Gearing up for the Southeast Horn Workshop

This weekend I’ll be heading to my old stomping ground of Boone, NC for the 2011 Southeast Horn Workshop, which is being held on the campus of Appalachian State University.  I’m looking forward to catching up with colleagues and former teachers, as well as hearing some fabulous horn playing by guest artists John Ericson, David Jolley, and Gail Williams.  As always, I plan to peruse the music and other publications, and I will definitely be picking up copies of John Ericson’s new low horn and technique books.   As far as these topics go, I feel that you can never have enough good resources in your library.  I’ll admit it, I’m an etude junkie!

For my part I’ll be involved in several different activities at this year’s SEHW.  On Friday I’ll be judging a portion of the College Solo Competition with Skip Snead, Professor of Horn at the University of Alabama, presenting a session called “Teaching Younger Horn Players,” and possibly teaching several 20-minute mini lessons to prospective students.  To my knowledge this hasn’t been done in a long time, if ever, at this particular regional workshop.  It should be very interesting to see what we can do in such a short time.

On Saturday I’ll be performing a brand new work for solo horn by a former college classmate, William Withem.  The work is titled Agamemnon, and is really a well-written piece, very idiomatic and fun to play.  Here are some program notes on the piece, quoted from Bill’s website.  Many thanks to Bill for taking the time and care to produce a very fine new work for horn.

In Richard Strauss’ opera Elektra, the character of Agamemnon (Elektra’s father) was murdered upon his return home from the Trojan War. The opera focuses on Elektra’s plot to exact revenge against Agamemnon’s murderers. Strauss represents Agamemnon with an ominous three-note theme that outlines a D minor chord. It first appears at the very beginning of the score, and is heard in various forms throughout the remainder of the opera. As a hypothetical question, one may wander what becomes of the memory of Agamemnon? Was he despised enough to be murdered, or should he be celebrated as a victorious commander of war? That question, plus Strauss’ motive for Agamemnon, serve as the point of inspiration for this piece; a character and thematic exploration of the Trojan War commander. The motive is treated in various forms of altered rhythms and tonal qualities, set in contrasting sections.  Each section relates to various aspects of the character: an opening call to summon his soldiers, a war march, a song to lament departing from one’s family in wartime, and a murderous dance of death.

If you happen to be in the area this weekend, I encourage you to check out the Southeast Horn Workshop.  There will be plenty of horn-related concerts, presentations, and master classes for everyone.

2010 Southeast Horn Workshop Performance

With the 2011 Southeast Horn Workshop less than two months away, I thought I’d post some audio from my performance at last year’s workshop, held on the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, MS.  I owe a big thanks to Dr. Heidi Lucas, Assistant Professor of Horn at the University of  Southern Mississippi, for making this recording available to me.  I performed Robert Schumann’s  Fantasiestücke, Op. 73, transcribed and edited by Kazimierz Machala, with Dr. Richard Seiler on piano.  One other interesting note about this particular performance is that legendary horn soloist Barry Tuckwell happened to be in the audience at the time, since he was one of the featured artists at the 2010 SEHW.  See the links below to listen to my live performance of all three movements.

Movement I:  Zart und mit Ausdruck

Movement II: Lebhaft, leicht

Movement III: Rasch, mit Feuer

Happy 2011 and an Inspiring Story

Although there are still a few days left before my semester begins, I am officially cranking the blog back up for 2011!  I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season, and I wish you all the best in your endeavors for this year.  2011 promises to be an exciting and busy year, with a number of horn-related activities in the works.  Here’s a brief summary of some upcoming events, through the month of March.

January 15: Chamber Arts Brass Trio performance at the Big XII Trombone Conference, Texas Tech University

February 19: Horn Quartet Performance at Northwestern State University of Louisiana

February 22: Chamber Arts Brass Trio Recital

March 4-6: Southeast Horn Workshop, Appalachian State University

March 22: Faculty Recital, Music for Horn and Guitar

Additional performances with the Monroe and Rapides Symphony Orchestras.

I’ll be posting more about these events in the future, but two events which I’m particularly excited about are the Southeast Horn Workshop, where I’ll be performing a newly written piece for solo horn by William Withem, an old college classmate, and now an established composer.  Later that month I’ll be collaborating with guitarist Daniel Sumner for a recital of music for horn and guitar.  Horn and guitar is an unusual combination, and there is some really cool music for this instrumentation.  We also hope to premier on this recital a new piece for horn, guitar, and piano by Mel Mobley, Associate Professor of Theory and Composition at ULM.

To close out this first post of 2011 I’ll share an inspiring story I recently heard about on NPR.  The story, titled “Amid Unrest, Juarez Symphony Orchestra Plays On,” opens with this line.

It’s been a rough couple of years in Juarez. Known as the murder capital of Mexico, Juarez is plagued by drug-related violence and organized crime. A quarter of the population is estimated to have fled, and thousands of businesses have closed. This year, the city even canceled its Independence Day celebration for the first time ever.

But the Juarez Symphony Orchestra plays on to grateful audiences that choose violins as a refuge from violence.

The article is well written, and yet another testament to the power of the arts to uplift and empower in even the most difficult of situations.

Name Those Horn Players!

Alright blog readers, I need your help.  I picked up the sketch below at the 1996 Southeast Horn Workshop, which was, strangely enough, held on the campus of the University of Delaware. I can’t remember who I got the picture from, but I do remember a fellow horn student and I helping several of the sheet music and instrument exhibitors pack up their tables at the end of the workshop,  and being compensated in the form of free sheet music and other items (!)  I can only surmise that I chose this sketch as one of the freebies.  However, I neglected to find out anything about the picture, including information on the artist and the names of all of the horn players depicted in it.  The picture has followed me throughout the years, and now hangs in my office.  I know a few of the faces, but I’m not sure about the rest.  Please comment if you recognize any of the players, or if you know anything about the artist, who is identified as “E. Butz” in the lower right hand corner of the page.

Popular Solo Works at the Southeast Horn Workshop

I love looking at programs from past horn workshops and symposia – they are a great way to get good ideas for recital repertoire.  As I was going back through some of my programs from previous Southeast Horn Workshops, I thought it might be useful to compile a short list of the solo compositions performed at the workshop over the years.  Although I have attended the workshop a total of ten times, I was only able to find programs from 1996, 2001, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010.  I’m sure the other programs are tucked away somewhere, and when I find them I will definitely add them to the list.  Even with a limited number of programs it was really interesting to see which pieces and composers have been the most popular for regional and guest artist recitals.  I’ll include the complete list at the end of this post, but in summary the works which received the most performances were:

Bozza, En Foret

Dukas, Villanelle

Persichetti, Parable

F. Strauss, Nocturno, Op. 7

And as for the most popular composer at these workshops, Franz Strauss came out on top, with Paul Basler in a close second!  New music was also very important – there were several premieres.  As promised, here is the complete list. SEHW Solo Pieces

If you come across an error or omission in the list, please let me know, as I would like my records to be as accurate as possible.  At times the program information was incomplete, so in a few cases the name of an arranger might not be listed.  Other lists could easily be compiled for chamber music, or for a larger pool of workshops and horn symposia.  It would make a really nice research project or even part of a dissertation to go back through all of the old IHS Symposium programs and compile a list of the solo and chamber works performed there.

Performing Tamusuza’s Okukoowoola Kw’Ekkondeere

The sounds of the vuvuzela (see the great post on this topic from Horn Matters) emanating from our living room television got me thinking about Justinian Tamusuza’s Okukoowoola Kw’Ekkondeere (Horn Call), a piece I performed a while back at the 2009 Southeast Horn Workshop at Western Carolina University.  Tamusuza is a Ugandan composer, and this piece for solo horn was premiered in 2006 by Adam Lesnick at the 38th IHS Symposium in Cape Town, South Africa.  As an introduction to the piece, I’ll quote from Mr. Lesnick’s performance notes, which are included in the score.

Okukoowoola Kw’Ekkondeere is an expanded version of the unaccompanied horn call that serves as the introduction to an ensemble piece scored for horn, string quartet, and maracas. This unaccompanied horn introduction works very well as a colorful stand-alone recital piece that includes sounds that are unexpected from a solo horn, even for those of us who play the instrument.  In just over four minutes the horn opens with dissonant quartertone calls, followed by sections with rhythmic African pentatonic melodies, and then becomes increasingly more percussive, finally fading into the distance with a unique muted drumming passage.  It is very audience-accessible, fun to perform for both professional and advanced student hornists, and adds some interesting diversity to the existing horn repertoire.

This piece was very fun to prepare, and I was able to perform it several times – three performances including the Southeast Horn Workshop. The work is filled with extended techniques, which took some detailed working out.  Two of the most interesting effects called for are tubular tones and percussive tapping on an inserted straight mute.  Quoting Adam Lesnick again:

In the rest at 96, the mute is inserted (for the remainder of the piece) and the second F and first Bb tuning slides are removed from the horn (also for the remainder of the piece).  From bar 97 to 131 the horn plays percussive African ostinato figures that are common in Kigandan music.  With the tuning slides removed from the valve section of the horn, the notes are played with the unusual harmonic series that is created by the open slide tubes.  Because this sound does not come out of the bell it is much smaller than the usual horn tone and, if played with strong articulation, should sound more like African percussion than a classical wind instrument.

Mr. Lesnick goes on to explain that performers should experiment with removing other slides in order to achieve the correct pitches and transposition.  I ended up removing my first and second Bb slides, which I notated in the part.  The final section of the piece stretched my meager coordination, because it requires playing the horn and tapping on a straight mute simultaneously.  For this technique I followed Mr. Lesnick’s suggestion and used a plastic shaker egg instead of my finger to tap on the mute.  If you’re curious about how all these techniques actually sound, I’ve included below the recording of my performance at the 2009 Southeast Horn Workshop.  Overall I was pleased with the performance, and I think the piece came off well.  I owe a big thank you to Dr. Travis Bennett,  Assistant Professor of Horn at WCU, for kindly sending me a copy of the recording.  He also was an excellent workshop host!  Anyway, on to my performance.

If you enjoyed Okukoowoola Kw’Ekkondeere, consider programming it on a recital or other concert in the future.  The piece is published by International Opus, and you can find much more information on it and Justinian Tamusuza in Adam Lesnick’s excellent article “New African Music for Horn,” published in the February 2007 issue of The Horn Call.

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