Welcome to my blog! This is a place for me to share my thoughts on a variety of topics, with an obvious emphasis on musical arranging and all things brass. I hope you enjoy this forum and feel free to provide your comments and feedback!
Since I am primarily a trumpet player, I’m going to ask the question, “what’s so special about the trumpet?” I’ve spent almost my entire life and countless hours practicing this instrument. Why was I drawn to it? What’s so special about it?
I think the trumpet holds a unique place in our consciousness. Its notes are associated with anything from a morning wake up call, to a fanfare, to a solemn military processional. It has a regal quality that many of us are naturally drawn to. The trumpet is an instrument of power, but also one of exquisite beauty. It’s used in brass brands, jazz bands, school bands, and orchestras.
All of these uses and qualities of the trumpet are wonderful. However, the most significant for me is summed up in the beautiful George Frideric Handel aria, The Trumpet Shall Sound. This aria, from the Messiah (of “Hallelujah Chorus” fame) uses the biblical text, “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” – 1 Corinthians 15:52. This verse is about the second coming of Christ. The trumpet signifies the return of Jesus to this earth. As much as I love the sound of the trumpet and playing this instrument, it pales in comparison to the love for and hope that I have in the return of my Savior. What a wonderful reminder every time I pick up my “horn” to practice or perform- that we will hear a similar sound on that last day!
Here is a link to a performance of The Trumpet Shall Sound by Handel
The 2016 International Trumpet Guild Conference gets underway Tuesday, May 31st.
Some of the best studio brass players in Hollywood, and hence, the world, are performing in a concert Friday, June 3rd at Garden Grove United Methodist Church. The address is:
12741 Main St.
Garden Grove, CA 92840
The concert is at 8pm and will feature the Garden Grove Methodist and Grace First Presbyterian Church choirs. The concert is comprised of new arrangements for brass/choir by Kevin Kaska.
I have spent the last couple months accompanying the Grace First Sanctuary Choir’s rehearsals on these pieces. They are hymn arrangements and medleys and are really well done. It promises to be a very uplifting program.
This is the first International Trumpet Guild conference in southern California in 20 years. A large crowd is expected, and tickets are available at the door.
One of the aspects of trumpet playing that differs greatly between average trumpet players and great trumpet players is their effective use of alternate fingerings. Most players realize the existence of these fingerings but don’t have enough knowledge to use them well. I found this chart to be a great jumping off point for amateur players to explore. The fingerings are listed in order of: normal fingering, then the alternates, in order of intonation.
As with anything, a thorough understanding of the science behind this subject is beneficial, i.e. the production of sound, overtone series, partials, etc.
Just a quick reminder that the 2016 International Trumpet Guild Conference in Anaheim is coming up fast. Many great performers and teachers are already scheduled and on the conference website. One player worthy of note: Ronald Romm (formerly of the Canadian Brass) will be giving a masterclass.
Lately, there’s been featured in the news some reports of strange trumpet-like sounds heard all around the world. These sounds have been heard in many different countries by people who say the sound is coming from the sky. Eerie, strange in pitch and seemingly random, it definitely will raise the hair on the back of your neck.
These kind of reports sound like the stuff of science fiction or end-time prophecies. People are often quick to point to an alien invasion, or the end of the world. However, NASA has said that what we are hearing could simply be earth’s “background noise”. At this point, no one knows for sure. Below is the link to a news article, which includes video of the sounds. Judge for yourself.
It came as a shock to the brass world that Rolf Smedvig, trumpeter of the Empire Brass died last Monday. He died suddenly and was only 62 years old. His career was an impressive one, including spans as principal trumpet of orchestras, as a conductor, soloist, and in his most famous role as Empire Brass founding member.
I remember growing up, the Empire Brass was the “other” brass quintet on the scene, next to the Canadian Brass. My dad’s quintet would frequently perform Canadian Brass arrangements and I went with them to hear the group live in Philadelphia. The Empire Brass seemed to be doing “edgier” stuff and I only heard a handful of recordings. But I remember being impressed by their virtuosity and the power in their sound. Now, of course, they are a bedrock group in the brass world. Recently, I got chance to hear some of their album they recorded with organist, Michael Murray. Great stuff.
Rolf will be sorely missed I’m sure. Here is a link to the New York Times article on his death.
Most performers deal with stage fright, at least to a certain degree. What’s the best way to combat it? Besides making sure you have practiced thoroughly, there are several things that I have found effective:
1. Positive thoughts/visuals- leading up to performance, actually visualize yourself playing well and without anxiety. Speaking your positivity out loud is also beneficial and is physically relaxing.
2. Breathe- being conscious of my deep breaths (both prior to and during playing)
3. Think about the music- it sounds simple, but it’s surprisingly easy to perform and NOT think about the music. Thinking about what you are trying to convey, how you are shaping each phrase, etc. helps. Provided you’ve prepared well, you want to think of larger ideas and avoid analyzing every note as it goes by.
4. Share the music with your audience- you are there to share this beautiful art with the audience, not worry about what they will think of you if you miss a note. Keep the big picture in mind.
I know we’re only in 2015, but I’m excited about next year’s International Trumpet Guild Conference. It seems the location hasn’t been widely announced yet, but I heard through the grapevine (from someone on the artistic advisory committee) that it will be in Anaheim, CA. I’m excited! There are sure to be plenty of great concerts/workshops and the conference brings together two of my favorite things: trumpet and organ. Playing weekly in nearby Long Beach, I know that there are many great pipe organs in Orange County. I’m anxious to see where the events will be held, and I’m even more excited to attend some great trumpet and organ recitals!
As a side note, I’ve been told there will be plenty of great jazz trumpeters at the conference in 2016 – and about 1/2 of all the events will be jazz oriented.
In the meantime, if you live anywhere near Colombus, OH, here is some information about this year’s (2015) conference:
Continuing the discussion of modern classical music:
Growing up, minimalism was sort of made fun of, at least in the amateur musical circles of which I was a part. As the years have passed though, I think we’ve seen the importance of the ideas and the music. I was exposed to some Philip Glass during high school (Einstein on the Beach), and then John Adams in my undergraduate study (China Gates). I started to really get interested when I re-watched The Truman Show and discovered that Philip Glass had done the wonderfully lyrical score.
Although I’ve mentioned Philip Glass and John Adams, other composers use minimalist elements and ideas such as: Arvo Part, Steve Reich, and John Tavener. Anyone who hears the choral music of Arvo Part more than once will instantly recognize the unique voice he has through his music.
I can’t say I have a great knowledge of minimalism , but I have grown to like the pieces I’ve heard and played. Being a pianist, I have naturally gravitated to minimalistic pieces for that instrument. Specifically, I’ve played some of Philip Glass’s pieces titled Metamorphosis. I find them to be conducive to the imagination in almost a stream of consciousness kind of way. Yes, it’s repetitive, but that’s the point. The pieces gradually transform, the harmonies gently shifting. There is a mysterious quality, and people have called the music hypnotic, but I don’t really like that term. The music itself never stops, like the human mind. Even when we sleep, our subconscious is active, reflecting, reconsidering our conscious experiences. So, to me, the music is like a conscious rendering or interpretation of the subconscious state.
Below are a few clips. The first one is Philip Glass playing and discussing one of his Metamorphosis pieces. The next clip is Phrygian Gates by John Adams. The final clip is part of the score to The Truman Show. This clip shows the more lyrical side of this music.
I once had a music history professor that said unless the classical world embraces modern classical music in a bigger way, there’s a good chance traditional classical music will die out. I’m not sure I agree, but his point was that there has to constantly be new things and new ideas to explore for any field to remain relevant.
There are scores and scores of fantastic new “classical” music being written these days in the choral, instrumental, organ/piano, and orchestral genres. I will do a series of short, related blog posts on these different genres of contemporary classical music.
The first area I’ll highlight is choral music:
Almost all of us know some of the popular choral composers writing today- Morten Lauridsen, Eric Whitacre, among others. And there are those that are content with performing a short range of these contemporary composers to balance out their repertoire of Thomas Tallis and Palestrina motets. The problem I have with this is I get bored with hearing the same composers over and over at concerts. It’s like taking a course on English literature and spending the entire semester on one Canterbury tale. Yeah, it’s great stuff, but there is so much more out there. Several of the popular contemporary choral composers write in common tonal language and I find myself wishing for more diversity.
A wonderful young composer of choral pieces (and organ, which I’ll get to in my next post) is Carson Cooman. He is in his mid thirties, but already has a tremendously varied output in many genres, including choral. He is a contemporary classical music aficionado himself, so he has a passion in his composing, and it comes across well. I find it hard to pinpoint his musical influences, which for me, means that he has absorbed much and made his music something new altogether- a unique tonal language and musical voice.
Below is a recording of a somewhat simple piece by Cooman: Bless the Lord, O My Soul. This piece was written in 2010 and uses this common sacred text to great effect.
Here’s quick, fun audio that’s made the rounds on social media the past few years. I still haven’t figured out if it’s a joke or a mistake by the organist. If it is a joke, it’s a gutsy move, considering the performance is LIVE.