Trio Tour Report

As promised, here’s a brief report from our brass trio tour this past weekend.  The performances went very well, and we had the opportunity to meet some wonderful people, including Stephen King!  Through an unlikely set of coincidences, one of the schools we visited on our tour served as a venue for a lecture and book-reading by Mr. King.  The band director at the school (McKinney North High School)  asked us if we would be willing to provide some pre-lecture music in addition to our regular performance, and we gladly agreed.  Including our pre-lecture performance, we played five concerts on Friday for students at Richardson High School and McKinney North High School.  Both schools have very fine band programs, and we would like to thank the directors and students at these schools for their wonderful hospitality.  In addition to performing for the students, we also spent some time answering questions and discussing the many opportunities for both music majors and non-majors at ULM.  One question that seemed to keep coming up in these sessions was “how much do you practice?” Although each of us had different answers regarding individual practice habits, we all stressed the importance of a daily routine of fundamentals as a foundation for further development. We also discussed the importance of individual preparation prior to ensemble rehearsals.  Since our rehearsal time as a trio is limited, we make sure to prepare our music to as high a level as possible before rehearsing as a group.

On Saturday, we performed two more concerts and worked with some very fine students at two Music and Arts Stores. We had great crowds for both shows, and I heard some excellent horn playing from students ranging from seventh grade through high school senior.  One thing I noticed was that all of the horn players had very solid fundamentals, no doubt due to their private lesson work with Ashley Downing – a local freelancer and teacher in the Dallas area, and the wife of Music and Arts District Manager Andy Downing.  Regular private lessons with a good teacher combined with individual practice are definitely the way to become a better horn player!

Overall we had a great tour, and are looking forward to our next trip – we’ll be visiting several schools in Mississippi in early December. To close, I’ve embedded a short video of us performing part of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumble-Bee, arranged for brass trio by ULM low brass professor Micah Everett.

Kopprasch Project Continued, No. 14

After a week off, here’s your next Kopprasch installment.  This one can be quite challenging for a number of reasons, namely concentration, accuracy, and clarity of articulation.  Suggested tempo is quarter note=108-112.  Be careful on beat four in the first full measure after the repeat that you get low enough when slurring from the E at the top of the staff to the G below it.  It is really easy to clip that interval and get a B-flat instead of a G.  Keep the air moving, and relax.

“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

Handel for Brass Trio

Here’s a short video clip from a recent performance by the Chamber Arts Brass Trio, resident faculty brass ensemble at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. Of special note is that this was our first “official” performance with new trumpet faculty member Alex Noppe.   Alex joined the music faculty at ULM this fall, having held a previous position at Indiana State University.  We are delighted to have him on our faculty, and look forward to future performances together.

I did the recording with a Canon Vixia HF R10, a device I like more every time I use it.  I’m still working on tweaking some microphone and other settings, so any issues with the video and/or audio quality are most likely user error.  One way I plan to use the camera is to record an entire series of standard horn etudes – this will be a sizeable project, so it’ll probably have to wait until the summer!

Faculty Recital Program

On Tuesday, August 31 at 7:30pm, pianist Richard Seiler and I will be presenting an international program as part of the Faculty Artist Concert series here at the University of Louisiana at Monroe.  Preparing these works has been a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to the performance.  In choosing repertoire for this recital I tried to find a balance between pieces I had previously performed and works that were new to me.  At this point in my career I am primarily working on lots of new and/or unfamiliar works as well as going back over some of the repertoire I performed as a college student.  I think having a theme for a recital is a good way to structure things, as it gives both the players and the audience a thread or train of thought to follow for the entire program.  As I mentioned before, this recital is built around an international theme, primarily featuring works for horn and piano by various Europeans and one American.

Alec Wilder (1907-1980) Sonata No.3 for Horn and Piano, edited by John Barrows In his article in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Gunther Schuller describes Alec Wilder as “an ‘unclassifiable’ American original,” and indeed Wilder’s compositions often seem to be balanced perfectly somewhere between popular and art music.  His three sonatas for horn and piano as well as the Suite for Horn and Piano hold a special place in the repertoire, due both to the high quality and uniqueness of the writing as well as the championing of these works by the legendary John Barrows.  I considered a number of American composers to begin the recital, but since I only had room on the program for one American I went with Wilder.  I am familiar with Wilder’s music, but the third sonata was a new one for me.  As with his other horn writing, this sonata is lyrical, jazzy at times, and always idiomatic.

Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) Appel interstellaire, from Des Canyons aux Etoiles Although Messiaen was a French composer, I chose the “Interstellar Call” because of the various international influences found in it, and because it showcases so many different timbres and technical possibilities on the horn.  For a bit of background on the work, I’ll quote from Daniel Bourgue‘s wonderful collection of essays, Conversations About the Horn, published in 1996 by International Music Diffusion (I.M.D.), and translated into English by Nancy Jordan Fako.

The Horn and Messiaen: “Des Canyons Aux Etoiles”

A short history:

This grand orchestral work was composed between 1971 and 1974. As with many of Messiaen’s compositions, this is a mystical work. Des Canyons aux Etoiles [From the Canyons to the Stars] refers to rising from canyons of the earth up to the stars and beyond to paradise, to the glory of God in all of His creation: the wonders of the earth, the land, the song of birds, the magnificence of both material and spiritual heaven. This is a work of praise and contemplation. It uses only a single horn which plays a long solo entitled “Appel interstellaire” [“Interstellar Call]. This solo was probably the first part of the work that was written. In 1971 composer Jean-Pierre Guezec died prematurely. To pay him tribute, nine French composers, friends, or teachers wrote a collective work composed of short pieces for different solo instruments. This work was entitled Le Tombeau de J.P. Guezec [The Tomb of J.P. Guezec].  The first (and only) performance was given at the 8th Annual Royan Contemporary Music Festival [Royan is a small coastal city near Bordeaux] on April 6, 1971 for a radio broadcast. Olivier Messiaen was one of the nine composers. He decided to write a piece for horn alone, and I was chosen to perform it. p. 89.

The rest of the chapter deals with various performance issues related to the “Interstellar Call”, and I highly recommend it. One other topic that sometimes comes up with this work is that Messiaen did not wish the “Interstellar Call” to be performed or recorded out of context.  I have mixed feelings about this, because while I think it is extremely important to respect the composer’s wishes, realistically the “Interstellar Call” would rarely be heard – if at all – if it were necessary to mount a full performance of Des Canyons aux Etoiles each time a horn player wished to play the work.  Instead I prefer to think of performing it as an orchestral excerpt, and as a way to demonstrate some extended techniques on the horn.  Perhaps the full effect of the piece is lost by performing it out of context, but in my opinion that is better than not hearing it at all.  Numerous other horn soloists have performed and/or recorded the work as an independent solo piece, and I would love to hear other opinions/rationalizations about the subject.

Luigi Cherubini (1760-1842) Sonata No. 2 Representing Italy is this well known sonata by Cherubini, a prominent composer of opera and sacred music in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.  Written in 1804 as a test piece for the Paris Conservatory, this sonata belongs to a group of two works composed for examination purposes.  I first performed this piece as an undergraduate, and pulling it back out after several years has been great fun.  Perhaps the next time around I’ll work it up on the natural horn, the instrument for which it was originally intended.

Charles Gounod (1818-1893) Six Melodies, edited by Daniel Bourgue Gounod is probably most well known for his lyric opera Faust, along with various other operas, sacred works, and around 200 songs.  Though not a major part of his compositional output, the Six Melodies for Horn and Piano are nevertheless charming, and I think a great way to open the second half of a recital.  Because I didn’t want the recital to get too long, we’ll only be performing the first three melodies.  As you might expect for a composer steeped in opera and song, the writing is very lyrical, along with some clear folk influences.

Franz Strauss (1822-1905) Fantasie, Op. 2 Among the earliest works published by the composer, this quasi theme and variations is very popular on recitals and at horn workshop/symposiums.  Though straightforward harmonically and melodically, the piece  has some very nice lyrical writing as well as some tricky technical passages to work out.  For a number of the technical passages I ended up staying on the B-flat side of the horn quite a bit.  For an excellent recording, check out John Ericson’s CD Les Adieux.

Arnold Cooke (b. 1906) Rondo in B-flat We’ll end the recital with this short work by a British composer.  I like closing programs with a fun, less serious work, and the Rondo fits the bill nicely. This piece, along with the Strauss, Wilder, and Gounod, were new to me for this recital, and I’m glad that they are now in my repertoire.

Taking the Plunge

Welcome to my new blog, where I hope to post regularly on a variety of horn related topics. I’ve been thinking about starting a blog for awhile now, but I suppose procrastination took over, as it often does. Another reason I was hesitant to start blogging is because of the numerous excellent horn blogs already out there. With veteran teachers and performers already contributing pages of high quality information every day, I wondered, what could I possibly have to offer? Well …in this first post I thought I’d lay out a few of the reasons why I finally decided to take the plunge.

Communication/Networking: Blogging is a great way to stay in touch with colleagues, students, and prospective students. In addition to discussing my own experiences, I’ll keep any interested readers updated on various horn related activities in the area. In fact, keeping area hornists informed is one part of my duties as an area representative for the International Horn Society.

Writing Practice: As a horn teacher, the words and language I use are as important as my playing. I practice horn every day, so why not practice writing regularly? Some of my blog posts might even be able to be expanded into full-fledged articles.

Teaching: Hopefully this blog will help me solidify my own concepts about horn playing, in turn making me a more effective teacher.

A Link in the Chain: Like anyone else, I have unique experiences and perspectives, and by sharing those with others, I feel like I will be contributing at least in a small way to the development of my field.

New Ideas: Just starting this blog got me thinking in a number of directions, which is always exciting. People thrive on new and engaging experiences, and I think this blog will be a fun way to flesh out some creative ideas about horn teaching and playing.

Coming Up: CD Review-It’s All Relative

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