It's been a busy few weeks of travelling, from my days in Scotland with the Whitburn Band, via Birmingham, and we all know what happened there(!!) , then on a plane the next day from Heathrow to Denver, Colorado. It was an 9 ½ hour flight with British Airways, very pleasant as it turned out, and plenty of time for reflection on the previous few days, and in particular reaction to my Time for Change Article. While the time I arrived in the USA and switched on my Blackberry I have over 30 messages of support mostly from the UK but also from other banding territories around the world. Not being a ‘trouble maker' by nature of course, it played on my mind that the bold stand I had taken would upset some, and of course it had. But as I have stated quite a few times my intention was to start the debate which would hopefully to a full and frank discussion amongst not only the hierarchy in the brass band movement but also the thousands of amateur musicians who play in bands who need a voice.
Anyway I digress. As soon as I got through customs and immigration in Denver I was met by my former student at the RNCM, Aaron Tindall and the Professor of Tuba at the University of Colorado, Mike Dunn. Both guys are great company and also turned out to be first class hosts during my visit. First stop from the Airport was Mike Dunn's house where all the tuba and euphonium students were waiting to greet me. It was such a nice welcome even though I was tired and the UK time was somewhere around 4.00am. I even thought of going to practice once the reception was over but by the time I checked in to my hotel at around 10.00 pm the only thing I wanted to do was lie down and sleep.
The next morning I taught individual lessons, then had a rehearsal with a brass quintet, a rehearsal with trombone quartet then finally an 8.30pm rehearsal with the University Wind Symphony. The first two rehearsals were for my recital on Wednesday and the one with the Wind Symphony, a really excellent group by the way, was for the next evening's concert, where I was to play Nigel Clarke's ‘City in the Sea'. All went ok and it was good to revisit Nigel Clarke's epic concerto, City in the Sea.
Sleep beckoned once again once the final rehearsals were over.
The next day my morning was free except for a rehearsal with Margaret McDonald, my excellent pianist for the recital. She was really outstanding and thoroughly prepared. In the middle of the afternoon I was pleased to be able to give a masterclass for about sixty students.
Later that evening was the concert with the wind symphony which seemed to go very well, and I was delighted and surprised to meet so many euphonium players in the audience after the concert, many of whom had travelled hours to get there. It's really quite humbling. Tim Ornato , Brass Product Specialist from Buffet Crampon USA had flown in from Florida for the concert, and it was great to see him and chat about the instruments and the challenges that we face in promoting and selling the fine new Besson Instruments in the USA.
Wednesday morning came, and it was yet another glorious day's weather in Colorado, about 26°c, and a warm late summer breeze. I was based in Boulder Colorado, on the edge of the Rocky Mountains, and the university campus there has to be one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. Everybody seemed to have a smile on their face and everything and everyone seem to work at a relaxed pace. Really, nothing like Manchester!!
Fortunately I had the afternoon free to prepare for the recital, except for a telephone interview with Iwan Fox, for 4Barsrest.com concerning you know what! One bit of very hot news for euphonium players is that during this week in America I started using the new mouthpiece which will be released by the Denis Wick company at the National Brass Band Championship finals at the Royal Albert Hall in the middle of October. It will be called the SM Ultra , and here are the first sneak photos of what it looks like.
It's quite simply the best mouthpiece I ever played, but more of that in another article. It made the recital feel really quite easy despite the complexity of the music, and I was still feeling very strong after 1.5 hours. Myself, Aaron, Mike and the tuba euphonium studio went out to a local eatery/watering hole following the concert. I will need to talk with Aaron, but I would like to get whole of this concert made available for download if people are interested. It had been a long day but a good day.
The final day in Boulder had arrived (thursday) and unbelievably I was free until my flight back to London at 8.30 PM, so following some practice in the morning we took an early lunch and headed for the Rocky Mountains. It was a perfect day for sightseeing, and we even got to see some elks in the middle of a lake.
Often there are thousands around at the same time, but not so many today. Those of you who know what the rocky mountains look like will not need a description from me but it is truly awe inspiring and if you ever get the chance to visit that part of the U.S. , do it!
Aaron (left) and Mike (right). Aaron is actually taller !!
I flew from Denver back to Heathrow Terminal 5, had an hour and a half before my flight to Brussels where I was to give a recital and masterclass at the Brussels Instrument Museum the following day. I had a rehearsal as soon as I arrived, but the pianist , Geert Callaert was truly outstanding and I forgot the jet lag for an hour or so. The reason for the recital was because of the Demersseman Project that myself and Luc Vertommen had been working on for the last couple of years. Jules Demersseman was a 19th century flute virtuoso and composer who worked quite closely with Adolphe Sax in Paris in the middle of the 19th century. I will write much more about this project as we get to the release of the CD in about six weeks.
But for now, it is enough to know that just a few years ago Demersseman's Solo Brass repertoire, that had been in the Brussels Museum, had been found and resuscitated by my good friend Luc Vertommen.
The music was originally composed for the ‘trombone with six independent valves', a very bizarre and wonderful looking instrument it was in its time.
It was quite popular and seen as an instrument that would solve all the tuning problems inherent in brass instruments at that time. Alas for this instrument, and it didn't survive the test of time, but Demersseman's music written for it is quite outstanding; lyrical and virtuosic in turn and harmonically greatly superior to Arban's work around the same time. I know it sounds heresy to say that, as the Arban's Grand Method book has been the mainstay of brass education for well over a hundred years, but Demerssemans solos, some written for the Paris Conservatory, are astonishing.
So the plan for that weekend was to perform in Brussels on the Saturday and then travel to Hondschoote, just over the border into French Flanders, which was Demerssemans town of birth (in 1833).
We even had found a street named after him, and posed for pictures.
I was delighted with the audience that came for the afternoon recitals at both events, especially in Hondschoote, when my good friend Antoine Langagne, who conducts the French Air Force Brass band in Paris , came to the concert. He works in the Music School in this town and helped tremendously to make this concert possible. In both recitals work played the entire repertory from beginning to end, very physical, but I have to say, enormous fun. All these solo pieces on available now from Band Press VOF in Belgium, and soon, on my own sales website at euphonium.net, which is reappearing after an absence of two years!! Soon!
From there I returned to Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris and the next morning (Monday) I flew to Zurich to begin Friday's rehearsal with the Wallberg Brass Band, based in Volketswil , near Zurich, that competes in the Swiss Open next Saturday. That just about brings us up to date.