Always thinking of my sound

I read this on Andrew Hitz’s blog and I can’t get it out of my head – which is great!  I think about *not* cultivating a bad sound when I’m buzzing my warm up, when I’m doing the harmonic series, when I’m warming up my low and high range — ALL – THE – TIME.  And you should be too.  Articulate with conviction, whether that be pianissimo or fortissimo, slurred or accented.  You’re always doing much more than just ‘playing a note’.

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Smè-tana or Sme-tâ-na?

Today’s blog is all about accents and articulations.  Most of the time they are dead obvious.  But – now and then you run across something like this:

The "coda" from The Moldau

This is the coda section from The Moldau – it’s bringing back the theme from the first of the ‘Ma Vlast’ symphonic poems.  Generally speaking, it’s pretty freakin’ loud.  The problem is: how loud?  It’s still got to be musical – and we’ve got to read into a probable or likely “intent” that Smetana had in mind. Continue reading

Pines of Rome

I mentioned a long time ago that I share conducting duties in the Highlands Wind Symphony. This year, for my pieces, which mostly lean towards classical transcriptions, I’ve got Mars and Pines of Rome: The Appian Way. The latter is a complete bar-for-bar transcription (with just a little simplification in the alto sax solo, which is the English horn in the real thing).
In the past, I’ve gotten by conduction on general knowledge of a piece and they’ve been pretty straight-forward. The Appian Way though is deep. So many layers. The biggest challenge I need to overcome is how to interpret the page or two in fortissimo, yet still allowing the counterpoint to shine through and therefore keeping the piece meaningful. It’s going to take some score study to be sure and listening to various recordings. But I think I should seek out some advice from conducting friends and colleagues of mine. I’m excited for the learning opportunity I have here.

Small Ensembles

With Orchestra Toronto comes the opportunity to play some small ensemble stuff. We’ve got a brass quintet together to play for the Toronto Centre for the Arts‘ open house tomorrow. It a short set but fun nonetheless. But I’m really looking forward to the posh fundraising evening going on at the beginning of November. The quintet will play again, with a longer program, but I’m also doing some duets with the orchestra’s piccolo player, Nancy Nourse. We’ve had a practice together and the music is good. Some Mozart duets, some baroque movements and a modern piece expressly for picc and tuba. Honestly, that one isn’t my fave. Too much solo playing for each of us and not enough duetting.
This playing and practicing is giving me another chance to hone my tuning and blending. When I played in Brassfully Yours a number of years back, it did wonders for these skills. I finally knew what it ‘felt’ like to play in tune. For me, it’s much more than hearing. Since I’m hugging my tuba, hitting the sweet spot for a long note in tune makes the whole tuba resonate and I feel that happening from head to toe.
I would recommend extensive quintet playing for any and all tubists.

A new season with Orchestra Toronto

With Fall comes the new season of Orchestra Toronto and by all signs, it’s looking like it’s going to be a good one! Albeit – the rep for the first concert is a bit of a snoozer for tuba, save ‘The Moldau’. We’re doing R. Strauss ‘Last Four Songs’, ‘Three Nocturnes’ by Debussy, (as mentioned) ‘The Moldau’ by Smetana and ‘The Magic Flute’ overture by Mozart – the last one sans me, of course. Tuba didn’t exist at the time.

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