Reaching higher

I was working on my Eb this past week – and concentrating a lot on the high range.  Not a lot of regular rep for tuba goes up there — i.e. above the staff; Bb and higher.  But those that do are staples of a tuba player’s portfolio — think of Berlioz in much of what he composes; Wagner in Die Meistersinger; the bear solo in Stravinsky’s Petruchka and ‘Bydlo’ from Ravel’s orchestration of Pictures from an Exhibition.  Mind you, many of those I just quoted were composed for smaller tubas.  Smaller than an Eb or F.  Bydlo is normally played on a euphonium by one of the trombone players.  Though I heard it played by the tubist at the San Francisco Symphony.  It was sweet, lemme tell ya.

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I do not know enough about Wagner – other than he wrote big operas for big orchestras and he was anti-semite.

I was doing my classical radio show last night on Canoe FM and played some music from Götterdämmerung (funeral music and finale) and came to the realization that I don’t know squat about Wagner operas.  And I call myself a tuba player (tubist?)?!?!?  So there’s something to put on my todo list – buy the Wagner operas recordings (and scores, maybe).  Learn their plot lines, history and, most of all, their tuba parts.  My audition book has a large selection of Wagner opera excerpts for tuba:  it’s the majority of the material there.  I’m definitely not saying that I’m going to learn this overnight, but start slowly.  Maybe this week in Toronto, I’ll check out used recordings of his operas.

New Session with Orchestra Toronto

Last night Orchestra Toronto started its next session.  On the program are the following:

Samuel Barber – Adagio for Strings
Jean Coulthard – Canada Mosaic, suite for orchestra
Heitor Villa-Lobos – Concerto for guitar and small orchestra
Astor Piazzolla – Tangazo: Variations on Buenos Aires
John Williams – Schindler’s List
Howard Shore – Symphonic Suite from The Lord of the Rings
Leonard Bernstein – Selections from West Side Story

There’s not much for tuba.  The full Canada Mosaic suite has some tuba, but we’re only playing 4 movements out of 7, with a sum total of 4 notes for tuba — well, that’s if you count that I play 4 low F’s in a row.  Generally, a nice piece though.

The “selections” from West Side Story is a best-of/medley arrangement for full orchestra.  Nothing like the Symphonic Dances arranged by Bernstein himself.  I’ve got some stuff to play in this, but nothing terribly interesting (oom-pa-pa lines mostly).  Trombones are having fun though.

The meat of the this concert for me will be the Lord of the Rings suite.  Fun stuff.  Even a bar soli with bassoons.  So the trombones and I will meet next week at 6:30 and work on the LOTR.  Which is good because we’ve got a new bass trombonist – again.  Am I scaring them away or something???  This guy seems nice, and for a first run, I liked him.  Big bell on his horn too.  I’m looking forward to hearing that at full power.

I think I’m going to play my Eb for this concert — not counting the four low F’s in the Coulthard, there’s nothing taxing for Eb.  There’s a chance that the LOTR will sound better on C – and it just happens that I brought my C yesterday by accident.  Fully intended on the Eb.  Oops.

And I learned something new — Howard Shore is Canadian.  From Toronto.  Nifty!  Good music and “canadian content”.

The equipment — my C (and not CC, as it were)

Wikipedia says using terms like “CC” and “BBb” is “based on a traditional distortion of a now-obsolete octave naming convention”.  So I play a C from Besson, in the category of contra-bass tuba, along with a Bb.  Here it is:

It’s a pretty sweet machine.  It’s my second tuba as well — my first being my Besson Eb.  I use a PT-72 mouthpiece with it – though I’m looking to get something bigger.  I got the C in early 2006.  Wow — 5 years ago.  I’ve come a long way playing it.  I remember trying out some tubas with Scott Irvine at Long&McQuade in Toronto.  He chuckled that I sounded like an Eb player on a C.  I can only hope that this is different now.  There is a much bigger and broader sound of this C vs. my Eb.

Thanks to a few pieces in Orchestra Toronto, my low end is sounding pretty good to.  First, it was Vaughan-William’s 2nd symphony with a low D and low E.  Then… um… perhaps it was The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.  The latest was low stuff in Prokofiev’s Cinderella (the suite).  A lesson with Sasha Johnson from the National Ballet helped a lot too (they were performing the full ballet in Nov 2010).  Plus my audition to the GGS had some specific low contrabass tuba – the Dragon solo from Wagner’s Das Rheingold.  I would love to revisit that now.  It used to take me an hour of warming up to get a nice low D.  That time has been dramatically reduced!  It feels great.

One thing I need to work on though, is the higher range.  Being able to pick notes out of the air, 100% reliably.  This is much easier for me on my Eb.  On the C, I find myself going too high.  I think I’ll go back to using the C in swing band.  The endless arpeggios are great exercises.

I’ve had on my mind recently to make a roap trip to Detroit — visit Custom Music for the first time, get a new mouthpiece and get a lesson from the tubist from the Detroit Symphony.  Collin and I could go together and make a little overnight trip about it.  And get some good mexican food in Detroit’s Mexicantown.

Yesterday’s HWS/HSB rehearsal

Highlands Wind Symphony and Highlands Swing Band.

Glen is on vacation, for Lorrie and I did the conducting.  I had a fantastic time yesterday. First off, I warmed up at home and practiced some of the Ralph Vaughan-Williams.  I’m loving returning to the first movement.  I can tell I’m sounding better than last year — I played that movement for auditions at the GGS (glen gould school) and UofT.  I’m also working on the second movement.  My goal is to play this with Orchestra Toronto in the next few seasons.

I considered using the term “some day” in that sentence.  But I don’t think that’s positive enough.  It’s not defined enough.  Like, I want to lose weight some day.  Do it now, dammit!  So I’m working on the concerto.  And I’m going to get lessons on it.  I’m going to perform it along with piano accompaniment.

And now I’m completely off-topic.

The rehearsal yesterday… I really enjoyed the conducting.  There are on and there are off days.  Yesterday, was definitely an ‘on’ day.  I think the ensemble really enjoyed it too. We made some really good breakthroughs in the Hounds of Spring.  I love that piece (and much of the band does too).  So many beautiful spots in it.  And I was surprised [sorta] that they voted the Shostakovich over the Bizet.  Both are dances.  Both have lots of repeat signs.  But the Bizet (Farandole from L’Arlesienne) is a tad more repetitive and layered (and loud!).  The Shostakovich (Folk Dances) has got some interesting fun stuff in it. Harmonies the band isn’t used to, I’m sure, being it Shostakovich.

Finally, swing band was nice too.  We read a few pieces from the books.  Most were fun. And a few were excellent.  I should see if I can get a solo in there for myself sometime. The swing band performed at the opening ceremony of Winterfest in Haliburton – the Seniors Winter Games.  It was a fantastic performance.  The HSB is a tight little group once we get the parts practiced.  And playing the bass line on tuba has done wonders for my C tuba playing.  It’s just a series of arpeggio exercises.  Love it!

So we’ll see what next week brings at the HWS – Lorrie is going to see about switching out that awful television mash-up piece for either one of mine or something from her own library.  I’m certainly looking forward to that!

Pedal C

Today is the birth of ‘Pedal C’ — the life and times of a thirty-something tubist on a journey to going pro.

My name is Dan Manley — I live in Haliburton, Ontario, Canada – more-or-less 2.5 hours driving North East of Toronto.  My day job [for now] is in computer programming.  I’ve been doing it for a number of years.  Since I was around 19 y/o.  I left a music degree program at the University of Ottawa for it.  I was broke and scared at the time.  More on this later, I’m sure — I don’t want to give it all away in one blog post, and in the first one, no less.

Here are the quick Coles’ notes on where I’m at here…  I auditioned a year ago at UofT and the GGS (Glen Gould School in Toronto).  I didn’t get the GGS (10 of us auditioned for 1 spot).  But I did get advanced standing to second year of a performance degree at UofT!!  Fantastic!  🙂  but… the Highlands Brass Academy (a brass summer workshop that I created) distracted me too much to prepare for entry in Fall 2010.  So I asked for a deferral to Fall 2011 and got approved.

I play with Orchestra Toronto — under the direction of Maestra Danielle Lisboa.  I’ve been with the orchestra for a number of years now.  umm…. 7 years maybe.  I’ll have to verify that.  It’s a great orchestra and we do a lot of great rep.  And I’m really loving it this year because low brass have got their game going on.  We’ve been consistently meeting an hour before rehearsal to work on our stuff together.  We sound great.

I also play with the Highlands Wind Symphony and the Highlands Swing Band, out of Haliburton.  I share conducting duties along with 2 others and I’m really enjoying this.  It’s really helping me grow as a musician.  It also helps because I want to pursue conducting in university too.

I think that’s a good enough first post.  Now back to my day job.