December 27, 2008 - NEW
I have added a new page that talks about a DVD project I was involved in, produced by the Great Lakes Conference of the United Methodist Church. This four
Opening Ourselves to Grace: Basic Christian Practices
includes an interview of me, footage of my leading the New England Brass Band, and an interview with my friend, Terry Everson, professor of trumpet at Boston
University. The subject of the DVD is the spiritual disciplines of the Christian life, as seen through the lens of the Weslyan tradition. I was very pleased to
be asked to be a part of this project and highly recommend the DVD to anyone interested in the subject of the Christian faith. I have also included my interview on this page via a link to YouTube.
For more information about the DVD, or to view the interviews of me and
Terry Everson, visit my new
Opening Ourselves To Grace page.
December 24, 2008 - NEW
As of today, I have begun my six month sabbatical from the Boston Symphony Orchestra. During that time, I will keep a
sabbatical diary that will contain commentary and photos of some of my exploits and explorations. This is an
exciting time for me and I hope you enjoy sharing in the journey with me.
December 21, 2008 - COMMENTARY
One of the great joys of my life is my exploration into the world of early music. I first began playing that most unusual of instruments, the serpent,
in 1994, for perfomances with the Boston Symphony of Hector Berlioz's Messe solennelle. Since that time, I've enjoyed a great many musical highlights
in the world of early music and the friendships I have made as a result have been very special and satisfying. Several years ago, I met Phil Humphries, an
Englishman from Dorset, who graciously came to America in 2003 to play both serpent and ophicleide on my CD,
Le Monde du Serpent. Phil is a music teacher in England and, as well,
a fine trombonist. He is also the serpent player for
The London Serpent Trio and
The Mellstock Band, a group of four musicians who work to recreate the sight and
sound of 19th century Britain through the words and music of the era of author Thomas Hardy. This month, The Mellstock Band has been in Boston to take part in the
Christmas Revels that take place each year at Sanders Theater at Harvard University.
Phil and enjoyed collaborating on two pre-concert talks on December 20 and 21, introducing the serpent to audiences. Phil played his c. 1840 English military
serpent by Francis Pretty and I played my English military serpent by the late Keith Rogers, which is a copy of a Pretty serpent owned by Andrew van der Beek,
an original member of the London Serpent Trio; the photo at left was taken in my locker room at Symphony Hall in Boston as we rehearsed and planned our
talk. We had such great fun, and I recommend the Revels to anyone who wants to have a very creative, enjoyable evening
of entertainment centered around Christmas time.
I will look forward to seeing Phil again in May when I travel to England to take part in the 2009
Serpentarium. My serpentine adventures continue!
November 26, 2008 - COMMENTARY
This past weekend, I had the great pleasure of helping bring a new piece of music to life - the world premiere of
concerto for serpent, Old Dances in New Shoes.
Gordon is a fine composer living in Washington DC. A long time resident of Maine, Gordon and I met in the mid-90s. He attended
my 1997 recital in Boston
that was notable for the fact that three feet of snow fell that evening. Gordon was stranded in Boston for a few days at which time he began working on a duet for two bass trombones,
Second Base Blues (the title was inspired by the fact that Gordon was staying at the Howard Johnson's motel at Fenway Park in Boston, home of the Boston Red Sox). On
that recital, I played Simon Proctor's Serpent Concerto, and Clifford Bevan's serpent solo, Variations on the Pesky Sarpent; this was the first time Gordon
had ever heard the serpent. In the fall of 1998, I was the guest artist (and Gordon was composer-in-residence) at a trombone workshop hosted by North Central College (Naperville, Illinois) and
Gordon gave me some sketches for a new serpent concerto. The piece was finished later that year and now - 10 years later - I was finally able to find just the right opportunity, orchestra and
audience to put on the premiere.
In 1997, I had played Simon Proctor's Serpent Concerto with the
Boston Classical Orchestra,
conducted by its then music director, Harry Ellis Dickson. The BCO is a chamber orchestra, now conducted by Steven Lipsitt, that gives a series of concerts each year in Boston's historic Faneuil Hall.
The orchestra has hosted many soloists of "unusual instruments" including a tuba duet, glass harmonica, alphorn and serpent. The venue is intimate and the audience is always very engaged. I approached
Steven Lipsitt earlier this year about the possibility of my premiering a new concerto on serpent and, as well, playing a solo on ophicleide. Steven was immediately responsive to the idea and
the performances last weekend were a rousing success. Gordon's serpent concerto is the most difficult thing I have ever played on serpent, a tremendous challenge. The orchestra played beautifully
and I was especially happy that the composer could make the trip to Boston to enjoy the performances. I also played an aria by Handel, his "O Ruddier Than The Cherry" from the opera
Acis and Galatea, on ophicleide, in tribute to the great 19th century ophicleide player, Samuel Hughes, who had popularized the piece in performances with the celebrated Cyfartha
Band (Wales) and Jullien's orchestra in the mid 19th century.
The photos on left and right show me in rehearsal with the Boston Classical Orchestra in Faneuil Hall. A special part of the week of rehearsals and concerts was a radio interview I gave in the
studios of WBUR, Boston's National Public Radio station, on the nationally syndicated program "Here and Now" with Robin Young. The interview afforded me an opportunity to talk in some depth about the serpent and
ophicleide and demonstrate both instruments.
The interview is archived on the "Here and Now" website along with photos and a video from the interview.
I was also pleased that the Boston Globe's music critic, Jeremy Eichler, gave the concert
a positive review
titled, "A serpentine member of orchestras past." Complimentary of not only my own
playing but of the orchestra and Gordon Bowie's compositional gift, the review was a generous and satsifying conclusion to a very special week of music making in my home town.
November 15, 2008 - COMMENTARY
Life is too short not to have moments of hilarious fun, and one of
my ridiculous hobbies is collecting that ubiquitous tacky souvenir, the floaty pen. My collecting of these little items - that can often be found at airports or gift shops at tourist destinations -
began in 1984 when I was on a Boston Symphony tour of Europe. Since that time, I have collected over 900 pens from around the world. Several years ago, I decided that I'd like to have my own
floaty pen, a kind of kitchy business card. With the advice of the floaty pen "queen," Diana Andra, and the assistance of floaty
pen designer Nancy Nerenberg,
I produced two different versions of what
I called the Douglas Yeo Floaty Pen. Today I sold the last of those designs. Perhaps it is appropriate that the last
of my pens have been purchased by the Boston Symphony Shop at Symphony Hall; my pen features an image of Symphony Hall into which I "float" and the pen has been a good seller for
the Shop over the years. It was fun to have these pens available but with 1500 of them now in circulation, I guess - for those who collect
these things - they are officially "collector's items" since I will not be making any more. For those interested, my third pen design, one made in conjunction with my CD Le Monde du
Serpent, is still available. To all of you who particpated in the fun over the years by buying one of my pens, you have my thanks.
The end of an era, with a smile.
September 27, 2008 - COMMENTARY
As I mentioned in my commentary below (September 19), this has been a very busy fall for me and I am just able to catch up on some more website updates. More are to come; thanks for your
Earlier this month I made a trip to The Netherlands to take part in one of the most memorable trombone events of my career, the
Dutch Bass Trombone Open.
This event, held near Amsterdam,
was the brain-child of three Dutch bass trombonists: Marcel Schott, Erwin Dijkstra and Bert Damsma. I had heard about the first DBTO, held in 2006, where Bill Reichenbach, Ben van Dijk
and Csaba Wagner were the artist/teachers. When I was invited to come to the 2008 edition of the DBTO, I was thrilled to hear that my friend Ben van Dijk would be there as well as Phil Teele,
one of the great bass trombone players in the west coast studio tradition. The photo at left shows the team, with Bert, Erwin and Marcel (top) with me, Ben and Phil (bottom)
Held in the castle (now converted to a hotel and conference center) Oud Poelgeest, this was one of the best organized and most enjoyable events I have ever been a part of. This is due
to the fact that the DBTO team - Marcel, Erwin and Bert - did a fantastic job of organizing the event and providing both faculty and participants with every possible convenience. It was a
fast paced but also very relaxed event. In total there were 42 bass trombone players in attendance from 13 countries (the DBTO is very proud to say that, "No tenor trombones were harmed in this event."), and they
were divided into two groups. Each group met concurrently with either Phil Teele or with me, and we gave the same sessions to each group. My topics were, "Legato: Unlocking the Mystery" and
"One Size Does NOT Fit All." I also gave a session for the whole group on the important subject of ergonomics. I found the participants to be very responsive to all of the comments of the teachers throughout the weekend, and we all interacted very well and collegially. To
see a group of players of various playing levels and ages - from students to retired players, from fine players to those who were less accomplished - work together so nicely was a real pleasure.
There was no sense of competetiveness between all of us - we were all there to learn, interact and have a good time.
I couldn't possibly mention all of the highlights of the weekend - which went by much too quickly - but here are a few. The food was absolutely fantastic. Oud Poelgeest is a really interesting
place to have the event and I enjoyed the architecture of the various buildings and the setting was truly beautiful and inspiring. Seeing Phil Teele in action - his book of pedal tone warm-up
exercises is nearly legandary - was a special treat; we became good friends through the weekend. Phil has played on over 1000 movie scores and we enjoyed sharing stories about John Williams and
other conductors and composers for whom we have each worked. Being with Ben van Dijk again was wonderful; Ben is one of the most positive people I have ever met and he demonstrated his
fine playing at the faculty recital on the first evening. The trombone ensembles were great fun to work with - whether I was conducting (20 bass trombone players in Ben's arrangement of
excerpts from Wagner's "Ring Cycle" for bass trombone ensemble - see the photo, right), listening (to Phil conduct an arrangement of music from "The Pirates of Penzance" for 20 bass trombones) or playing (in Bill Reichenbach's
"Getting Medieval" played by 41 bass trombonists).
It was also great to see Yamaha (which was a major sponsor of the event), Thein and Atelier Pfeiffer (a leading music shop in The Netherlands) all display instruments and accessories for
everyone to try and buy. A special highlight for me was performing as soloist with Brassband Schoonhoven conducted by Erik Jansen. I chose to play several pieces that I recorded on my
CD, "Proclamation" including the title track by Gordon Langford and Bill Geldard's "Stella By Starlight" in tribute to George Roberts. A special treat was being asked - at the last minute - to
play Joy Webb's "Share My Yoke." The timing of that request was nearly perfect as I had been rehearsing that piece to play at my youngest daughter's wedding a few days after the DBTO. It was
very rewarding to hear several participants tell me that my performance of "Share My Yoke" was a highlight of the weekend for them.
In all, the DBTO 2008 was a very satisfying experience in every way. I could not have asked for better hosts, better organization, more responsive participants and a more ideal location for
such an event. Happily, there are many ways people can learn about the DBTO - through the
Dutch Bass Trombone Open Website (once in the site, click on Fotos and you can see many photos of both the 2006 and 2008 event), on YouTube -
search for both Dutch Bass Trombone Open and
DBTO, and on the
Dutch Bass Trombone Open Facebook site. Thanks again to Marcel, Erwin and Bert for organizing a great event.
The next DBTO will be in 2010 and I highly recommend it to all bass trombonists who want to enjoy a weekend of good teaching, playing and collegial interaction with bass trombone
players from around the world. Bravo to the DBTO team!
September 19, 2008 - COMMENTARY
It's been a busy fall since the end of the Boston Symphony's summer season at Tanglewood, and that will be reflected in several new entries on this page over the coming days.
This week, I've been taking part in one of the most interesting and unusual musical performances of my career. Over the summer, we in the Boston Symphony got word of two possible Boston
Pops concerts/media projects. They were tentative at first but firmed up just as we were leaving for vacation at the end of August. Both are occurring this week and the first is already under
way. Sony is producing a new event with jazz trumpeter Chris Botti and the Boston Pops Orchestra is backing up the concert in Boston's Symphony Hall. Botti is a fine trumpet player - the real deal -
and this concert (actually two concerts - one was last night and the other is tonight) is more than just a concert with Botti and his combo. Rather, it is an event full of pop and classical music
superstars including Sting, Steven Tyler, Katharine McPhee (of American Idol), John Mayer, Josh Groban and Yo-Yo Ma. It's a "who's who" of American popular culture. Ordinarily these kinds
of things don't even appear on my radar screen - I don't have any interest in the "cult of the personality" and most rock and pop music leaves me looking for musical substance elsewhere, but I have
to say that this event has been very satisfying in many ways. While the orchestra has its role to play, it's been interesting to be on stage and watch the whole thing unfold - the collaboration
between the artists, the way these kinds of pop/rock concerts are produced, and all the rest. The photo to the left was taken from my seat on stage at yesterday's rehearsal
and shows Chris Botti (with trumpet, left)
with Josh Groban and Sting (Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart is also seen, on the right), rehearsing Sting's "The Shape of My Heart." It is a haunting song and easily the highlight of the evening for me.
Look for a CD release of the concert in December, "Chris Botti Live in Boston". A TV show will be on the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) in the USA in March and a concert DVD will also be
released at that time. For a slice of American pop culture, this has been a surprisingly enjoyable experience. I'm heading over to iTunes to download some more songs by Sting.
As to the other Pops project this week, it occurs over the weekend and is a "heavy metal" version of Handel's "Messiah." Wow...
June 23, 2008 - COMMENTARY
As mentioned in my entry for June 9, 2008 (below), it has been an exciting time in Boston, watching the Boston Celtics play in the National Basketball Association Finals against the
Los Angeles Lakers. The thrill of having played the National Anthem with members of the Boston Pops brass section at Game 2 of the Finals is still hard to express. It carried with it so
many emotions and experiences, not the least of which was the fevered pitch that accompanied watching the remaining games in the series. The Los Angeles Lakers forced a game six in the series
and my wife and I were on vacation during the last two games. We enjoyed a week in Bermuda, at one of our favorite vacation spots,
Willowbank, a small hotel in Sandys Parish that is one of the most beautiful and restful places we have visited. This was our 10th time
at Willowbank but there was one small problem with our visit this time: Willowbank fights against the tide of typical hotels by not having televisions in guest rooms. This is a master stroke - it
removes the "eye" that is the television from a vacation, allowing one to simply enjoy God's great beauty of the island without the intruding distraction of television. Ordinarily this is one of
the great "plusses" of Willowbank, but when we arrived, we knew that we would want to find a way to watch at least one more game, with the Celtics ahead, three games to one and needing to win a
all important fourth game. Fortunately, Willowbank Manager Terri Allison graciously arranged for us - along with a small cadre of enthusiastic Celtics fan guests - to watch the games
on a wide screen television - a special dispensation that was happily cheered. With a one hour time change in Bermuda, games began at 10:00 pm and didn't end until after 1:30 am. When the Celtics
narrowly lost Game 5 on Sunday, June 15, we knew there would be at least one more late night. Happily, that occurred on June 17, with the Celtics decisively defeating the Lakers, 131-92.
To be in Bermuda cheering the Celtics with new friends at Willowbank was a treat, and celebrating Boston's sixth professional sport championship (New England Patriots football Super
Bowl championships in 2002, 2004 and 2005, Boston Red Sox baseball World Series Championships in 2004 and 2007 and now the Celtics championship in 2008) in six years, is part of this
rare time in our home town. It has not always been like this with Boston sports and it cannot go on forever. But for now, it is exciting to be living in what we will surely look back on as
"the good old days" and enjoy the success of Boston sports teams.
June 9, 2008 - COMMENTARY
Over the years, I've been fortunate to attend a number of special events with my bass trombone in my hand. Yesterday was one of those days. Early last week, members of the Boston Pops
brass section were informed that we had been invited to play the National Anthem at Game 2 of the National Basketball Association finals; a game between the Boston Celtics and the
Los Angeles Lakers. What a thrill this was! Conductor Keith Lockhart led a group of 10 brass and percussion players at center court (in the photo at left, shown from left to right, are
Jonathan Menkis and Richard Sebring, horns; Thomas Rolfs, Banjamin Wright and Bruce Hall, trumpets; James Nova and myself, trombones, and Gary Ofenloch, tuba; not visible on the left
are percussion players Lee Vinson and Richard Flanagan). During our sound check on the
court earlier in the evening, I got
to stand just a few feet away from Celtics players including Paul Pierce (photo at right). To watch these men ply their craft - really, it is an art - is a thing of beauty. The TD Bank North Garden is
a new replacement for the old Boston Garden and is a great venue for basketball. I had previously attended several other games at the Garden, always with Boston Pops brass players, but there is
nothing like watching the finals of a sporting event. The electricity in the air was palpable. Later, backstage, basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (7 feet, 2 inches tall) walked by - his head at the top of Mount Everest while I (a mere 6 feet tall) looked up
at him in amazement. The NBA gave all of the Pops players tickets to the game and we had terrific seats to watch this exciting game unfold. While the Celtics were up by 24 points at one point,
the Lakers stormed back to within two points in the fourth quarter before the Celtics finished with a 108-102 win. With the Celtics ahead of the Lakers two games to none, it is on to Los Angeles
where the Celtics hope to upset the heavily favored west coast team.
When I was nine years old and started playing the trombone, if someone had told me that as a result of playing the trombone, I would have played at a
National Football League Superbowl (Superbowl XXXVI),
an NBA Finals game, and a Major League Baseball American League Champoinship Series game (Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees - the Red Sox won), as well as innumerable
other sporting events, I would have told you that you were crazy. But such is my life, full of unexpected blessings and pleasures. Go Celtics! Beat LA!
June 2, 2008 - NEW
Since 1998, I have been privileged to serve as music director of the New England Brass Band.
These 10 years have been very rich ones for me, as I have thoroughly enjoyed
working with this fine group of volunteers who work tirelessly to bring high-level music making to audiences around the world. In my entry for January 12, 2008 (see below) I
wrote about how this season would be my last as leader of the NEBB. Yesterday I conducted my final concert with the band. This concert, held at Hope Church in Lenox, Massachusetts,
was a program of sacred music that is very special to me. Before the concert, I addressed the members of the band, to thank them for all they had done over the last 10 years and to give
them some thoughts as they move forward under the leadership of their new music director, Stephen Bulla. I have decided to post my address to the band here on my website along with some
photos taken over the last few years that will give readers a sense of what a tremendous time we have had together.
Titled, New England Brass Band: Gratitude 2008, I hope this article is a lasting reminder to all
members of the New England Brass Band - both past and present - of their deep impact upon my life. This photo (left) is symbolic of today's milestone: it shows me with the New England Brass
Band taking our final bow at the 2008 North American Brass Band Association XXVI Championships. This was the last time I conducted the NEBB at the NABBA Championships and this photo of our
final bow can only begin to communicate the strong emotions I was feeling as I stood in front of this band of fine men and women who have given so much to bring pleasure to audiences around
the world through their music making.
May 1, 2008 - COMMENTARY
Today marked an important milestone in the history of the Boston Symphony. After a long and demanding audition process, Toby Oft won the audition for the position of
Principal Trombonist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He becomes the orchestra's 12th Principal Trombone player. Toby is currently principal trombonist of the San Diego
Symphony and we look forward to his joining the BSO in the fall of 2008. I congratulate Toby (BRAVO!) and am looking forward to his coming to Boston as we will work together to build the
Boston Symphony trombone section of the future. For more about Toby, visit
March 20, 2008 - UPDATE
Updated schedule page with many concerts and activities for 2008-2009 including some events that will take place during
my sabbatical from the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
March 8, 2008 - NEW
On January 21, 2008, my friend, Keith Rogers, serpent maker for Christopher Monk Instruments in England, passed from this world to the next after a battle
with cancer. Keith was my friend, a rare person who was not only a fine craftsman and loving husband and father, but a devoted servant of his God, and one with
whom I had a deep and abiding friendship. Keith made two serpents for me, among the nearly 100 he made in his lifetime: in 1996 he made a French church serpent and in 2007, he made an English military serpent. He
also made several mouthpieces for those instruments and for the remarkable contrabass serpent, "George" that I now own, that was one of the last instruments Christopher Monk
made (1990) before he died in 1991. These instruments and mouthpieces were beautifully and lovingly made and they carry the imprint of a master craftsman.
I enjoyed a very special visit with Keith just a few months before he died, at his home in England in September 2008; it was a time where God gave Keith remarkable strength
so we could enjoy vibrant conversation about many things, and he was able to work in his workshop for what would be the last time. This tribute to
Keith contains several photos of my visit with him and offers a look at this man that is personal and heartfelt. This tribute will appear in the April 2008 issue of
The Serpent Newsletter.
I hope you will click on this link and share my tribute to my friend,
Remembering Keith Rogers.
February 8, 2008 - NEW
Composer David Brubeck has composed a series of pieces for unaccomapnied bass trombone called, Stereograms. One of
these pieces, Stereogram 31 is based on the great hymn tune, How Great Thou Art and has been dedicated to me;
David has generously offered the piece as a free download
for visitors to my website. Go to this new
STEROGRAM page on my website to read more about David Brubeck's Stereogram 31
and download the music. Enjoy!
January 12, 2008 - COMMENTARY
Since September 1998, I have been Music Director of the New England Brass Band. My 10 year involvement with the NEBB has been been one of great personal
satisfaction. But nothing can last forever and I have announced to the band that this season will be my last as its conductor.
I can thank my friend, Roger Green, of County Wiltshire, England, for introducing me to the sound of the British Brass Band in the mid 1980s. My interest in
this kind of ensemble - which I had never heard or even heard of before Roger introduced me to it - grew over the years and reached a climax when I travelled to
England to record my first solo CD, Proclamation with the Black Dyke Mills Band. Several pieces
were commissioned for inclusion on that recording and when I asked around the Boston area if there was a brass band with which I might be able to read through
the new music, I was introduced to the New England Brass Band. Several years later, when then Music Director William Rollins stepped down from leading the band through
its first nine years, I was asked to take over the podium. Initially a bit reluctant due to my already busy schedule, I was persuaded to accept the band's
invitation - by my wife, who had for some time wanted a group in which she could play baritone horn. And so began a 10 year collaboration that has far
exceeded my wildest thoughts when I first began.
The activities of the band are detailed on the New England Brass Band's website. But a few
highlights are worth remembering here. The NEBB has attended the
North American Brass Band Association
Championships five times (and will return a sixth
time in March 2008). In 2004 the band won first place in the "Challenge" section and in 2006 it took first place in the "Honors" section (scroll down on this
page to the entries for April 2, 2006 and April 17, 2004, for some commentary on those events). These trips to the NABBA Championships have been rich times for
the band as we have prepared to give very special performances. We have also recorded five best selling CDs, the most recent of which,
Be Glad Then America, was released in November of this year (see the entry
for November 17 on this page); it has subsequently been awarded first place in the 2007 North American Brass Band Association "Recording of the Year" contest.
Recorded in Boston's Symphony Hall, these recordings have been one of the great joys of my 10 year collaboration with the
NEBB. We have played concerts throughout New England, from the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts to Gorham, Maine, and dozens of venues in between. A concert
at the 2007 International Trumpet Guild Conference, a program in Symphony Hall celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Boston Symphony (where the band
was guest conducted by Boston Pops conductor, Keith Lockhart) and a concert celebrating the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II (sponsored by the British
community in Boston) are among other highlights.
Yet the greatest highlights have been our weekly Monday night band rehearsals. These have been memorable times, both musically and socially, when the band
gathers to prepare our concert programs. I am so pleased to have been a part of this hard working, talented group of musicians who, without receiving any
salary or payment of any kind (I accept no salary, either), bring their best to the band's rehearsals each week. I will miss them. But nothing can go on forever
and I feel I am being called to some other activities that simply cannot be squeezed into my schedule as it is currently structured. This is the right
decision for the right reasons at the right time, but it is still a bit bittersweet as my wife and I will leave a group that has become such a big part of our
My last concert as Music Director of the New England Brass Band will be on June 1, 2008, at Hope Church in Lenox, Massachusetts (see the band's website for
its full concert calendar). As I cut off the last chord of the concert, a flood of memories will come over me as I move to the next stage of my relationship
with the NEBB - that of enthusiastic audience member. Until then, we will enjoy our remaining concerts and rehearsals together as we enjoy the conclusion of
this 10 year collaboration. Sempre avanti!