed the Cheetham. Anyone who has played in a brass quintet knows Cheetham’s Scherzo, and think this new work for horn will get played quite a bit.

ihs 49The next update isn’t directly related to today’s events, but rather to the symposium as a whole. The dates and location of the next symposium have been announced in the program book. The 49th International Horn Symposium will be held June 26-30, 2017 at the Federal University of Rio Grande de Norte in Natal, Brazil, and the host is Radegundis Tavares.

This evening’s concert included some really spectacular playing: first by Bruno Schneider and Leslie Norton, followed by William VerMeulen on the second half. One notable thing about the program is that I had never heard any of the pieces before. All of the compositions made for interesting and enjoyable listening, but standouts for me were the Gothic Concerto by Kerry Turner (performed by Leslie Norton), and the Horn Sonata No. 1 by Christopher Caliendo (performed by William VerMeulen). I enjoyed hearing all three of these world class players, each with a very distinctive sound and approach to the instrument. It’s difficult for me to put into words, but they all had something special to offer in terms of their sound quality, beyond just “getting the notes.” I plan to think about this a bit more during the rest of the week, and maybe will be able to put a finer point on it in my summary comments.

 

Upcoming Conference: 48th International Horn Symposium

79941_photoAfter a very successful New Music on the Bayou Summer Festival, I’m looking forward to attending the 48th International Horn Symposium, hosted by Alexander Shuhan and the Ithaca College School of Music. As with last year’s symposium, I’ll be posting brief updates each day about concerts, lectures, and other events. The list of Featured Artists is fantastic as usual, including several performers that I’ve not had the opportunity to hear live. For more information, you can consult the official program book, which is available online. In addition to attending as much as possible, I’ll be performing with Trio Mélange on a Contributing Artist recital, and giving a presentation titled Solo Training for Horn: Exercises and Etudes for Standard Solo Repertoire. For more information about the ensemble and our upcoming performance, check out this press release, and for more details about the presentation, check out this post. Although I will of course talk about the forthcoming publication, the presentation will include lots of other helpful tips and hints for practicing some of the most common solo literature. On a personal note, I’ll be staying with relatives in Ithaca, and look forward to spending time with them as well as attending the symposium.

After the symposium I’ll be dialing things back a little bit, although I do have a few reviews and other summer projects in the works. Safe travels to everyone traveling to the IHS Symposium, and I hope to see you there!

 

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!

 

Semester Preview

calendarAlthough classes here just resumed last week, things are already in full swing, and this promises to be another exciting spring semester. As usual, I am looking forward to a variety of performances and other activities with my students and colleagues. Rather than list every single upcoming performance and project, I thought it would make more sense to mention a few of the highlights for each month. More details coming in future posts!

January

  • Recruiting tour with Black Bayou Brass

February

March

  • Black Bayou Brass Faculty Recital: This program on March 24th will feature a number of newer works for brass trio and brass trio with piano, including the world premiere of Sketchbook for Brass Trio by Roger Jones
  • Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday performances

April

  • Northeast Louisiana Horn Ensemble Concert
  • Canadian Brass Concert: The world-renowned brass quintet will be giving a free concert in Shreveport, and our studio will be making a short road trip for the performance.
  • Performance of Paul Basler’s Missa Kenya with the Monroe Symphony Chorus: It’s been a few years since I last performed this substantial piece, and I’m looking forward to doing it again!

Recurring events each month include performances with the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra and Monroe Symphony Orchestra, who are performing lots of great repertoire. In addition, I anticipate finishing up work on Solo Training for Horn, my second publication for Mountain Peak Music. This companion to Solo Duet Training will contain exercises and etudes for one horn based on several solo works not covered in the first book. I have about 50% of the material prepared, and am on track to finish in April or early May. Including time for feedback and revisions, I hope to have the book ready (or nearly ready) by the 48th International Horn Symposium.

Best wishes to all my colleagues for a great semester!