“ WHY THE TROMBONE? SIMPLE. IT’S FUNNY.”
THE INIMITABLE JIGGS WHIGHAM
WINS ITA LIFETIME AC HIEVEMENT AWARD
YOUR LETTERS TO AMOS MILLER
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DÁVUR JUUL MAGNUSSEN
Welcome to our first E-Magazine. I absolutely love it, and I think you will too! First and foremost I want to congratulate our new editor, Jane Salmon, and her team with putting this magazine together. They have unified a fresh new design, with a staggeringly good line-up of interesting and curious articles, while overcoming technical challenges in our new way of publishing. Jane has a strong vision for our magazine, and she is achieving it already in her first issue. I look forward to seeing it develop further under her stewardship. This issue has a returning theme, which is learning. Across different contributions you will see many angles on it. Learning new things, learning old things in a new way, evaluating your own learning, and even how we learn in the first place. It is absolutely fascinating to see such a multitude of approaches, and it inspires me to push on my own frontiers. Spring is here, and so are a multitude of events for your diary, as you will see. Get out there and take part in them. That is what it’s all about. Also, make sure you keep your ear to the ground on social media, because more events will be announced there as they come up. And how about you? Do you have something? An event to promote, an idea that needs support, or a wish to express? Get in touch with us. The team would love to hear from you, as we depend heavily on engagement from you, the members. You are the BTS. Enjoy.
Education is at the heart of this edition of The Trombonist as we share your letters to our guest agony aunt Amos Miller, Marcus Brigstocke’s charming account of his first trombone lesson at London’s Guildhall School, a host of inspiring advice, completed by the launch of our very own catalogue of ABRSM syllabus recordings. We have plenty of features for you including a spotlight on Jiggs Whigham, this year’s recipient of the prestigious ITA Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as a brand new How It’s Made feature, which explores the intricate craftsmanship behind mute making. I am delighted to offer a warm welcome to our newest member of the magazine team – our designer, Sára Mikkelsen. Putting this together has been a joy and I would like to extend a big thank you to the whole BTS team and our contributors for their time and support. Readers, it is a pleasure to share this with you and I hope you all find plenty to enjoy. Your feedback is always welcome, so please do get in touch – thank you. Jane Salmon email@example.com
Dávur Juul Magnussen firstname.lastname@example.org
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THE TROMBONIST MAGAZINE TEAM
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Barney Medland firstname.lastname@example.org EVENTS EDITOR
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CONTRIBUTORS TO THIS ISSUE
Adam Crighton Amos Miller Barney Medland Dávur Juul Magnussen Jane Salmon Jeremy Price Matthew Gee Marcus Brigstocke Mark Templeton Rob Egerton Ross Anderson Simon Minshall Simon Wills
BRITISH TROMBONE SOCIET Y :
12 15 19 20 23 27 28 31 32 34 36
PRESIDENT’S TOOLKIT: THE START IS THE HARDEST PART
JIGGS WHIGHAM: ITA LIFETIME AC HIEVEMENT AWARD
COVER: MARCUS BRIGSTOC KE MEETS SIMON WILLS
EDUCATION FOCUS: ASK AMOS
LISZT’S MUSIC FOR TROMBONE & ORGAN
SIMON WILLS: A SENSE OF PROPORTION
HOW IT'S MADE: MUTES
JAZZ BY JEREMY: DEEP SOUTH SUITE
OPINION: BASS TROMBONES
G & T
Officers & Staff // Honorary Patrons // Committee // Officers // Regional Representatives
News BARNEY MEDL AND
Rupert Whitehead to the RPO Congratulations to Rupert Whitehead, who has joined the trombone section of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Rupert grew up in the town of Llandeilo in Carmarthenshire. He started life as a trumpet player, but made the wise choice to move to the trombone when he was 12. Much of Rupert’s formative years were spent playing in various youth music ensembles in West Wales, as well as the Welsh national ensembles. In 2006, Rupert took up a place at the Royal College of Music, to study with Byron Fulcher. He went on to do a Master’s at the Royal Academy of Music. Over the past few years, Rupert has been enjoying a busy freelance career, playing with some of the nation’s leading orchestras and working in recording studios on film and TV soundtracks. He will now be playing with the RPO as associate member. • Jonny Hollick new principal at BBC Scottish Symphony Congratulations are also due to Jonny Hollick. The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra has appointed Jonny, a recent graduate of the Royal College of Music, to the position of principal trombone. We caught up with him and he told us he was ‘incredibly honoured to be joining the Orchestra. Everyone in the orchestra has been really welcoming and is incredibly talented at their job. To get the position so soon after graduating from the RCM is a dream come true and I hope I can add to the amazing reputation that the orchestra already has.’
BBC Radio 2 Young Brass Award, finalists announced Last year we reported that seventeen year old trombonist Isobel Daws had won the 2017 BBC Radio 2 Young Brass Award. The finalists for this year’s competition have been announced. They include young trombonist Sam Dye, as well as Cameron Scott (euphonium), Ross Dunne (tenor horn) and Thomas Nielsen (cornet). The final will be held at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester on Friday 20 April. • Dates for your diary On Sunday 22 July, the BTS will be hosting an event as part of the prestigious Durham Brass Festival. The day promises to be a celebration of all things trombone, including recitals, workshops, and a public performance in central Durham comprising as many players as we can assemble. Katy Jones, principal trombone with the Hallé, will be directing the performance and sharing her wisdom with all involved. The event will be held at Durham Town Hall. Registration will be from 10am and the day will run until 5pm. The Durham Brass Festival will run from 14 July until the 22nd. The Bob Hughes Bass Trombone competition, and the Don Lusher Jazz Trombone Competition will both be happening later this year. Readers and players, please keep an eye out here.
NEWS Exciting new brass ensemble competition announced The inaugural Philip Jones International Brass Ensemble Competition will take place on Sunday 15 to Friday 20 of July 2019, at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester. As readers will know, the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble was probably the most iconic brass ensemble of all, and set the benchmark in brass chamber excellence. The new competition will aim to build on the legacy of the great Philip Jones, as a showcase of excellence in brass chamber music performance. The first competition will be for brass quintet. Players must be aged between 16 and 30, and the average age of any group at 20 July 2019 should not be more than 28 years. There are three substantial prizes up for grabs: the Philip Jones Prize (£10,000), the Marah Mahlowe Prize (£7,500) and the Founder’s Prize (£5,000). The jury will comprise five of the world’s great brass musicians, and will be chaired by Reinhold Friedrich. Applications will be received over summer 2018. Selections will be made from submitted videos. It is expected that 16 groups will be chosen to come to Manchester, where the finals will be held.. The competition will certainly be an exciting new fixture in the brass calendar. • The Wizard of Roz – 1935-2017 Roswell Rudd, the boundary-bending trombonist and leading figure in the jazz avant-garde, died on December 21st. Rudd was born in a small town in Connecticut. When he was a boy he played the mellophone and then the French horn, but asked his parents for a trombone when he became frustrated with the lack of jazz playing French horn players to listen to. Rudd started his career as a Dixieland player while at Yale University. In 1958 he dropped out of university and travelled to New York where he discovered the emerging world of avant-garde and free jazz. Through the 1960s Rudd established himself as a major voice in experimental jazz – perhaps the first important trombonist in the genre. He performed and recorded with figures like the pianists Herbie Nichols and Cecil Taylor and the saxophonist Archie Shepp, and he was a founding member of the New York Art Quintet. Throughout the 1970s, Rudd worked in the fields of musical anthropology and ethnomusicology. He lectured at Bard College and then the University of Maine, but left Maine when his attempts to introduce the Indian raga and other styles into his teaching were met with resistance from the university. In the 1980s Rudd faded into obscurity. He was described as a paradox, ‘unforgettable, but apparently forgotten.’ However, after two decades of little public
activity, Rudd’s career experienced a late renaissance. Building on his grounding in world music, for the later decades of his life, Rudd collaborated with musicians from Mali, Mongolia and Benin. This included his record MALIcool, the first time a trombone had ever been featured in traditional Malian music. Rudd was a unique musician with a keen spirit of discovery. He played with raw creativity and passion, and sought emancipation from the dots on the page. He saw the collective improvisation of his ensembles as a sort of conversation. Sometimes he collaborated with poets and this idea of music as a spontaneous conversation became more explicit. In 2009 he said this of the trombone: “It’s a continuing revelation to me, the resources of the trombone. The expressive resources, the tonal resources, are infinite … There’s room for all the great trombone personalities in the world in this instrument.” It seems that in the trombone, an instrument so often compared to the human voice, he had found the perfect outlet for his creative ideas. • An appeal Kampala Music School – which provides a music education to disadvantaged young people in Uganda – is looking for a trombone. If anyone has a tenor trombone with a trigger, which is currently languishing in desuetude, then it would be gratefully accepted as a donation to the school. The immediate beneficiary would be a teenage boy who hopes to take his Grade 7, but does not currently have a suitable instrument. The instrument would also be well used by many other young brass players. If any generous reader has an appropriate instrument (with case) then get in touch directly with Barbara Harrison – email@example.com • and finally … Tim Perryman, a homeless man in New York, was distraught to find that someone had stolen his trombone while he slept. Busking on the trombone was Perryman’s only way of making money. When Brian Shevitz, an NYPD sergeant, heard about Perryman’s loss he vowed to get the trombone back. After a long hunt found nothing, Shevitz approached a music shop in New Jersey who generously donated a trombone to Perryman. Shevitz and Perrymen ‘shared tears of joy’ as the NYPD sergeant handed over the new instrument, just in time for Christmas.
The start is the hardest part DÁVUR JUUL MAGNUSSEN
In my mind articulation is the most crucial part of a trombonist's technique. Everything else is hard if the start of your notes isn't quite right, and conversely everything else becomes magically easy when your articulation works. There are a million different ways to think about articulation, and thus it should be. Everyone needs to make their own theory and technique. You can create this from ideas you hear from others, as well as your own impressions, hunches and discoveries in your own practise, but key is that you continuously re-evaluate what works for you. Be curious. Also, adopting 100% of what someone else postulates as the absolute truth, is impossible, and won’t work. Because, like Frank Zappa famously once said: Talking about music, is like dancing about architecture! Frank was undoubtedly referring to the artistic side of music making, but I feel it is applicable to the technical side too. Talking and listening to others about technique is necessary if not critical, but ultimately it is only a guide. You have to feel it and create it for yourself. It has to progress from being an intellectual thought, to being a instinctual action. One that is unique to you. The one that you understand the best. I am going to tell you in three short paragraphs how I think about articulation, 100% unfiltered and exactly how I do it. Remember, this is me trying to explain and analyse something that works for me. My system. Not all of it will work for you, but in trying out my examples and my thinking, you might discover something that you can add to your own theory and technique. Accompanying each paragraph there is also a video where I demonstrate and explain further. Click the titles to access each video. These three aspects happen concurrently and automatically when I perform. However, I spend a lot of time practising each aspect separately and slowly to make sure I remember what I am doing. Just like in the videos. One more thing … I would like you to consider this, while watching the video clips. Our brains can 8
be extremely resistant to new information and new impressions, when we think we already know what we are doing. If we don’t concentrate fully and empty our minds of preconceptions when trying new things, then we will immediately fall into what we used to do before, rather than discovering new frontiers. It is important to try what I have demonstrated exactly as I performed it at first. Try it a few times. Try to copy all my movements, sounds and gestures, and not just what I say. Listen to the sound and imagine yourself sounding the same. Try to imagine what the physical sensation is in my whole body while playing, and try to recreate this. Some of it will definitely not work or make sense straight away. So try it again, change it slightly, or even throw it out eventually. But you know what? I bet some of it will work. And if even one thing leads you down a road of self discovery, then it was worth it.
1: Air The shape of the air is paramount. Visualising the shape helps me a lot. The shape of your sound will be the exact shape of the air, so, if you aren’t controlling your air, you can’t control your sound.
2: Aperture The aperture is a part of your embouchure. It is the gap between your lips. My lips never touch when I am playing. They are always kept apart by the airstream, or at least that is what it feels like.
3: Release Simple. I let go! I don’t push or squeeze notes out, no matter how loud or quiet, high or low, short or long. I use control to prepare the note, to “draw my bow.” When I release I actually let go of control, and if I have prepared right, then everything else happens automatically.
ASK AMOS – YOUR LETTERS
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The Inimitable Jiggs Whigham BARNEY MEDL AND
Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Count Basie, Stan Kenton, Benny Goodman, Quincy Jones, Ronnie Scott, Dexter Gordon, Urbie Green, Cannonball Adderley … there’s a poetry in the names of so many of the jazz legends that rolls off the tongue with a punchy rhythm. When Oliver Haydn Whigham III was given the nickname ‘Jiggs’ by his grandfather, he must have been destined to join the pantheon of greats. Over his distinguished, nearly sixty-year long career, Jiggs Whigham has performed with all of the jazz titans listed above and a great many more, not to mention most of his fellow trombone greats of the past half-century. It is in recognition of this long career, at the pinnacle of the international jazz scene, that Jiggs Whigham has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Trombone Association. Whigham was born in the summer of 1943 in Cleveland, Ohio. He studied piano from an early age at the Cleveland Institute of Music, but it was when he picked up and taught himself the trombone that he was set on the path to jazz stardom. Cleveland was an important stop on the jazz club circuit. By the time he was seventeen, Whigham had started playing professionally as first and solo trombone with the revived Glenn Miller Orchestra, under the direction of drummer Ray McKinley. A couple of years later he took up the same position in the Stan Kenton band. Whigham joined the Kenton Band at a time when that ever-adventurous band leader was experimenting by adding new instruments to the traditional big band line up. For a brief time in the early 1960s, Kenton’s band had a section of “mellophoniums,” manufactured by C.G. Conn at their Elkhart factory. As the name suggests, the mellophonium was based on the mellophone. Kenton hoped that the section would introduce a French horn like sound to the band but, unlike the horn, the mellophoniums had the advantage of forward-facing bells. Kenton hoped that the mellophoniums would “bridge the gap in tonalities” between the trombones 10
and the trumpets. Inevitably, however, the addition of a mellophonium section to the traditional brass section provoked chagrin among the incumbent trumpets and trombones. In his ever good-natured and good-humoured way, in the pages of the Jazz Journal International, Whigham had this to say of the new section: “I was in the ‘63 band, the mellophone band, and the most difficult thing I had to do playing first trombone in that band was to try to estimate where the pitch was going to be with the mellophones. It varied within roughly an octave on any given day!” While playing at an airbase in Georgia, as Whigham went on to recall, the trombone section exacted their revenge: “One time we played an NCO club at some airbase in Georgia, and we got there early about four in the afternoon, and they had a happy hour. So the band hit the happy hour and a few of us got kinda happy. They had a swimming pool there, so we went to the band bus and got the mellophones out of their cases and threw all four of them in the swimming pool. It was great to see these things burble down to the bottom. Stan came by and he wasn’t pleased. We had to drain them all out. Trying to get the water out of all of the plumbing took a long time twisting the things around.” Despite these mellophonium scrapes, Whigham’s connection with the music of Stan Kenton continues, and he frequently performs in Kenton reunion and tribute concerts. In 1965, after a year of playing on Broadway and in the recording studios of New York, Whigham went to West Germany to become featured soloist with the Kurt
THE INIMITABLE JIGGS WHIGHAM
PHOTO: RUDIGER SC HESTAG
Edelhagen Jazz Orchestra at the West German Broadcasting Company in Cologne. Whigham has maintained a base in that part of Germany ever since. In fact, he is a truly international artist, with a triangle of home bases in Bonn, Cape Cod (Massachusetts) and London. In 1966 Jiggs Whigham won the first ever International Competition for Modern Jazz, in Vienna. This huge event – sponsored by the city of Vienna, and complete with an All-Star band specially put together for the occasion – was the initiative of the Austrian pianist Friedrich Gulda. Gulda was a classical pianist famous for his Beethoven sonatas, but became increasingly interested in jazz throughout the 1950s. As Gulda was so influenced by his trips to America in the 1950s, which included playing at the famous Birdland jazz club in New York, it seems appropriate that an American living in Europe should win his pioneering competition. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, as one of the leading jazz musicians in Europe, Jiggs Whigham played with the
likes of the Bert Kaempfert orchestra, as a featured soloist, and the Peter Herbolzheimer band. In 1979, Whigham was again at the forefront of jazz in Europe, when he was named Head of the Jazz Department at Cologne University College of Music, the first appointment of its kind in Germany. Over the past few decades Whigham has lead the Swiss Radio Band (from 1984-1986), and the Berlin Radio Orchestra (1995-2000). In 2000, he co-founded the Berlin Jazz Orchestra with the singer Marc Secara, and here in Britain he has been associated with the BBC Big Band for decades, including as one of the band’s musical directors. Jiggs Whigham’s position as one of the great jazz educators was affirmed in 1995, when he was awarded the grand title “Professor for Life” and Head of the Jazz and Popular Music Department at the Hanns Eisler College of Music in Berlin. From 2000-2001 he was visiting professor at Indiana University and he is currently the International Tutor in Jazz Trombone at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. His commitment to educating the emerging generation of jazz musicians is also manifest in roles as musical director of the BuJazzO, Germany’s answer to our National Youth Jazz Orchestra, and the LaJJOB, the Brandenburger Youth Jazz Orchestra. Whigham’s name will now be familiar to the thousands of children around the world who have started to learn the trombone on the plastic “Jiggs” pBone. The pBone revolution has been immense and has allowed thousands of children across the world, from London to Kampala, access to affordable and durable instruments. Whigham’s support for the pBone, along with his “TAPAS” (Trombone Artists Playing for Amateurs and Students) initiative in America, shows he is not just dedicated to educating advanced students on the cusp of the profession, but he is investing his time and energy into the grassroots of the trombone world as well. Despite being born in the home nation of jazz, Jiggs Whigham has spent most of his career in Germany. He was once called ‘Europe's best-kept secret.’ To many who have benefited from his tireless dedication to music education or heard his lyrical mastery of the instrument – at the front of many great bands – it might seem implausible that any clued-up commentator could consider him a ‘secret’. Perhaps, because he left America relatively early in his career, at one time he was not as well known in the USA as some of the other great jazz trombonists of the past half-century. Now, certainly, as he headlines many trombone festivals, has his name on the world’s best-selling trombone, and has this lifetime achievement award from the International Trombone Association, no one can doubt that Jiggs Whigham is one of the greatest champions of our instrument.
Meeting Simon Wills MARCUS BRIGSTOC KE
You can blow an instrument. You can hit it, twang it, suck it, pluck it, shake it, finger it and strum it. You can learn an instrument, maybe even master it? But above all else you play it. You play the trombone. I play the trombone. You can’t play it badly or wrong. That’s not what play is. You can make an unpleasant sound or not produce the notes you intended to, or the notes others expect you to, but play is playful and when you’re playful you can’t really get it wrong. When I met Simon Wills for the first time for a trombone lesson, that’s what we did. We played and playing is fun. I played Frère Jacques. Kind of … eventually … Simon asked me to pick something simple. I’d been describing a sketch I did on TV some years ago that included a terrible version of Frère Jacques so I picked that and just like in the sketch it was terrible but I figured out, with some help, how to put the notes together. It was fun. I felt confident and made some splendidly awkward and unexpected sounds. Simon showed me how to breathe. I’d assumed I knew how – I come from a long line of breathers. All of my family are very competent breathers. I had a great uncle who gave it up and he died, so I’ve always taken breathing pretty seriously. However, with a big brass paperclip in my hand I suddenly forgot how to breathe and nearly passed out. Simon got me to pant like a tiny yappy, crappy little dog, then like a mid-sized family Labrador and finally like a vast St Bernard who’s done something he’s rather pleased with – maybe rescued a skier from an avalanche? It worked. Breathing returned and I was able to toot, parp, honk and blast like a good’un. I’ve had quite a few lessons over the last year or so with a lovely young man named Matt Smith, who has just graduated from somewhere important and plays trombone like a dream. He’s been patient and we’ve had some fun working our way through various awful songs. I’ve been slowly learning how to play and read music since the day after Prince died. I decided to learn an instrument the day after Prince died because when one of my all-time music heroes left us all of a sudden, I finally 12
realised that the extent to which I love music, talk about it, listen to it, collect it (on Vinyl) and study it means it’s really quite daft not to have a try at playing something and what better something than the trombone? Why the trombone? Simple. It’s funny. The trombone is a hilarious instrument. I’m primarily a comedian and the thought of being able to play a loud sliding “PARP” with a long funny looking bit of brass is too pleasing to ignore. Every time I’ve picked it up and felt overwhelmed or frustrated or a bit bored I simply place the slide in position 7 (I have long arms) and bring it home with a lovely rising blast. Always cheers a fellow up. I listen to a lot of jazz music. It’s my age I suspect, it comes to us all. Mostly it’s the big names in trumpet and saxophone – Miles Davis, Lee Morgan, Clifford Brown, Charlie Parker, Hank Mobley, John Coltrane and some Monk, Hancock and Peterson for the piano stuff. I love it. I love how complex it is. I try to study it and understand why one band or one arrangement sounds better than another. The sound of brass thrills me. I get lost in it. In my imagination, I can pick up my trombone and just join in when I’m nodded at by Miles. I wish. I do put my old jazz records on and see if I can make any sounds at all that fit. It’s a delight when they do. It is also a bit rare. Simon recommended this approach and I like that. I had told Matt I wanted to read music and I do – but maybe not yet. I might play by ear for a while now and see how much fun can be had. When Matt and I began we worked diligently through some simple beginner’s books until I could take it no more and I told him – if I’m going to struggle through these awful tunes, playing awfully I’d
rather struggle trying to play some stuff I like. Awfully. So, the books with London’s Burning and Hot Cross Buns were set aside for Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen, Watermelon Man by Herbie Hancock, and Oh when the saints come marching in by … erm? Everyone? I think. That’s when stuff started to get really fun. Matt brought in CDs to play along to and we looked at the basics of Jazz theory. Good times. Sadly I had to put it all on hold last year when I was cast as P.T. Barnum in Cy Coleman’s musical of the same name. Learning tightrope walking, singing and dancing and remembering two hours of script meant I just couldn’t carry on playing the ’bone too, so I stopped. When Jane Salmon, who was playing trombone for us in the show, asked if I’d like to get back to it and have a lesson with Simon I leapt at it. I was nervous but I knew I was missing it … I’d been eyeing up Jane’s trombone … she described Simon as a legend, he described himself as an aging rocker. I’m inclined to agree with Jane. If nothing else though, the aging rocker description made him easy to find when I trudged through the snow to one of the obscure entrances at Guildhall and spotted a pleasantly stout frame with long grey hair and a cool full-length coat. He’s a laugh and that’s important for me. Puts me at my ease. We got straight at it. Talking I mean. The trombone could wait. Simon and I had much to discuss first about comedy, drama and music. Then we played. There was no long windy introduction to the history of the instrument or how to care for it or any of that. I just blew it and it felt good. I made some loud noises and Simon mentioned that my shoulders were so high they were in danger of swallowing my entire head, so I let them drop and played again. It was better. It is easier to do most things when you’re not wearing your own spine as a hat. Especially playing the trombone. When I didn’t play what I expected or hoped to play, I went at it again with a smile. Simon reminded me and never looked worried or pained by unexpected notes and I figured it out. Trial and error. Mostly error and then error again and then eventually, success! Then a Jack Teagarden YouTube video to help see what’s possible and how little our shoulders are needed when we play. Apparently?! I mean he may not move his shoulders much but in one clip Teagarden forgot the front half of his instrument and was left having to use a beer glass to amplify the sound so I’ll treat him as a “maybe” as far as inspiration goes. I was invited to copy Simon as he played in the lesson. That wasn’t too hard. I just watched and quickly memorised the slide positions and went for it. The tune was not the same but it was something. He asked if I knew the jazz tune Laura and like a fool I said “yes” and then realised that I was now going to be invited to have a go at it. I didn’t know Laura – but I do now, a bit. Chet Baker plays a wonderful version of it. Sweeter and more
PHOTO: DOMINIC OWEN
lyrical than the one I managed, but in fairness to me Chet had been playing trumpet for a lot longer than I’ve played trombone and he had his inhibitions diminished by vast amounts of heroin, which I always try to avoid if I can. It turns out it helps me to move when I play. Walk about a bit. That’s not easy when you’re also trying to read music but moving helped me make a better sound and mostly kept my shoulders from rising up into a Sandi Toksvig-style shrug. So for now I will amble about making whatever sounds please me and watch and copy as much as I can. The lesson was a lot of fun. I very much look forward to the next one. I’m searching for my own instrument on line (all pointers welcomed – it’s hard to know what’s a good one?). Before too long I shall be the band leader in an exquisite swinging jazz ensemble. For now, I’ll muddle through Autumn Leaves and join in with Miles’ All Blues and when that doesn’t work, I’ll go for a long slide parp to cheer me up. 13
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PERFORMANCE BY DESIGN
Ask Amos – Your Letters AMOS MILLER
Amos Miller is a founding member of internationally acclaimed brass quintet Onyx Brass, and combines the post of principal trombone with the Royal Ballet Sinfonia with a busy freelance career. Amos is the co-author of “Time Pieces for Trombone” (ABRSM), the author of “A New Tune a Day for Trombone,” (Boston Music Company), and an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music. He has been one of the trombone professors at the Royal College of Music since 2015. As a teacher with over 25 years experience, he is especially interested in the relationship between mental well-being, posture and breathing, and their effects on performance. Dear Amos, Hi Alex. What would your suggestions be for a basic warm-up At any level of teaching I think it is important to be mindful routine for trombonists below Grade 5, and how would that our job as a teacher is to make sure that we adapt you introduce this please? to the student and the ways in which their individual – Daniel de Souza personality learns best, so I wouldn’t tend to have a hard and fast lesson plan to stick to with every beginner. Having Hi Daniel, said that, there are obviously some basics that need to be I think the most important thing about the initial warm-up covered. I would aim, having covered putting the instrument is for the student to be aware of why they are doing it. together and dismantling it again (!) to introduce an If it’s just a routine, then it has the potential to become understanding of breathing and its importance in making a non-conscious process, and therefore not much use. a sound, so have plenty of singing, alternating with playing. The most common understanding of a warm-up is to get I get them going on that immediately. Hopefully any selfthe lip muscles going. For me, that’s something that can be consciousness will wear off quickly and we can also get achieved in a few seconds of basic raspberry blowing with- correct posture sorted at the start. I would spend at least out the instrument. Lip muscles are tiny and delicate and half the lesson on this. The more you can get good habits don’t need stretching like a hamstring. The key thing to think going the more they, and any future teachers, will thank about is air-flow and getting your mind focused on the prac- you later! I would also use a basic tutor book that you feel tise session. So, even at this early stage of playing, I would happy with. It is helpful psychologically for the student to encourage some basic breathing exercises, some nice easy be able to visualise progress. • glissandi, visualising (auralising?!) a beautiful sound and relaxed approach. It is good to get students into the habit of Dear Amos, planning their practise right from the start. Even if you are I am interested to find out your ideas for how best to start only doing 10 minutes, make sure you decide in advance a beginner off, especially with regard to producing the what you’re planning to improve, and always get at least correct sound. Is there a better way than to just tell the one thing better. Never be afraid to be detailed, just hack- student to buzz their lips down the trombone? Also, how ing through everything is a waste of time. • do you practise getting your stamina and high register good without overplaying and damaging your chops? Dear Amos, Thanks! – James Thomas How would you recommend structuring lessons for a complete beginner and how might you adapt this depending on the age of the pupil? – Alex Kelly Continues on next page … 15
ASK AMOS – YOUR LETTERS Hello James. This is a tricky one! Some people seem to be able to pick it up and just instinctively know what to do yet some battle for a while to produce any kind of sound. Whatever the age of student, I think it’s worth explaining the actual science of sound as vibration and how we as brass players are the only instrumentalists to make our own. I wouldn’t worry too much about trying to get anyone to buzz without a mouthpiece. I don’t think it’s necessary and there are several ridiculously good professional trombone players I know who can’t make a buzz like that(!). First, get them breathing well, and then get them to pay attention to the feedback they are getting from their lips, where there’s loads of nerve endings. Get them to sense what that vibration feels like. Stamina and high register are basically questions of patience, best done in small doses, building upwards gradually. Two basic helpful exercises are: 1) For stamina: starting on low Bb (and ascending
chromatically with only a quick breath between each set, no break), play two minims, four crotchets, eight quavers, eight semis, one minim, around 120bpm.
2) For high register, glissing upwards from 7th to 1st-
position, working up each harmonic from low E, can be a good way to start getting higher than you have been able to before. There can be some mental blocks around high note playing and glissing up to high notes can be a good way both of maintaining airflow, as well as tricking your negative subconscious voice into playing higher than it might have allowed you. Always then warm down afterwards: bending from a low Bb to a fake F, (not using the valve), is a good way to do this. •
Dear Amos, Most beginners start on a medium bore instrument and are then encouraged to move onto a large bore. When is a good time to make this switch and would you say it’s even necessary to encourage such a change? – Jon Stokes Hi Jon. The trombone is something of an anomaly in the instrument world, in that the price differential between a beginner instrument and a top-level professional instrument is smaller than any other that I can think of. This basically obviates the need for “intermediate” studentstyle instruments, as they don’t represent good value for money as buying a second-hand professional instrument. Bearing that in mind, and assuming we are talking about school age students with a decent beginner instrument, I would be inclined to hold off getting a top-level instrument until it looks pretty likely that it will be something they are taking seriously, either to be around Grade 6-8, or it looks 16
likely that they will want to carry on playing for fun, or even professionally(!), after they leave school. This would also have the advantage that their musical development would be further progressed, such that their natural musical leanings will be clearer. If they are orchestrally minded, then a large bore is probably the most common recommendation, and if they are more inclined towards pop/jazz, then a high-quality professional standard medium-bore might be better. However, this is a minefield as there is a very good argument to be made that most orchestral instruments are too big, and Slide Hampton and Robin Eubanks are pretty nifty on their large bores – that’s probably a discussion for another day … Many pupils move school and subsequently get a new trombone teacher. I often find that I am inheriting students with poor technique and a plethora of bad habits. How would you encourage an embouchure change in a young player? Would you even consider it? (J. Stokes) This is a major issue, resulting occasionally from poor teaching, but most often from generic brass teaching where students are not taught by a specialist, and in group lessons where it’s very hard to police everyone. (Kudos to Tom, the trumpeter below, for making the effort to research trombones!). I have only attempted to change an embouchure once in all my years of teaching: the student in question was using their tongue as one half of the embouchure instead of her bottom lip, so I felt that it was imperative that I did something about it. In the end, however, I regretted this: it was clear when I met her she was never going to play for anything more than fun, and in basically returning her to the beginning it removed all the fun for her and she soon gave up. I would have been better off letting her pootle on as far as she could and enjoying herself (she was about Grade 5) and not bothering! In all the other contexts I have come across, embouchure problems have nearly always had their roots in poor breathing. I’ve tried to make sorting that out the first port of call and it has nearly always resulted in the chops sorting themselves out. Aside from individual physiognomies, there is a reason why there is a concept of a perfect embouchure: it is the shape of lips that naturally occurs when someone who really knows how to blow properly puts a mouthpiece on their face. Obviously there are the odd little tweaks here and there (cheeks puffing, bottom lip getting tucked under and so on) but root and branch reforms haven’t ever been my thing, although I’ve probably been lucky with that. Many of my pupils struggle to grasp the idea of being relaxed when they play and many fail to even understand that they need to actually blow through the instrument. Do you have any tips for getting students to relax, take good breaths and blow? (J. Stokes)
ASK AMOS – YOUR LETTERS This is the million dollar question! I’ll try to be brief! This is a lifelong issue for all brass players I think. Three brief points come to mind: 1) Forget about diaphragms! Students need to understand the mechanics in the first place, but the concept of “pushing” the air through with the diaphragm is unhelpful (In my opinion). Breathing is an autonomic nervous response and a “push” instruction just leads to abdominal tension, which spreads up to constrict the throat. This is useful for having a baby or protecting your core when doing heavy lifting, but counter productive in brass playing. Instead, get them to concentrate on the sensation of air passing over the lips, where there is a huge amount of sensory feedback. (Highly recommend: Kristian Steenstrup’s book Teaching Brass on this subject.) 2) Remind students that the trombone is an inanimate object and under their sole control! They should be sitting or standing with good relaxed posture, and then bring the instrument to their face and not the other way around. 3) This last one may sound flippant or vulgar, but I’ve found it very helpful. I was chatting to Andy Wood recently (one of the most relaxed and extravagantly gifted brass players I have ever met, as well as being the hardest working), and he recounted something that Jiggs Whigham said. Andy asked him what he thought about, between finishing an anecdote to the audience, and then coming in solo on a very high sweet note? Jiggs’ reply was that as he breathes in, he concentrates on keeping his bum cheeks relaxed! It is basically impossible for anything else to be tense if that is the case. Getting students to learn scales can be a chore. Any ideas on how to get them playing and remembering their scales? (J. Stokes) One good start is to remind them that all music basically consists of permutations of scales, so I’ve tried to play students obviously “scalic” bits, either classical or pop/jazz. I think it’s worth emphasising the equivalence between learning vocabulary and grammar in a foreign language and learning scales. Scale tests are like vocabulary tests, so learn them and you get full marks. It’s one of the only un-subjective things in music exams! Also I make students sing scales and it’s quite amazing how even things that seem basic, such as a standard melodic minor scale, can be tricky. If you can’t sing it, you can’t play it, is something students must know. This also reminds students that scales are also music and it’s hard to sing as unmusically or robotically as we sometimes play!
Playing by ear and improvisation are skills that I feel make anyone a better musician. This is often a hard skill to teach, especially in a one-to-one situation. What exercises or advice would you give teachers wishing to encourage pupils to get away from sheet music? (J. Stokes) I couldn’t possibly agree with you more on this. I’ve used a variety of things: singing, call and response using one note rhythmic patterns, where a student starts off copying you and you gradually develop ideas; getting them to pick a simple tune (hymn or folk tunes are good) and learn it by ear, and then play in every key. Twinkle Twinkle is not a bad place to start! The ABRSM jazz syllabus has excellent backing tracks for their stuff and is worth getting one’s teeth into even if exams aren’t on the menu. The more listening you can get students to do the better; I sometimes think that the embarrassment of riches there is online is actually a hindrance as people don’t know where to start. As a teacher our job can be a bit of meritocratic curation of YouTube! • Dear Amos, I am a trumpet player teaching some beginner trombone students in schools. I have 10 students, ages 8-12, all starters last September. I have really begun to notice the technical differences between trumpet and trombone, in terms of range, volume and articulation. I have found that the tricks for getting a trumpet player to play up to a C don’t work for trombone students, with most of them hitting a hard brick wall between F and G. The most striking difference between my trumpet and trombone students, however, is their volume. While my trumpets all play so loudly, the trombones really struggle to get any volume out – and the better players are the ones who are struggling the most. How can my trombone students make a strong, healthy sound? Another problem which I have discovered in my own attempts at playing a trombone as well as my students’ is to do with articulation. As soon as I try to tongue strongly and cleanly, I split every single note! I’m sure it’s because I’m a trumpet player, and my students either have the same difficulty or struggle to get any definition or immediacy at all. What is the difference between trumpet and trombone articulation? Can’t wait to read your answers! Thank you. – Tom Hi Tom. Thanks for these, really great to see someone taking the time to examine the differences between brass instruments. Teaching all brass is incredibly challenging and, if I had a hat, I would take it off to you. Range: Obviously the basic science of how you change the note (the angle of the vibrating column of air) is the Continues on next page … 17
ASK AMOS – YOUR LETTERS same between trumpet and trombone; it’s just a significantly bigger movement on a trombone. Assuming the student in question has a standard overbite, it’s really helpful to draw a picture so there is a visual understanding of what is going on as the air comes out of the lips. A good basic way of conceiving it is to think of the pedal note passing straight through the middle of the instrument, and for each subsequent harmonic above that, the angle of the air stream gets more acutely “downwards”. On a trombone, with the large mouthpiece, that is quite a significant movement, which can bring the jaw into play more than it would on a trumpet. As the student goes downwards, the instrument can point more towards the floor, and the jaw can come very slightly down and forward to allow that to happen. Depending on the individual mouth shape this can be a very slight thing, but I have found that just making sure that the process is understood has helped. Sometimes it just feels like changing harmonics is some kind of mystical art. So, as far as getting from F in 1st to G in 4th is concerned, it’s only a slight difference, but that may help. I also sometimes use a Tube line analogy: if the F down to B natural (1st to 7th) gliss-able interval is the Piccadilly line, then when you go from F to G you are changing onto the District at Hammersmith. Sorry if that’s all stuff you have tried already.
Volume: Air! The trombone has almost no back pressure compared with the trumpet, so they will be getting rid of all their air through the instrument. Allow them to take as many breaths as they need, whilst teaching them how to do that swiftly and unobtrusively. It’s worth getting even beginner students to do breathing and posture exercises. Also it can be worth asking them to describe the sound they want to make. The human subconscious is a remarkable tool and sometimes even very undeveloped players can achieve a result by picturing it first. Articulation: All teachers have their own ideas about this, but my twopennyworth is that a “toe” style syllable can be very effective for detached playing. The embouchure is a natural “O” shape. The tip of the tongue should ideally hit the roof of the mouth where the teeth hit the soft palate (in the low register it can be a bit lower). I find it helpful always to remind students that the air is what starts the note, but the tongue makes it comprehensible: the air should take the tongue with it. It should still be a very tidy motion, as the tongue is a large muscular organ and we only need to be thinking about the tip as active. I’m no expert in trumpet articulation but I’m guessing that it’s fairly similar and it’s just aperture and airflow differences that cause the issues. Great questions, and I hope that’s all vaguely helpful.
ABRSM Project The British Trombone Society has released its very own project to aid younger members and those who support them. Led and produced by Liam Kirkman and with the generous support of June Emerson and Warwick Music, trombonists Matthew Gee, Nick Hudson, Dávur Juul Magnussen and John Higginbotham and pianist Eriko Ishihara have put together recordings of each piece on the ABRSM syllabus, from Grades 1 to 5. This is a simply fantastic resource, especially for those teaching or working their way through their exams. To access these recordings and for more information, please visit the members section of the website.
WRITTEN BY DAN JOHNSON 18
Liszt’s Music for Trombone & Organ DÁVUR JUUL MAGNUSSEN
Saturday, 10 March 2018 Old Saint Paul’s Church, Edinburgh John Kenny: Tenor and Bass Trombone John Kitchen: Organ I found myself at Old Saint Paul’s Church on Jeffrey Street in Edinburgh. The only give-away is a blue doorway in the towering stone façades. There is no hint of one of the oldest churches in Edinburgh from the street, but as you enter and turn sharply up a long and narrow stairway, you emerge in the middle of the church floor. A cavernous space with elaborate details in every direction you point your nose. I felt like I had discovered a hidden gem, and I was about to discover more. John Kenny and John Kitchen have been an established duo for nearly 30 years and have premiered many pieces in that time, this recital was also about a ‘first’. Their recital was based around the three pieces which Franz Liszt wrote for solo trombone, and especially celebrated the long-awaited first publication of one of these. The pieces were all written for Eduard Grosse, trombonist at the Weimar Court Orchestra, and personal friend of Franz Liszt. Liszt’s Hosannah and Cujus Animam have been in the repertoire for a long time but the Cantico di San Francesco was only discovered in the late nineties, and was first thought to be a sketch of the Hosannah. Only when musicologist and editor Wataru Fukuda took a closer look, did he discover that the Cantico is a wholly different work. The two pieces share a similar opening, but the Cantico is one of many settings of the Cantico del Sol after St. Francis of Assisi, while Hosannah is a later reworking of a solo piano piece, based on a madrigal by Jacques Arcadelt. Fukuda promptly prepared an edition, and these three treasures are now all available in one collection from The Hardie Press. Technically the Hosannah and the Cantico are bass trombone pieces, while the Cujus Animam is indicated as tenor, and John Kenny duly followed this. However, that distinction is quite fluid, since the bass trombone of the time was more like our modern tenor today. The Liszt pieces were
juxtaposed by two other duet pieces. Skyelines I & II by John Purser, and Gustav Holst’s Duet for Trombone and Organ, as well as a couple of organ solo pieces by Franz Liszt for context. John Kenny has a rare and inimitable style which pervades everything he does, but at the same time he manages to convince the listener that this is how a piece should always have sounded. Be it contemporary music or ancient music, his enthusiasm and panache always serve the heart of the music without giving in to tired convention. The two Johns also showed an endearing understanding for each other, especially in the Hosannah. A simple but big, heavy, and impactful piece of music. Huge chordal progressions with the trombone mainly taking the role of bass, but with melodic elements too. The bombastic and self-indulgent character of the piece was definitely present, but at the same time their phrasing was nimble, trim, and detailed. We were also treated to spectacular fireworks in Skyelines I & II, a contemporary piece written especially for the duo. Cujus Animam, together with Holst’s Duet for Trombone and Organ, was an interesting contrast with its charming, almost kitsch, lyricism and showmanship. The star of the show, however, was inevitably Cantico di San Francesco. This is a more substantial piece. It has the big chordal style of the Hosannah, but the trombone part takes a more central role in the thematic material. It has lots of virtuosic flourishes and weaves a more intricate musical journey. John Kenny here gave us a masterclass in style and musical architecture. A wonderful concert, and a good way to finally present all of Franz Liszt’s works for trombone. I hope that these three pieces enter the repertoire properly, as they most definitely deserve to. 19
A Sense of Proportion: orchestral excerpts without tears SIMON WILLS
Some years ago I taught a young man from overseas, a decent player but inhibited and inclined to over-think what he was doing. I demonstrated the Mozart Tuba Mirum and suggested that he play it back to me without analysing but he demurred, complaining “you didn't tell me what tongue stroke you used; was it a tuh, a guh, a luh a ruh or a duh?” He flourished his Ph.D. thesis; a survey of articulations used by famous players in Boléro and Mahler 3. Under each note, he had dutifully entered the syllable used; tuh, guh, luh, ruh and duh. I do not recall whether his conclusions were useful, but did notice that one distinguished respondent to the questionnaire had claimed to use “guh” for everything. Before I say more about this melancholy encounter, let me give you my top tip for practising orchestral excerpts: don’t practise orchestral excerpts. Or rather, keep them in their proper place. An orchestral excerpt is just that; an excerpt. It is not a self-sufficient musical activity and you shouldn’t try to turn it into one. Of course, if a young player wants a foot on the professional ladder or a degree from a music college, being able to deliver a set of orchestral passages to order is a necessary discipline but buying into the widespread fetishisation of these little snapshots is not an effective way of preparing oneself. There is little in the standard orchestral repertoire that presents a greater technical challenge than, say, the Saint-Saëns Cavatine or the Gordon Jacob concerto. The celebrated solos in the 1st movement of Mahler 3 cover the same compass as that required for Associated Board Grade 5, as do William Tell and Gazza Ladra; the
slow movement of the Organ Symphony never ventures outside the bass stave, and though you do have to play Boléro and the Rhenish Symphony from time to time, the fact remains that most of orchestral life is lived in the lower and middle registers. It therefore makes sense to develop yourself so that those areas of the instrument are completely at your command, but a good half of the young players I encounter aren’t secure or flexible enough there. They sound uncomfortable and stiff: something like William Tell is difficult for them to play because the compass that it uses is to some extent terra incognita. This neglect may have arisen because in recent years the most visible and influential players have tended to be soloists who, in many cases, have subscribed to the belief that loud, fast and high equals excellence. It’s natural therefore that in some young players the vital low registers – which also make high playing easier – should be underdeveloped in their school years. It’s easy to fix: go back to basics and develop a wide variety of tone, articulation and inflexion in the lower half of the compass. This work is not usually exciting but putting yourself properly through something like Eric Crees and Peter Gane’s How Trombonists Do It will reap far greater rewards than hours spent on Deux Danses or Bluebells of Scotland. Whatever the advertisements say, gadgets won't do it for you. Ernest Hall used to say “you don't need a new trumpet, just more long notes on the one you've got” and he was right! The clearer your idea of what you want to do, the easier it becomes to do it. Listen to the whole work from
A SENSE OF PROPORTION which your extract is taken – even the bits that don’t have trombones in – with a score in front of you. Hear several recordings and make sure you know who the performers are. That’s important: some conductors take astonishing liberties with the score. Leonard Bernstein, for example, did some very strange things with speeds and I remember playing Francesca da Rimini with him at about a third of the usual tempo. Somehow the slow-motion hurricane came off, but it would have misled anyone who only knew that version. At the other end of the scale, the Plovdiv Municipal Radio Salon Orchestra under a staff conductor may be a jolly fine ensemble but if you want to know how Brahms goes, the Vienna Philharmonic with Böhm really is a safer bet. If you listen diligently, your sense of proportion will develop: you will realise that the famous bits of the Rhenish Symphony and Saint-Saëns 3 are not actually solos, and that the runs in William Tell and on page 3 of Till Eulenspiegel are not particularly rapid. You'll notice that most trombone playing is simple and chordal and if you do listen to the whole of Mahler 3, you'll also spot a long lonely solo in the 6th movement that excerpt enthusiasts frequently don't bother with because it's just a bunch of crotchets. More important, you will acquire an organic sense of how the music breathes, and you may be starting to realise that most of these extracts are much easier when you do them for real. In Sibelius 7 you just surf in on the strings, who provide a comfortable canopy of resonance. In Boléro there is someone with a drum off to your right, helpfully tapping out a constant rhythm and in no 10 of Zauberflöte you are just part of a wind and lower strings ensemble that naturally inflects the music; if you do the same, everything is a great deal easier and considerably more enjoyable. A grasp of the context, then, will do much of the job for you; being able to hear the piece in your head as you play will automatically improve what you do, and while your mental string section may not be as good as the real thing, it will still change you. This approach will help you observe the cardinal rule that the breath should be calm, not tight or defensive. Many players respond to the fragmentary and isolated nature of excerpt playing by over-breathing. This makes it impossible to do the basic musical job of making a tune sound like a tune. Consider: of the seventeen bars in the Boléro solo, only six are particularly high and it’s daft to compromise the whole because you have tightened up for fear of a couple of high D flats. In any case, the high stuff will flow better if you aren’t wound up like a clock spring – so concentrate on making a great job of the third phrase, the one that starts on a middle D, and on ending well. The ensuing relaxation will sort out the beginning for you. There is little point in practising excerpts without considering what the musician’s job actually entails. It requires a virtuosity not of athleticism but of nuance,
because the reality of working in a top-class orchestra is not that the music goes louder, faster or higher but that the expressive demands become ever more precise. You need to be flexible and musically aware. If you have programmed yourself to play in one particular way, you're sunk. Nikolaus Harnoncourt took the 4th movement of Schumann 3 at a speed that made it easy to do the whole first entry in one breath, others do it at half that tempo: the instruction Feierlich at the start is, after all, only an indication of mood not pulse. Abbado used to ask for the unisons in Schubert 9 to be “smooth but not legato”, Charles Mackerras could get uncomfortably picky about the second trombone turns in the Janacek Sinfonietta and a couple of weeks ago I spent quite a few minutes getting the exact shape of those simple chords in the Sanctus of Missa Solemnis exactly the way they were wanted. The conductor’s injunction that we should “musicalise the 8th note rests” is an imbecility that I shall go to my grave without understanding but that is by the by. Playing excerpts well involves a balancing act between a certain imaginative freedom and fidelity to the composer’s intentions. Do you know what Triolen nicht schleppend means? Or etwas drängend? Both of them appear in the Mahler 3 solo and are routinely ignored by student players. Hervortrehend? En dehors? Perdendosi? Or, heaven help us, dolce? Disregarding the composer’s written instructions is an error of the same magnitude as playing a wrong note – but it happens all the time. Look up the words already! It goes deeper than just knowing the foreign language terms. Consider this: Tuba mirum spargens sonum Per sepulchra regionum Coget omnes ante thronum. The text is unambiguous; it describes a trumpet calling mankind to judgement on the last day and the use of the trombone was in the 18th century powerfully symbolic. It’s a fanfare, but many renditions of the solo in the Mozart Requiem give little or no hint of it. The opening is delivered in a comfortable, semi articulated style and the second phrase is played like a Bordogni vocalise. (Why? Because everyone else does it. Probably it's on YouTube and whatever its other virtues may be, YouTube has proved remarkably effective at disseminating ignorance among trombone players). Now, if I were the Archangel Gabriel I don’t think I’d summon the dead out of their graves with a lip flexibility exercise; but there are other reasons for challenging the customary approach, starting with the manuscript. I’m not qualified to enter the controversy about authorship and whether it was Mozart, Sussmayr or Eybler is beside the point; all of them knew Continues on next page … 21
A SENSE OF PROPORTION about the trombone and its capabilities at the time of composition. There are no legato indications in Tuba Mirum until the last phrase, so why adduce them elsewhere, especially when they contradict the meaning of the piece? The piano sonata K333 contains a melody that bears more than a passing resemblance: Music Example
Compare a few performances, look at a couple of editions and you’ll quickly see that fidelity to the composer’s intentions still allows a wide range of interpretations. Your Tuba Mirum can be your own work, not someone else's, and if you want to develop as a musician, it should be just that. Consider that high solo in L’Enfant et les Sortileges. It is so often played charmlessly, more as a demonstration of top D than anything else, disregarding the fact that it’s a loony scene with two singers, one dressed as a Wedgewood teapot minus its spout and the other as a cracked china cup, both singing nonsense to the accompaniment of a foxtrot. Yes, folks, it’s fun. Respond to it! Your way of doing it will be different from everyone else’s, and that is a good thing not a failing. If you respond honestly, maybe audiences will respond too. They are diminishing in size, and I wonder if this might be because so much orchestral playing is safe rather than exploratory. Reducing the jungle of a Mahler symphony to the condition of a neat privet hedge maintained by a gang of gardeners each of whom talks like a Radio 3 announcer isn’t the best strategy if you want to stay in business. All of this brings me to the gentleman that I started with. He wasn’t insane or stupid, there was nothing wrong, in academic terms, with his research. He was, however, an extreme manifestation of a trend that is increasingly bedevilling brass playing. Possession of a Ph.D. is an indicator of professional research skills. That’s all: it does not guarantee that the area of expertise is of any practical use. The subject can be odour in footwear, flavour in wheat flakes or the Southern Railway’s response to bus competition in the early 1920s (I am not making those up, by the way; I found them in the British Library’s thesis catalogue). However, given the anxieties of a declining industry and over-production of new players, the language of obstruction and difficulty that is so often used and the spurious representation of the trombone as an engima that somehow needs solving, it is natural that people will seek certainties. The idea has thus arisen of a binary “right” or “wrong” way to play, a belief has taken root that hyper-specialisation leads to improvement (it has the reverse effect) and, worst of all, recent years 22
have seen the efflorescence of a crippling, essentially academic misconception that thinking about the things that happen when you play will by itself enable you to play better. The reverse is true: the more you think about your tongue or whatever, the less attention you have to spare for the music. The time for physical analysis is when you are building your basic technique. Thereafter, you have to forget it and fly!
So; play your excerpts intelligently, don’t turn them into your life’s work and if you really want to be an orchestral player, work on your harmonic sense and develop those parts of your technique that you really need for the job. Throw away those miserable, error-filled excerpt books, buy a subscription to IMSLP and listen to music. Lots of it. Think less about the trombone, practise to some purpose rather than out of the unfocused belief that if you just do it too much it will get better. Be a musician. Learn to treat mistakes as things to learn from not something to fear. If you do those things, you are more likely to succeed than some poor pale devil in a practise room endlessly repeating a phrase from a piece he has never heard, annotated with foreign terms that he hasn’t looked up; and you will never reduce a complex and endlessly fascinating activity to a mechanical process of imitation; or even worse, to a tuh, a duh, a luh, a ruh or a guh.
How It’s Made: Mutes ROSS ANDERSON
Mutes make up an essential part of any brass player’s tool kit, but have you ever stopped to think about how much these highly engineered pieces of metal, fibre or plastic do?
Firstly, what does ‘mute’ actually mean? If you look in a dictionary it says deaden, muffle, or soften the sound of. But to a brass player a mute does so much more. Mutes are devices used to change the sound of an instrument and to influence the tone colours the instrument can create. Mutes, in one form or another, have been around for decades and a short search online finds patents as early as 1899 for a mute, one which looks remarkably similar to a modern cup mute. Trevor Herbert, a professor at the Open University and a former trombonist, suggests in his book The Trombone that there are two groups of mutes: passive mutes that condition the sound when the instrument is played in the normal way and active mutes that require the player to adopt a specific playing technique when using them. For example, the harmon mute requires the player to use the hand to adjust its central aperture.
There are many variations of mutes which, in general, fall into three categories: 1) Those with corks that permit air to flow between the mute and the bell. 2) Those with a cork ring that seal off the air at this point and make it flow through the mute itself. 3) A bucket shaped extension, which clips on the bell and muffles the sound in this way, or the bowler hat and the plunger, which is held against the bell. Most modern day mass-produced mutes are made of aluminium and are created using a process called metal spinning. Metal spinning, also known as spin forming or spinning, is a metal working process by which a disc or tube of metal is rotated at high speed and formed into an axially symmetric part. Continues on next page … 23
HOW IT’S MADE From sheets of metal, disks are cut that will then be spun into mute caps or cones. These caps and cones are then placed together and the adjoining edges are then rolled over each other to create a secure connection. Finally, felts, corks, and branding are attached to create the finished product. Despite aluminium being by far the most popular material to create mutes from, some manufacturers are making mutes from other materials such as plastics, fibre, and even wood. One such company is Peter Gane Mutes. So, I caught up with their new mute craftsman, Tom Pascoe, to find out what it takes to create a professional standard mute. Ross Anderson: Tom, as a company which manufactures mutes in a market highly saturated with metal mutes, why have you chosen to create mutes solely out of fibre? Tom Pascoe: The simple answer is because of the vastly different tonal quality that the fibre achieves. Each material produces a mute with different characteristics and equally each has its place. In general terms a metal mute is great for a vibrant and bright musical texture. The fibre mute, on the other hand, has the potential to subtly change and modify the instrument’s timbre, thus enabling the player to attain a whole new spectrum of different and darker expressive tonal colours. The use of a fibre mute to capture these tonal colours has been explicitly requested by composers such as Bartok, Debussy and Ravel, and are becoming more and more frequently a request of the contemporary composer. R: And has Peter Gane Mutes always made fibre mutes as opposed to metal? T: Yes, and to really answer that question, you really have to look back to 1973 before a single mute had even been made. To quote Peter himself, “More than 40 years ago if you had the desire or opportunity to look inside a professional brass player’s bag of mutes, you would most likely come across some quite interesting items. Apart from the normal, mass produced selection of metal mutes, you would probably have found a host of excellent fibre mutes, craftsman made and carrying such names as De Polis of Philadelphia, Ernst Engemann of Hamburg and Jim Lea of London. Why did professional players use these mutes? It’s simple, because they worked well and produced the sort of excellence in tuning, response and sound that they required. The trouble was that these craftsman-made fibre mutes were rapidly becoming collector’s items. With this in mind, and a firm belief that any brass player should be able to purchase a professional quality set of handmade fibre mutes, made to satisfy the most demanding of players, I set up in business as a specialist mute maker.” So, armed with the concrete vision of what he wanted, it wasn’t long before prototyping began and after numerous 24
HOW IT’S MADE
materials were tested with drastically varied results, a fibre was finally found that not only had the response and tonal colour desired but also fulfilled most, if not all, of the composers’ and players’ demands. Being a trombonist himself, the first mutes to be developed were, unsurprisingly, the trombone mutes. From here the range began to expand, with Peter calling in the professional contacts he had made over the years to help design the best mutes possible. R: So, what is fibre like to work with as a material? T: From a manufacturing perspective, the material is stiff, awkward to work and on occasions has a mind of its own. Understanding the properties of the fibre and working in tandem with them is key. One specific design choice I feel worth mentioning, is the exclusion of any metal retaining rings used to true up the mutes, as are present on other fibre mutes. This increases the time and care needed when moulding the mutes into their final shape but results in a less stressed mute that is more resonant and responsive and produces a truly untarnished fibre sound. This, in my opinion, sums up Peter Gane Mutes perfectly. Sound and performance is paramount, as has always been the case. It’s the reason the mutes are still hand made in much the same way as they always have been and why they always will be. They work well and sound great. The phrase “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” comes to mind.
R: Peter Gane Mutes are all hand made to order. What does it take to create a mute? T: The process starts with a flat sheet of fibre, the pattern for the mute in question and an extremely sharp pencil to ensure dimensional accuracy is achieved whilst transferring the design. The design is then cut by hand, a somewhat awkward task due to the stiffness and razor sharp edges of the freshly cut fibre, with every care taken to ensure all lines are followed accurately. The exception being any parallel edged components, which can be conveniently cut on the band saw, increasing both speed and dimensional accuracy. For the straight mutes, this step is complete and it’s time to move on. For other mutes in the range, the adjustable cups for instance, which feature up to five separate fibre components, the process repeats for each individual part. From here the actual mute making begins. With the use of a careful balance of moisture and heat to soften and shape the mute, the fibre is worked towards its final dimension with the help of a mandrill and some select tools. Every care is taken not to stress the material too much in any direction so as to guarantee the mute's resonance and responsiveness once finished. Once close enough to the correct taper, the fibre is placed into its respective mould and left for 2-6 hours, temperature dependant, while the fibre sets into the final shape. Continues on next page … 25
HOW IT’S MADE
Adhesive is then applied and the mute is left to cure for a further two hours before being removed from the mould to clean up any excess. Once satisfied, the mute is returned to the mould and left for another four hours for the adhesive to obtain enough strength to be removed indefinitely, freeing up the mould for the next mute. The mute must now still be left for a further 12 hours, usually overnight, while the glue fully sets and achieves its final strength ready for the next process. R: So the main body of the mute has been created, what happens next? T: The next step is the birch base. Some of these are cut in house, but the majority are done by local wood turners. There are a couple of reasons for this, the main being the fact that their quality of work is outstanding and the second, being a small business myself, I like to support other small local businesses as much as I can. Getting to go down to their workshops and look at all the cool tools and machinery definitely plays a part too. The mute is then checked for dimensions and marked up to aid with inserting the base. Once roughly trimmed to size, the seam is tapered to perfectly accommodate the base, making sure no air holes are present, before being glued in place and clamped to keep the base from moving whilst left to cure. After another 12 hours or so for the glue to set fully, the mute is pressure checked to make sure it is completely airtight. This was something that really surprised me when I started making the mutes. I just could not believe how much of an effect a minute gap, too small to see but big enough to let a tiny amount of air out, had on the way the mute would perform. Assuming the mute has passed all the checks up to this point, it is time for the mute to be finally trimmed to size, finished up by sanding the fibre flush with the base and finalising the top dimensions. We now have something that resembles a mute although a final clean up and sanding of the surface is required before it is time to proceed. R: What is left to do? What are the final stages of the process? T: The mutes are now marked up for the placement of 26
corks using, on this occasion, 3D printed jigs. This is just one area where I have been using modern technology to increase accuracy whilst decreasing the number of processes needed. The previous jigs, whilst perfectly capable of doing the job, still required a good eye, understanding of the jigs’ limitations and several separate markings to line them up properly. Despite the exact lateral placement of the corks having absolutely no effect on the sound or performance of the mute, it still frustrated me that the corks were not at their exact 120 degrees around the central pivot point of the mute. We are talking 1 or 2 degrees out but enough for me to look at it a think ‘its not perfect and that’s not good enough’. Now moving onto the final stages, the mute is given two coats of paint by hand, the first leaving a far from satisfactory result due to the unbelievably porous nature of the fibre. Once dried, any seemingly unavoidable paint spill onto the base is removed and the base is sanded with varying grits of sandpaper to achieve a perfectly smooth surface ready for a few coats of varnish. At this point your typical straight mute is pretty much finished. For some of the larger mutes, a leather strap is cut, marked and punched ready to be attached to the base for easier operation. The mute now receives its sticker and is bagged up ready for dispatch. Now I’m sure many people will be asking why the mutes get bagged and not boxed. There are several reasons for this, the main being the additional cost that I cannot afford to swallow and I am just not prepared to pass that cost on to the customer. These mutes are built to be used and as a result, how they look packaged up sat on a shelf is way down on the list of priorities. Another overwhelming factor is storage of these boxes. I make nearly 50 varieties of mute in all shapes and sizes. This, coupled with the unpredictability of orders I receive, means it is not a viable option to have so many on site and not economical to order them as required. This in essence is how your typical straight mute is made. As I’m sure you will see, it takes several days from start to finish to produce a fibre mute and whilst not all this time is spent working on the mute itself, it does show just how much longer it takes to produce, compared to a metal mute. For other models, the waiting time is increased by near enough a day per every extra component, none of which can be rushed. That’s a fact that some of the shops I supply just can’t seem to get their head around, despite being fully aware that all the mutes are hand made to order. Most brass players will use a mute on an almost daily basis, so it makes sense that there is a huge investment by companies to develop new and innovative methods to build and create mutes - new materials, new shapes, new designs. The most important thing is to find a mute that is right for you. When choosing your own mutes go and try as many as you can and find what you feel works best, be that metal, fibre, wood, or something entirely new.
WARWIC K MUSIC VOUC HER, TO BE IN WITH A C HANCE OF WINNING A JUST ANSWER THE FOLLOWING QUESTION;
WHICH COMBINATION OF MATERIALS DOES PETER GANE MUTES USE TO CREATE THEIR RANGE OF PRODUCTS? A) PLASTIC AND PAPER B) ALUMINIUM AND COPPER C) FIBRE AND BIRCH PLEASE SEND YOUR ENTRIES TO JANE firstname.lastname@example.org FRIDAY, 15 JUNE
Please note this competition is open to members only. Not a member yet? No problem – head to our website to sign up from just £22 for the year. Congratulations to our winner of the Christmas crossword competition, Ken Wellington. Your Septura CD is on its way to you!
Christmas Crossword solution PUBLISHED WINTER 2017 G
Set by Anklepoise
Our prestigious Don Lusher Jazz Trombone & Bob Hughes Bass Trombone competitions are set to take place this Autumn. Please keep an eye on our website for more information –
ARE PLAYING COMPETITIONS MORE YOUR STYLE?
Jazz by Jeremy: Deep South Suite JEREMY PRICE
The Deep South Suite was especially written by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn for a major headline in the Duke Ellington Orchestra’s diary, that is, their 5th annual concert at Carnegie Hall, New York in 1946, the live recording of which was released a year later. It is interesting that they used this very public platform to address racial tensions in the USA at the time. Rather than speak overtly about the race issues that must have caused daily distress and upset to black Americans in the 1940s, they chose to write an incredibly fun and accessible group of pieces that would at the same time challenge any listener who may be holding a racist viewpoint. What a riposte. For those reasons alone, it’s a group of pieces well worth getting to know, but it also serves well for BTS readers as the trombone features heavily both in solo passages and in orchestration. The transcription in this issue is of the solo by Lawrence Brown, supplied generously by our very own Rob Egerton. Lawrence Brown was Ellington’s lead trombonist for many years and the exponent of many famous trombone features such as Sophisticated Lady and Blue Cellophane. The transcribed solo is from the first movement of the suite, which has the mouthwatering and enticing title of Magnolias Dripping with Mollasses. It is well worth learning this solo so that you can gain a genuine acquaintance with early jazz trombone. This is a chance to inhabit that uplifting spirit of authentic Dixieland without indulging in irony. It may still be possible even now in 2018! To hear the whole suite you can use this YouTube link which also has a great producer’s introduction from UK born journalist, pianist and composer Leonard Feather. The tone of the announcement has a very folksy early radio feel that you will no doubt find very quaint nowadays but explains beautifully how the pieces are about to unfold. The first movement, so Leonard Feather says, depicts the American South almost like a clichéd advertisement 28
with “southern skies, Creole girls with flashing eyes, the fried chicken and watermelon and those good old nostalgic melodies.” Note the many chirpy quotes of Confederate tunes such as Swanee River and Dixie that turn this first movement into a bit of a medley of hits. You would want to visit such a place for sure after hearing this party-goodtime-atmosphere, so the travel brochure in sound has done its job perfectly. The next movement is Hearsay which, as Leonard Feather says, is virtually the opposite in spirit to Magnolias. It is full of suspicion and mistrust and has dark and sinister overtones. You can imagine the spread of unfounded rumour and misplaced blame. This is essentially a trumpet feature but sees trombones scored in classic ‘left hand of the piano’ chordal accompaniment and, characteristically for Ellington, has no qualms about quite low register dissonances, which many other writers instinctively avoid. Later in the movement there is a brief unison soli for the trombones, exploiting the more mid to upper tenor register, and then some good examples of section vibrato, again in an accompanying role. The third movement is When Nobody’s Looking. This is for solo piano. This title gives the most obvious racial comment, saying that without interference or prejudice, everyone gets on fine. The last movement is Happy Go Lucky Local describing a dilapidated train that makes all the stops along the way. In fact you can thumb a lift from it if you know the driver, who will gladly slow right down anywhere on the track to let you clamber on. Again, the underlying comment is that the exclusive express trains may be posh and get
JAZZ BY JEREMY you there on time, but the spirit of the Happy Go Lucky Local is so much more humane. All the orchestration is highly visual and connects the sound and movement of the locomotive. Trombones are used here to depict train calls and powerful piston movement. Do you recognise the riff at the end as Night Train? Ellington fought a law suit to keep the copyright of this riff, but settled for an undisclosed out of court sum, as there was no proof of ownership, although Ellington could be credited for popularizing it in the first place. Jazz musicians often fell between a rock and a hard place when it came to royalties and intellectual property and to some extent they still do. And so we come to the actual Lawrence Brown solo on Mollasses. This is a great example of a solo conceived around the ergonomics of the slide trombone; phrasing
and rhythmic placement all fall within easy reach, inviting lots of characteristic swoops and glissandi. If your student has a good top Bb, this is an ideal solo to present to a novice in jazz. Additionally, a good basic changes lesson here is how to make the modulation to the subdominant. See at the 17th bar, by targeting Db, that being the flat 7 of Eb and the salient note we need to hear, the key change is made apparent. The solo also works superbly in a structural sense, with evident control over how to complete phrases at important junctions. Hopefully this has been helpful in getting to know a really important bit of repertoire musically and culturally, while also encouraging a good romp through some genuine Dixieland trombonisims.
JAZZ BY JEREMY LINK: ROB EGERTON JAZZ TRANSCRIPTIONS
Magnolias Dripping With Molasses Solo From 2;19
h .= 80
œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ B¨˙
œ ùœ ˙ # œ œ ùœ œ ? b 44 J ‰ J Œ Œ b 3 . œ œœ B¨7 G7(#5) C9 F7(#5) œ 5 œ œ. œ. ù œ œ œ œ n œ b œ œ œû œ ˙ ù œ ?b Œ ‰ ‰ J ‰ J ‰ œJ œ œ œ b B¨
B¨7(#5) E¨7 Eº B¨ F7 -œ œ. . . . . . œ œ œ n œ œ œ œ . œ n œ b œ . . . œ œ ù bœ œ œ œ œœ ù œ ? b œ œ œœ # œ œ˙ Œ ‰J b
œ œ ? bb ‰# œJ œn œ œ œ œ
? bb Œ
E¨7 œ œ b œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œb œ œ œ
F7 -œ œ B¨ œ b œ œ œ œ œœ˙ ù œ 3
œ œ œ œ œ œ #B¨œ œ
œ œ œù
E¨7 G‹ C7 F7 œ œœ œœ œ n œ b œ œ œ œ œ œ œœ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ ? bb ‰# œJ # œ œ Œ ‰ ‰J
œ œ B¨7(#5) ù ˙
E¨7 Eº œ F7 œ B¨/F œœœ œb œ œ œ œ # œ œ œ œ œ Œ ‰ J ‰ J
G7 C7 F7 œ œ œ œ. œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ b -œ œ œ œ œ œ # œ œ œ . ? bb ‰ J nœ bœ ‰ J
-œ œ B¨œ E¨7 Eº F7 œœ . - œ œ B¨7(#5) œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œœ œ J ? bb ù ù œ J ù œœ˙ ‰ œJ œ 3 . œ œ B¨ œ ù œ œ B¨œ œ œ G7œ œ œ . ù 37 œ û œ ? bb ‰ J ‰ J Œ Ó ∑ 33
Transcribed by Rob Egerton 30
AMAZING SLIDING CIRCUS, MATTHEW GEE, LABEL: MG MUSIC
MANUEL CARDOSO, MISSA SECUNDI TONI, GIRTON COLLEGE, LABEL: TOCCATA CLASSICS
MATTHEW GEE’S AMAZING SLIDING CIRCUS
REVIEWED BY JANE SALMON
REVIEWED BY ADAM CRIGHTON
Matthew Gee’s new solo disc, with Christopher Glynn and the RPO, presents his circus in three acts; an ambitious programme celebrating the limitless capabilities of the trombone. Karl King’s The Melody Shop is an exciting opener. Originally for wind band, Matthew Knight has made a neat arrangement of this piece and Gee plays homage to the one man band by multi-tracking the trombone parts and taking on the percussion parts too. Pulcinella makes up the rest of the act. This adaptation for trombone and piano by Daniel-Ben Pienaar is based on Stravinsky’s own reduced Suite for Chamber Orchestra. Pulcinella’s eighteenth century pastiche fits perfectly into the big top with this neat performance. Luciano Berio’s iconic Sequenza V is at the centre of this release. This work evokes the memory of Grock (born Adrian Wettach) and calls for virtuosic technique and a histrionic ability to remind the listener of the famous clown. The communication is easier if your audience can see you but Gee pulls it off through the medium of recording. Matthew Knight’s arrangement of Sondheim’s Send in the Clowns stays true to the original, leaving Sondheim’s Rachmaninoff phrasing under the fingers of pianist Christopher Glynn. A fantastic and substantial new work by Gary Carpenter follows – Fischietto è morto (Fischietto is dead) – for trombone and strings is a response to Federico Fellini’s I Clowns (1970), a film that influenced the creation of this entire disc. Circus Games, a playful work from Rob Keeley leads us nicely into Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci arranged, and here conducted, by Matthew Knight. These two excerpts work beautifully for the ensemble and show off the trombone’s vocal capabilities. This programme is punctuated by Simon Vincent’s atmospheric miniatures, here taking the place of the role of clowns; to provide relief between acts. The final of these, The Triumphal Coulrobonia, completes this release with a nod to J A Greenwood’s notorious The Acrobat.
This is the second CD released by The Choir of Girton College, Cambridge, under the reputable direction of Gareth Wilson, to include historic brass. Similarly to the previous CD, it is the culmination of a tour of rehearsals and concerts, to Portugal on this occasion, and includes most of the repertoire from the tour, the main work being Cardoso’s Missa Secundi. This is the first recording of it and is the first recording of any of Cardoso’s works with brass accompaniment. First impressions when listening to the opening Magnificat Octavi Toni are all about the sound. There is a special quality that comes from the blend of voices and sackbuts, particularly when it is at such high a standard as this. The group make a very rich, fluid sound and have a beautiful balance between them. The singing and brass playing on this album are of an extremely high quality, not forgetting the considerable talents of organist Lucy Morrell, as shown clearly in Track 8, Obra De Segundi Toni. Cardoso, along with Duarte Lobo and John IV of Portugal, represented the “golden age” of Portuguese polyphony. The group successfully show off the many textures and layers to his music, effortlessly adapting their sound and balance to suit the individual quality of each piece. Those who have an interest in historic brass will be no stranger to the name Jeremy West and the brass playing on this album is testament to his ability and leadership. The playing from Tamsin Cowell (cornett), Laura Agut, Freddy Ouellette, Quinn Parker, and Benedict Vernon (sackbuts) is sensitive, powerful, and classy, always flexible to support the voices of the choir and provide a solid bedrock for them. This album is a wonderful exploration of Cardoso’s music and another fine example of how beautiful the sound of a choir with historic brass and organ can be. A must-have. 31
Opinion: The Bass Trombone SIMON MINSHALL
So, you’re thinking about a Bass Trombone. Well done! A few reasons for this are quite possibly: • • • • • •
you are graduating from tenor trombone. you are looking for a better quality instrument. you have money burning a hole in your pocket you need a spare you need a doubling instrument you’re just a gear head
I will quite possibly contradict myself throughout this article, as I am trying to make this useful for all of our readership, so please forgive me in advance and take away the information relevant to you. This is an interesting but quite detailed subject to talk about so do stay with me... To start with, it’s a minefield! The options available out there at the moment are endless and often incredibly confusing, especially if you are perhaps new to the process of choosing an instrument. Before you get started, it is important to have an idea of your budget, as there is a danger of falling in love with an instrument £2,000 more than you have allowed for. That being said, if that is the right instrument for you, find a way of living on beans on toast for the next year, as you’ll always think about the one that got away and, saying this from experience, you’ll end up buying it at some point anyway! The most important thing to have before you start the process is an idea of the sound you want to produce. We all have different personalities and traits, which should be heard in our sound - it’s very boring other32
wise. I think this is much more necessary than buying an instrument set up for a certain genre, be that orchestra, big band or brass band and so on. All of us change as a person over time and your way of thinking about playing changes. I play a very different instrument from 12 years ago and you might also remember that instruments also wear out eventually and become blown out. So, imagine you’re at the point of going to the shop. It is very helpful if you can have a person who knows your playing with you to listen, a friend, a colleague or a teacher but, where do you go? With the average price of a bass trombone creeping up into the £5,000+ price range, finding a retailer who will keep 8-10 instruments in stock for you to try is near impossible. Then there is the difficulty of trying modular instruments. We can’t expect a shop to keep in three different sets of valves for a Shires, for example, although they may well order them in if you ask. There is a simple joy in buying a non-modular trombone. It forces you to work with what you’ve got and practise. Modular instruments, although personal and customisable in their nature, open up a whole can of worms if you are even the slightest bit inquisitive about trying different bits. Incredibly appealing as it is designing your own custom instrument, much like a made-to-measure suit, it feels very special. Having that idea of what sound you want to make is even more important at this stage, as you may get carried away trying the latest gear. So, imagine you’re in a position where you have all the instruments to try and you are ready to start. When trying a new brand, just get used to how it plays
OPINION: THE BASS TROMBONE
before changing. There isn’t a right or wrong way of going through the modular process, for example, but you probably have an idea of which valves you would like. Then change the bell, then the slide. Leadpipes should certainly be last. Record yourself and don’t be afraid to take a coffee break and come back later to give your mind a rest. Look around you and look at what other people are using. Ask yourself, are you going to be working professionally? If so, you need to be aware of fitting in whilst still being yourself. I feel the British tradition of using Conns and Bachs is less prevalent nowadays and this gives us all more scope to try different equipment. Are you looking for a doubling instrument? It is necessary these days to be as flexible and employable as possible. This means often doubling on bass or tenor trombone. In recent years there have been some brilliant mid-priced bass trombones, offering players a chance to get a very good instrument for around the £2,500-£3,000 mark: Rath’s R900, Eastman, Getzen to name a few. Always go for a named brand. Chinese copies will not stand the length of time and you will learn very quickly the phrase ‘buy cheap, buy twice’. Choosing a new trombone is a complex subject to write about due to the fact that everyone has their own opinions about gear. I know from experience that it is good to try new instruments. It keeps your brain active and thinking about how you play, but don’t ever substitute practise for a new lead pipe. Only ever change your set up if it is going to make you sound the way you know you want to sound and, ultimately of course, to sound better. It is just as important to know what you don’t like as to know what you do like. 33 PHOTO: PHIL PARKER LTD, LONDON
G&T MATTHEW GEE
Hello again. Mark here. It’s time for our round-up of what’s hot for trombones on the classical scene. So if you want to catch some good slide action, check out some of the recommendations below. I am away in Germany as I write this with terrible Wi-Fi so some of my friends back in the UK came to my rescue by going over their orchestral schedules for me. Here’s what our southern friends sent to me.
ROYAL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA
Royal Festival Hall, London Wednesday 16 May, 7.30pm If you live in London and Saffron Walden is a bit too far away, the RPO will also be playing Stravinsky’s Firebird but the complete ballet version instead of the more often played suite. I like playing both versions but they differ in a few subtle ways. The big solo glisses from G to C are omitted in the complete version and the voicings are slightly different in places, but the trombones take up extra bits of the melody in the infernal dance with solos in the 1st and 2nd parts. Definitely worth a listen for the different textures across the whole band as well. •
Royal Festival Hall, London Thursday 28 June, 7.30pm Byron Fulcher says; “Our end of season concert is Schoenberg Gurrelieder. Seven trombones (alto, 4 tenors, bass, contra) plus bass trumpet. This concert can also be heard in Paris if anyone fancies getting on the train on 26th June. It’s amazingly indulgent and beautiful trombone writing with a few challenging moments.” Thanks Byron. Gurrelieder is one of my favourite pieces to play and hear. This will be a belter. •
LONDON PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA
Royal Festival Hall, London Wednesday 18 April, 7.30pm Vladimir Jurowski will be in his element with this one. Stravinsky’s Symphony in C and his Tango for orchestra (quirky and fun) along with a real beast of a symphony – Shostakovich’s 6th. Everything you’d expect from a Shostakovich symphony with some really beautiful, rich melodies with the trumpets. •
BBC SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Saffron Hall, Saffron Walden Saturday 5 May, 7.30pm Roderick Cox conducts the BBCSO in this bristlingly varied program. Candide Overture, Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, Bernstein's Symphony No.1 and Copland's Appalachian Spring Suite. You will really get your money’s worth in this up and coming venue and the trombones will have earned theirs. Thank you Helen for this tip off. • BOURNEMOUTH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Lighthouse, Poole Wednesday 9 May, 7.30pm Robb Tooley; “Elgar In the South and Walton Symphony No.1. Two great British pieces with lots for the section to get their teeth stuck into!” Cheers Robb. That’s me done for now over to you Matt for the rest of the UK … • CBSO
Symphony Hall, Birmingham Wednesday 2 May, 2.15pm Thursday 3 May, 7.30pm Edward Gardner conducts a juicy programme including Strauss’ Death and Transfiguration and one of my favourite works, Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2. Sibelius thought the opening of this symphony contained the most beautiful music he had ever written, and who am I to disagree? CBSO continue their search for a principal trombone and this is a great opportunity for someone.
Usher Hall, Edinburgh Friday 25 May, 7.30pm • Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow Saturday 26 May, 7.30pm
Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham Saturday 16 June, 7.30pm
Good on the RSNO, as they feature their tuba player John Whitener in a new work by American Composer Jennifer Higdon. If that is not enough to whet your appetite, then they follow this up with a performance of Holst’s The Planets. This should be a spectacular, brass-heavy evening, and (knowing many a tuba player) have a great after-show party. • ULSTER ORCHESTRA – STAR PICK
The season finale for The Hallé is Mahler’s spectacular second symphony, The Resurrection. This colossal work engages every character of the trombone: heroic unison passages, one of the finest chorales ever written, and everything in between. • Well that concludes this instalment of G&T. Make sure you tweet or Facebook us if you manage to get to one of our recommendations. You never know, we might even be there, so do come and say hello. Until next time …
Ulster Hall Friday 1 June, 7.45pm Another season ending finale which packs a punch. Britten’s Four Sea Interludes, Mahler’s RückertLeider and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5. Rafael Payare, who has just announced that he is leaving the orchestra to take up a position with the San Diego Symphony, conducts a programme which is sure to draw you in. Described as ‘three poetry-inspired pieces that reflect the concerns of the soul and ultimately end in the triumph of the human spirit.’ In other words, three completely amazing works that are sure to leave you emotionally empty at the end of the evening.
BBC YOUNG BRASS AWARD FINAL
ROYAL MARINES SCHOOL OF MUSIC:
Friday 20 April, 8.00pm Live on BBC Radio 2 from the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester
LOW BRASS DAY
HIS MAJESTYS SAGBUTTS & CORNETTS: MONTEVERDI VESPERS
Thursday 26 April, 7.30pm St James’s R C Church, Spanish Place, London W1U 3QY Saturday 30 June, 7.00pm Arundel Cathedral, West Sussex
Saturday 5 May, 9.00am Royal Marines School, Portsmouth Guest artists: Robbie Harvey (trombone), Simon Minshall (bass trombone), Dave Childs (euphonium) and Les Neish (tuba) Please contact Nick West for more information BRASS ON THE BUS
Sunday 6 May, various locations across the City of London Participants welcome to join the ensemble SEPTURA
Claudio Monteverdi – Vespers of the Blessed Virgin Mary (1610). Schola Cantorum of The Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School. Nicholas Mulroy & Peter Davoren (tenors) HIS MAJESTYS SAGBUTTS & CORNETTS: LO SPOSALIZIO
Sunday 29 April, 7.45pm St Machar’s Cathedral, Aberdeen Aberdeen Bach Choir: Lo Sposalizio BILLY MAY’S REALLY BIG FAT BRASS: RAM SYMPHONIC BRASS
Friday 4 May, 1.05pm Duke’s Hall, Royal Academy of Music, London
The Kleptomania concert series, celebrating music for brass septet continues with Borrowed Baroque & Song Swag London Tuesday 1 May, 7.30pm (Borrowed Baroque) Tuesday 10 July, 7.30pm (Song Swag) St John’s Smith Square, London, SW1P 3HA £20 / £18 concessions / £5 students (SJSS Young Friends) Cambridge Friday 4 May, 7.30pm (Borrowed Baroque) Monday 9 July, 7.30pm (Song Swag) West Road Concert Hall, 11 West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DP £20 / £18 concessions / £5 students
WHAT'S ON EUROPEAN BRASS BAND CHAMPIONSHIPS 2018:
THE ENGLISH CORNETT & SACKBUT ENSEMBLE:
ECHOES OF VENICE
Saturday 27 April – Sunday 6 May
Friday 1 June, 7.30pm St James’ Church, Dorset
THE SYD LAWRENCE ORCHESTRA – BIG BAND SPECTACULAR
THE ENGLISH CORNETT & SACKBUT ENSEMBLE:
Sunday 6 May, 7.30pm The Radlett Centre, Hertfordshire
MONTEVERDI: VESPERS 1610
Saturday 12 May, 7.30pm The Key Theatre, Peterborough
Saturday 14 July, 7.30pm Exeter Cathedral, Cathedral Green, Exeter, Devon EX1 1HS RAM TROMBONE CHOIR WITH MATTHEW GEE
BRITISH OPEN SPRING BRASS BAND FESTIVAL
Saturday 12 May Winter Gardens, Blackpool
Wednesday 6 June, 7.00pm Angela Burgess Recital Hall, Royal Academy of Music BLACK DYKE TROMBONE QUARTET: COMMUNITY
Imperial College Lunchtime Concert Thursday 10 May, 1.00pm Holy Trinity With All Saints Church, Prince Consort Road, Kensington, London SW7 2BA FREE entry
Saturday 16 June, 10.00 – 4.00pm Brunts Academy, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, Notts NG18 2AT
MAYFIELD FESTIVAL: ONYX NOIR
Saturday 12 May, 7.30pm St Dunstan’s Church, High St, Mayfield, East Sussex TN20 6AB
WYNTON MARSALIS QUARTET + HEADSPACE QUARTET
Tuesday 19 June, 7.30pm Barbican Centre, Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DS INTERNATIONAL TROMBONE FESTIVAL 2018
Wednesday 11 – Saturday 14 July University of Iowa, Iowa
GUILDHALL SCHOOL: THE GROUP JOINS FORCES WITH THE GUILDHALL BRASS ENSEMBLE
DURHAM BRASS FESTIVAL
Tuesday 15 May, 7.45pm Milton Court Concert Hall, Silk St, London EC2Y 9BH
Friday 13 - Sunday 22 July Featuring an evening with Fine Arts Brass, from 7.30pm Tuesday 17 July and our very own BTS day on Sunday 22 July
WIGMORE LATES: CELEBRATING THE LAUNCH OF ONYX NOIR
Friday 8 June, 10.00pm Wigmore Hall, 36 Wigmore St, Marylebone, London W1U 2BP £15
OLD DIRTY BRASSTARDS
Friday 10 August, 10.30pm Brixton Blues Kitchen, London PETER MOORE, GIANANDREA NOSEDA & LONDON
BRADFIELD FESTIVAL OF MUSIC
Monday 25 June, 7.30pm St Nicholas’ Church, High Bradfield, High Bradfield, Sheffield S6 6LG
UK Premiere of James MacMillan’s Trombone Concerto Thursday 1 November, 7.30pm Barbican Hall, Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DS £16, £5 for under-18s
WHIT FRIDAY MARCH CONTESTS
Friday 25 May, 4.00pm Saddleworth & Thameside LOUIS DOWDESWELL BIG BAND: HIGH SCORE! ALBUM LAUNCH
Sunday 27 May, 7.00pm Under the Bridge, Stamford Bridge, Fulham Road, London SW6 1HS
For more dates and information, please check our website and social media feeds.
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