Upcoming Concert: Black Bayou Brass

This Wednesday, April 17 at 7:30 p.m., Black Bayou Brass presents our annual faculty recital. As always, it will be a fun, challenging evening of music for the ensemble. I’ve included a program below, with links to recordings (where available). We’ve performed the Ewazen, Frackenpohl, and Debussy frequently, but the Trio by Mark Wolfram, selections from Voyage, Op. 27 by Robert Muczynski, and Triga by Frigyes Hidas are all new to our performing repertoire. Everything but the Debussy is an original work for brass trio. These are all very solid compositions, and if you are looking for some new brass trio rep for yourself or your students, consider checking out the Wolfram and Hidas especially. The V3NTO Brass Trio has an excellent recording of the Hidas available on CD Baby, and I highly recommend it. It’s also noteworthy that the Wolfram Trio was the First Prize Winner in the Brass Trio category of the International Horn Society’s 1989 Composition Contest. Though brief, it’s a wonderful work, full of contrasts and exciting lines for all three parts.

If you’d like to hear more about these works (and hear them performed) come out to our recital on Wednesday at 7:30!

A Philharmonic Fanfare Eric Ewazen (b. 1954)

 

Brass Trio (1966) Arthur Frackenpohl (b. 1924)


The Girl with the Flaxen Hair Claude Debussy (1862-1918)  arr. Christian A. Eriksen

Brass Trio (1988) Mark E. Wolfram (b. 1955)

 

Voyage for Brass Trio, Op. 27 Robert Muczynski (1929-2010)

Triga Frigyes Hidas (1928-2007) *Samples available here.

 

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New Brass Trio CD Released!

I’m happy to report that Scenes from the Bayou, our new brass trio album, is now available on the Mark Custom Recordings label. Anyone who was released a recording knows how much work is involved, and while I truly have enjoyed every bit of the process, I’m nonetheless relieved (and excited) to see the final product in physical form. If you’re interested in reading more about the recording and editing process, you can see my previous posts here and here. At this time the recording is available for purchase directly from me and also on the Mark Recordings store page, linked above. It will be available very soon on iTunes and Amazon. I will post updates as soon as the links are up.

Here’s a small quote from the liner notes which explains the scope and contents of this album. You can also read the Sales Sheet, a handy one-page document with more information about the recording.

The repertoire for brass trio is not extensive, especially when compared to more venerable chamber ensembles such as brass quintet or string quartet. With only three voices, the number of possible harmonies and timbres is limited, and there are few works written by major composers. Furthermore, there are only a handful of established professional ensembles. Yet, the number of student, amateur, and professional ensembles is growing, and there are jewels in the repertoire which help give the medium credibility. Since its inception, Black Bayou Brass has sought to promote brass trio music through performances, commissions, arrangements, and recordings. This album showcases several World Premiere recordings in various styles and time periods, from the 18th to 21st centuries. We feel it represents the best of what brass trio compositions have to offer, and we sincerely hope you enjoy listening to it!

And here’s a complete track listing, as found in the CD tray, along with a video containing score samples and brief clips of each work.

Allegro 
Menuetto                                                              
Adagio 
Menuetto
Rondo: Allegro assai
Preludio            
Allemanda 
Corrente 
Gavotta 
Hopak from Sorochinsky Fair by Modest Mussorgsky/arr. Aaron Witek 
The Wheel             
The Metronome 
The Periscope 
Morse Code
The Airplane     
Morning on the Bayou   
Chasing Prey                
Bayou Boardwalk              
Cypress Trees            
Fire in the Sky 
All are world premiere recordings, and with the exception of Flash by Jérôme Naulais, all the works on this album were either commissioned by us or created by members of the ensemble. If you haven’t heard any brass trio music before, or if you aren’t very familiar with the repertoire, make sure you check out Scenes from the Bayou!

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!

Spring 2018 Semester Preview

Lots of great horn and brass-related events coming up this semester! Details below.

Brass Day at ULM: On February 2, Dr. Stacie Mickens, Associate Professor of Horn at Youngstown State University, will be our featured artist for this free one-day clinic open to all brass players. In addition to a recital by the featured artist, Brass Day will also include clinics, small and large ensemble rehearsals, and a finale concert. For more details, visit http://ulm.edu/music/brassday.html

Black Bayou Brass Recruiting Tour: This spring we’ll be performing at several schools throughout Louisiana. Follow our Facebook page for the latest info on our performances.

Woodwind Quintet: While I get to do a wide variety of playing – solo, chamber, and orchestral – one area where I’ve wanted to do more performing but haven’t is wind quintet. There are so many great wind quintet compositions out there ranging from the Classical through 21st Century, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the few wind quintet performances I’ve done over the years. This semester I will be performing with a new woodwind quintet composed of various music educators in the area. We have recitals scheduled in two venues on April 9 and April 30, and I’m really looking forward to it! More info on this group in a future post.

Brass Trio Recording Project – Phase 2: Now that we’ve wrapped up the recording portion of our album, we’ll be moving on to the editing, mastering, and final production phases. I’ll post more updates on this site as things progress.

Orchestral Performances: Lots of great rep coming up with the various performing groups I am fortunate to be a member of: Brahms Symphony No. 4, Schubert Symphony No. 9, de Falla Suite from The Three Cornered Hat, and a brass choir concert with the Shreveport Symphony featuring works by Michael Daugherty, Giovanni Gabrieli, Aaron Copland, Karel Husa, Joan Tower, and Benjamin Britten, to name a few.

Solo Performances: Last, but certainly not least, I’ll be rounding out my semester with two solo performances, Mozart’s Horn Concerto, K. 447 with the Monroe Symphony Orchestra (April 28), and Pele, by Brian Balmages, with the ULM Wind Ensemble (April 19). I’ll post more about my preparation for these performances as we get closer to April.

Looking ahead to summer 2018, I’ll be performing with my colleagues in July at the International Trombone Festival. Our recital will feature original works for low brass trio (horn, trombone, and tuba). You guessed it, more on this in a future post!

While our semester has gotten off to a slow start because of fierce winter weather across the region, we’ll be back up and running very soon. In the meantime, I want to wish my colleagues in the South (and everywhere else) a safe and productive start to the semester.

 

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!

 

Performance Videos: 2017 International Women’s Brass Conference

As promised, here are some videos of our faculty brass trio’s performance this past summer at the 2017 International Women’s Brass Conference at Rowan University. Thanks to Dr. Amy Bliss for making this recording available! The videos below are of the most substantial work we performed, Scenes from the Bayou, which we commissioned from Dr. Gina Gillie. It is an energetic and accessible new work for brass trio, and I am pleased to announce that we will be recording it – along with several other recent compositions for brass trio – in early 2018. Enjoy! NB: There is a small typo in the title screen for movement 4 – it should read “Cypress Trees.”

Semester Preview: Fall 2017

Allumer Quartet

Our semester at ULM began a few weeks ago, and the schedule for this fall promises to be busy but also engaging and fun. Here are a few highlights of what’s to come in the weeks and months ahead.

Dr. Heather Thayer

Guest Artists: We will be hosting two horn guest artists for performances and master classes this semester: The Allumer Quartet, and Dr. Heather Thayer, Horn Instructor at Ouachita Baptist University. The Allumer Quartet is a horn quartet based in Baton Rouge, consisting of current graduate students and graduates from LSU. The members are Centria Brown, Tom Fish, Evan McAleer, and Kyle Peterson. “Allumer” is Cajun French and means “to light” or “ignite.” Their program on September 5th will include works by Alexander Mitushin, Eugène Bozza, and Béla Bartók, as well as the world premiere of two new works by Marc Mellits and Guy Mintus. *I got to hear a bit of their rehearsal in our hall today, and they sound great!

Faculty Recital: On October 3rd I’ll be giving a shared recital with our Low Brass professor, Dr. Jeremy Marks. Immediately following our ULM performance we’ll be taking things on the road for guest performances and masterclasses at the University of Kentucky, Ohio University, and Ball State University. Stay tuned for more details! I’m very excited about the program, which for me will consist of a 50/50 mix of old and new repertoire. Here’s what I’ll be doing on my half:

  • Imaginings, Dorothy Gates (b. 1966)
  • España, Vitaly Bujanovsky (1928-1993)
  • Romanza, Op. 59/2, Jan Koetsier (1911-2006)
  • Romanza, Randall E. Faust (b. 1946)
  • Hunting Songs for Low Horn, Brett Miller (b. 1976)
  • Azure Dawn (horn and trombone), Frank Gulino (b. 1987)

Orchestral Concerts: Two big pieces on my bucket list are coming up this fall in the Monroe Symphony Orchestra, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2.  Of course, these works need no introduction, and I’m really looking forward to playing 1st horn on them. Although the concert isn’t until the end of October, I’ve already begun training for these demanding parts.

Brass Trio Recital: To close out the semester, Black Bayou Brass will perform two full concerts in November and December. On November 29th we’ll be giving our annual faculty recital, in preparation for a future recording project in January 2018. This project has been a long time coming, and will feature lots of great new music for trumpet, horn, and trombone, including two works which we recently commissioned. On December 15th we’ll be giving a holiday concert for brass and organ at Grace Episcopal Church in Monroe. Though we typically present a holiday concert every December, this one will be quite special as all of the proceeds will be donated to a local animal shelter. Watch for more info as we get closer to the concert date.

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.

Upcoming Projects, Part 1: Performances and Premieres

For various reasons, I fell so far behind on writing my customary Semester Preview post this year that I decided to forgo it entirely. In lieu of that single post, I decided to write individual “blurbs” about  my upcoming activities.

Our faculty brass trio, Black Bayou Brass, recently commissioned two  new multi-movement works, which we’ll be premiering this spring and summer. The first piece is Inventions, by Sy Brandon. Commissioned through a consortium with several other brass ensembles, this substantial five-movement work is accessible and challenging (though not prohibitively so). In the composer’s words:

The title “Inventions’ has a double meaning as a musical invention is a short contrapuntal composition that is usually based on a single theme. The second meaning is that each movement represents a significant invention.

During the composition process Dr. Brandon provided sound samples and ample descriptions of each movement, and allowed us to provide feedback as each movement took shape. Follow the links below for more information and a sound sample of each movement.

  1. The Wheel
  2. The Metronome
  3. The Periscope
  4. Morse Code
  5. The Airplane

For anyone interested in commissioning a new work, a consortium is a very effective way to generate funding. The fee for Inventions was very reasonable, and we are looking forward to performing it on our March 14 faculty recital.

In June we’ll travel to the International Women’s Brass Conference  to premiere a new work by Dr. Gina Gillie, Associate Professor of Horn at Pacific Lutheran University. Gillie has published a handful of compositions, and is quickly making a name for herself. Her music is tuneful, engaging, and very fun to play. We were fortunate to be awarded funding for this commission from the International Horn Society’s Meir Rimon Commissioning Assistance Fund.  The Meir Rimon Fund is a fantastic program, and well-worth exploring. Gillie’s new work is entitled Scenes from Black Bayou,  and was inspired by the beautiful natural scenery at Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge (see image above). Black Bayou is, of course, what our trio is named after, and is located a few miles north of the ULM campus. We’ve begun rehearsing the trio, and are having a great time with it. If you’ll be attending this year’s IWBC at Rowan University in New Jersey, we’d love to see you at our performance.

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!

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