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.

Music for Brass Trio by Sy Brandon

One theme that runs through this blog is an interest in new music, particularly music for brass trio.  Our faculty trio is always looking for new music, and we eagerly read pretty much anything that comes our way. This past year we were pleased to be able to record demos for some original and arranged works by Sy Brandon, owner of Co-op Press.  Co-op Press is a small, independently owned publishing company, with several solo and chamber music titles for brass.  If you haven’t checked out their website, it is worth a look.  Prices are very reasonable, and their sheet music publications can also be purchased online and downloaded as PDF files.  Another interesting feature of this company is that they provide  grants for performers and fundraising opportunities for organizations.  Thanks to the efforts of our trumpet player Alex Noppe, our brass trio received a small stipend from Co-op Press in exchange for recording the following demos.  These pieces cover a range of difficulty levels and styles, and would make great additions to a recital program.  The arrangement of Handel’s “Entrance of the Queen of Sheba” is a particularly good program opener. You can find more information about these works, including prices, on the Co-op Press Brass Trio page.  Performers on these recordings are Alex Noppe, trumpet; James Boldin, horn; Micah Everett, trombone.

Appalachian Folk Suite, by Sy Brandon: A quirky medley of traditional Appalachian folk songs; utilizes some asymmetrical meters and interesting harmonic shifts.

Entrance of the Queen of Sheba, arr. by Sy Brandon: Very nice – but challenging – arrangement of this popular selection from G.F. Handel’s oratorio Solomon. Suitable for an advanced college or professional ensemble.

Trio for Brass, by Sy Brandon: A three movement original work, suitable for a college or advanced high school ensemble.

  1. Fanfare
  2. Dirge
  3. March

“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!

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