Friday, October 30, 2009

Tapping in the cemetery...

My brother and I were walking home after a Halloween party and decided to take a shortcut through the cemetery just for laughs. Right in the middle of the cemetery, we were startled by a tap-tap-tapping noise coming from the misty shadows. Trembling with fear, we found an old man with a hammer and chisel, chipping away at one of the headstones.

"Holy cow, Mister," I said, after catching my breath, "You scared us half to death! We thought you were a ghost! What are you doing working here so late at night?"

"Those fools!" the old man grumbled. "They misspelled my name!"


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Try being a tuba player...

By Andrew McGinn, Staff Writer
5:00 PM Friday, October 16, 2009
SPRINGFIELD — If you think being blue collar during a recession is tough, try wearing a starched white collar.

Even during good times, classical musicians are about as crazy-desperate for work as Berlioz looking for an opium fix.

“We had 31 applicants and we had inquiries from Spain and Japan,” said Peter Stafford Wilson, music director of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra.

Make that 31 applicants for one lonely tuba opening.

The symphony opened its 2009-10 season on Oct. 3 with a new principal tuba player (plus a new principal trombonist), but how it got there is one for the story books.

“There’s only one tuba in an orchestra,” Wilson explained recently, “and when those chairs come open, it’s a rarity.”

So musicians go where the work is — apparently even if it means crossing an ocean.

“They train all their lives to play this classical music, and they don’t get the opportunity to do it nearly enough,” said David Deitrick, the symphony’s executive director.

Still, that’s one heck of a commute for a part-time job.

The SSO isn’t a full-time job — and if it was, Mozart would need to make room in his pauper’s grave for the musicians.

“If they played every service,” Wilson said, “they’d still make less than $3,000.”

Even after the SSO explained that to them, plus informed the overseas applicants that it wouldn’t help with securing visas, they were still interested in auditioning.

“Are these people for real?” Wilson said. “Do they know what they’re getting into?

“You’re flattered to a point, then you think, ‘Wait a minute.’ ”

The SSO ended up auditioning only five regional candidates in September.

Out of those, Thomas Ricer, a Cincinnati native who’s finishing his doctorate at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., was selected as the new principal (well, only) tubist.

What’s even more bizarre about the whole thing is that the SSO only mentioned the opening on its own Web site and on a tuba blog.

“It’s a testimony to the way the Internet is getting the word out,” Wilson said.

It’s also a testimony to the growing reputation of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra.

“Sometimes we don’t always appreciate fully what a great thing we have,” Deitrick said. “It’s nice to see that people around the country do appreciate it.”

Two years ago, the SSO advertised nationally for the first time when it had several principal chair openings.

For the principal flute opening alone, 18 flute players from all over (California, Florida, Boston) showed up to audition.

“They were all saying, ‘This orchestra has a good reputation. It’s worth it for me to come here and lose money for a couple of years,’ ” Wilson said. “I’d like to build a little more stability here.”

Still ...

“It’s quite humbling for us,” he said.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Bombardon...

The bombardon was the very first bass wind instrument fitted with valves, and it was at first known as the corno basso, clavicor or bass horn (not to be confounded with the bass horn with keys, which on being perfected became the ophicleide). The name was attached more to the position of the wind instruments as bass than to the individual instrument. The original corno basso was a brass instrument of narrow bore with the pistons set horizontally. The valve-ophicleide in F of German make had a wider bore and three vertical pistons, but it was only a "half instrument," measuring about 12 ft. A. Kalkbrenner, in his life of W. Wieprecht (1882), states that in the Jager military bands of Prussia the corno basso (keyed bass horn) was introduced as bass in 1829, and the bombardon (or valve-ophicleide) in 1831; in the Guards these instruments were superseded in 1835 by the bass tuba invented by Wieprecht and J. G. Moritz.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


History of the Tubists Universal Brotherhood Association
by Carter I. Leeka

Tubists Universal Brotherhood Association, though relatively new as a named organization, had its beginnings in New York City in the 1930s, when William Bell joined the NBC Symphony. In an interview with Harvey Phillips, he traced these early years for the author. Phillips stated that with such a great tubist and teacher in their presence, it was only natural for other tubists, both professional and student, to be attracted to Mr. Bell. They met informally at McSorley's Old Ale House, in Manhattan, for beer, food and friendship. Because Mr. Bell was not always available, these meetings were very irregular; sometimes twice a week or more, sometimes not for several weeks at a time.

Seated at a large, round table, the discussions concerned the tuba and how to improve its playing. At the table everyone was an equal, a part of the group. A sense of camaraderie prevailed, where all were no longer teacher or student, but people who had an interest in the tuba.

It was suggested by some members that the group should devise an official name. After much discussion around the table, Mr. Bell rumbled that they should call it the “Royal Order of ----pots” [expletive deleted]. And thus it became, complete with membership cards.1

From the ale house meetings, until his death in August of 1971, Mr. Bell is considered by Mr. Phillips to have been a major force in the organizing of tubists. His death created a tremendous void in the tuba world.2

In 1966, Robert Ryker, principal tubist with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, the Montreal Brass Quintet, and editor of the Montreal Brass Quintet Series, sent notice to several music publications announcing an attempt to organize an official organization of tubists. He called it the Tubists Universal Brotherhood Association or T.U.B.A. for short. The Conn and Mirafone companies contributed money towards the expenses that would be incurred in mailings and printings. Three tubists were made honorary members of T.U.B.A.: William Bell, Arnold Jacobs and Harvey Phillips.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


The immediate ancestor of the modern-day tuba...the "ophicleide." [Gr.,=serpent with keys], brass wind musical instrument of relatively wide conical bore, largest of the keyed bugles ; invented in 1817 by Jean-Hilaire Asté of Paris. It had from 8 to 11 keys and a full, loud tone; since its intonation was deficient, however, it was soon displaced in the orchestra by the bass tuba. Many composers scored for it before the tuba was available.

[Now you can see why they called it the 'serpent.']

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

History of the tuba...

The 'TUBA' is one of the most recent additions to the modern day brass family.
Prussian Patent No. 19 was granted to Wilhelm Friedrich Wieprecht and Carl Moritz on September 12, 1835 for a "basstuba."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

About the tuba...

Did you know...

Tubas are found in various pitches, most commonly in F, Eb, CC, or BBb in "brass band" pitching. I play the BBb Miraphone tuba. The main bore of BBb tubas is approximately 18 feet long, while CC tubas are 16 feet, Eb tubas 13 feet, and F tubas 12 feet in tubing length without adding any valve branches. Tubas are considered to be conical in shape as from their tapered bores, they steadily increase in diameter along their lengths.

*from the 'more than you ever wanted to know' division of Bud's World

Friday, October 16, 2009

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Community Chorus Blog site...



Saturday, October 3, 2009

Benefit Concert...

I must thank all my friends for working so hard to make last Sunday's Benefit Concert a huge success! We had a good turn out, all the special speakers did an outstanding job, all the behind-the-scenes volunteers worked tirelessly, many supporters supplied gift baskets for the Chinese Auction, all the musicians sounded great...

PLUS we collected over $3,500.00 for the victims of the flooding in Silver Creek and Gowanda.


As County Executive Greg Edwards said to me after the concert: 'It was like attending 3 outstanding concerts at one sitting!'