December 29, 2010 - COMMENTARY
As 2010 comes to a close with 2011 inviting us from just around the turn of the calendar, I find myself full of many thoughts about the year
nearly past and the one to come. Of course none of us knows the future - that is in God's hands - but the past often points ahead to what may
come. Reflecting on traditions that have been part of our family's life at this time of year - the making of a new Christmas ornament each
year that speaks of some of what has happend in the past months, attending a Boston Pops "Christmas Pops" concert, making gingerbread cookies -
has been a nice thing. Having our daughters and son-in-law with us as well brings back many memories of this special time of year.
Two years ago, I took part in Boston's
Christmas Revels (see my
"What's New" entry for December 21, 2008). My friend, Phil Humphries, was
taking part in the annual Boston Christmas Revels with his group,
The Mellstock Band
from England, and the two of us gave some pre-concert talks about the serpent which played a prominent role in that year's show. The Revels
are an annual Boston tradition, and this year, they celebrated their 40th anniversary season. Yesterday, our family went to enjoy this
energetic, inspiring show and it left me with a lot to think about.
The Revels is a mix of things - they always have a theme (usually Christmas traditions at a particular time or place - this year was set in
1920s England with a look back to a 1000 year past through the eyes of a British family), and also incorporate several things each year regardless
of the thrust of the particular year's show. Audience participation is a big part of the Revels - singing rounds and Christmas carols, for
instance. But the most remarkable thing that happens at the Revels is the annual singing of "The Lord of the Dance" - the old Shaker tune with modern
lyrics by Sydney Carter. Not only is the song performed by the cast just before intermission, but the audience sings along with the chorus. And,
in what can only be described as a joyous modern version of the "Pied Piper," the whole audience gets up from their seats - singing - and dances out of
the hall into the lobby, following the cast and engaging in a joyous, communal moment that I cannot truly describe. The photo above shows
the lobby of Harvard's Memorial Hall, filled with audience members at intermission, singing and dancing, holding hands and - well, there is no other word for it -
REVELING in a shared point in time.
I found this to be remarkably moving. It's hard to sing with a lump in your throat, but in our society, it is rare when people get together to share
in things like this. And the moment was made all the more powerful by the song we were singing. The lyrics are worth reproducing here
because they tell a story that is as old as the beginning of time, a story that resonates with me and with millions of others, and a story that
was celebrated in ways small and large around the world in the last week. As we turn the page to this new year, it is a reminder of the "Lord of the
Dance" - the dance of life - that
leads, guides and directs me, and one which I am privileged to follow. Welcome 2011.
THE LORD OF THE DANCE (lyrics by Sydney Carter)
I danced in the morning when the world was begun
I danced in the Moon & the Stars & the Sun
I came down from Heaven & I danced on Earth
At Bethlehem I had my birth:
Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said He!
I danced for the scribe & the pharisee
But they would not dance & they wouldn't follow me
I danced for fishermen, for James & John
They came with me & the Dance went on:
I danced on the Sabbath & I cured the lame
The holy people said it was a shame!
They whipped & they stripped & they hung me high
And they left me there on a cross to die!
I danced on a Friday when the sky turned black
It's hard to dance with the devil on your back
They buried my body & they thought I'd gone
But I am the Dance & I still go on!
They cut me down and I leapt up high
I am the Life that'll never, never die!
I'll live in you if you'll live in Me -
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said He!
December 21, 2010 - COMMENTARY: NEW BOSTON POPS CONDUCTOR
In my 31 year career as a full-time symphony orchestra bass trombone player, I have played under many of the world's greatest conductors. Leonard Bernstein, Colin Davis, Seiji Ozawa, Kurt Masur, Simon Rattle, Christoph von Dohnanyi,
Herbert Blomstedt, Giuseppe Sinopoli, James Levine and John Williams are just a few. But last night, a new conductor made his debut conducting the Boston Pops Orchestra. Shaquille O'Neal, the seven foot-one inch tall center for the
Boston Celtics donned a tail coat and picked up a baton to conduct us in three pieces at last night's "Holiday Pops" concert. Shaq is a giant of a man with a great sense of humor, and having him at Symphony Hall last night was a
treat. Both orchestra and audience were smiling from ear to ear as the big man led us in a performance of Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride," as well as Michael Jackson's "Can You Feel It?" and, after making a prediction that Boston
would be singing the tune in June after the National Basketball League finals were over, "We Are the Champions." The video below tells a little bit of the story. Click
to view my concert cue sheet. It's scarcely believable to see Shaq's name listed there. What a great night of fun, mixing two great Boston institutions - the Boston Pops and Boston Celtics - with a sure basketball Hall of
Fame player, Shaquille O'Neal.
For more about the intersection of my playing career with the Boston Celtics - I had the opportunity to play the National Anthem at two NBA Finals Games between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers - see my "What's New?"
June 14, 2010
June 9, 2008.
October 22, 2010 - COMMENTARY: NEW DVD RELEASED TODAY
Last June, I embarked on the most ambitious of my many media projects: the recording of a video that would become my new DVD project,
Approaching the Serpent: An Historical and Pedagogical Overview.
Recorded at the Joe R. and Joella F. Utley Collection of the National Music Museum (USA), it was filmed by Martin Aigner. The recording sessions were a great joy - to be surrounded
by serpents and bass horns from my own collection, the Utley Collection and the collection of my friend, Craig Kridel, I attempted to do something that had never been done: record
a video that would be educational, informative and instructive about the serpent, the most unusual of all wind instruments ever invented. I am pleased to announce that the
DVD is now available and was released today.
I decided to divide the DVD into four sections. The first is an Historical Overview where I display, discuss and play 18 different serpents and bass horns. Many of these instruments
have never been recorded and are heard on this video for the first time since the 19th century. The second part is a serpent lesson, where I play and discuss many issues facing the serpent player including ergonomics, tone production, articulation
and breathing. I utilize 19th century serpent methhod books as well as exercises I wrote myself. In the third part I play several serpent duets - I play first the top part and then
the bottom part. The music to the duets - and the music to all of the musical examples I play on the DVD - are found in a folder of PDF files on the disc. The final part is what I
call "The Serpent Question," where I try to answer questions a serpent player might have: where do you get one, who is making serpents, where can you find music and recordings? I also
use this section to introduce
The Rogers Mouthpiece (named in honor of the late Keith Rogers, serpent maker
for Christopher Monk Instruments for many years),
a new mouthpiece designed to be used in modern baritone horns and euphoniums that helps those instruments approximate the sound and timbre of the serpent so the modern player
can begin to explore the rich repertoire of music that calls for the serpent. The Rogers Mouthpiece is conceived as an entry into the serpent's sound world in hopes that players
might then get interested in purchasing and learning the serpent itself.
As I mentioned, this project is the most ambitious I have ever undertaken. Having recorded five solo CDs -
Two of a Mind,
Le Monde du Serpent -
five CDs as music director of the New England Brass Band
and dozens of recordings as a member of the Boston Symphony and Boston Pops Orchestras, I have a thorough grasp of the process of recording and producing an audio recording. In this
new project, I learned that video brings a whole new set of challenges. That it took so long to put it together and get it released is an indication of the difficulty of getting
this project to be excatly what I wanted it to be. But I am happy to report that I think the wait has been worth it. With Martin Aigner's fine videography and editing, and an
attractive package design by
it was a happy moment when 1000 copies of the NTSC format of my DVD arrived today. The PAL format disc will be ready in a few weeks. [UPDATE: The PAL version was released on November 23.]
For people interested in the sight and sound of the serpent, and especially for those who are currently serpent players who wish to improve your skills or players who have never
played the serpent but would like to try, I hope
Approaching the Serpent: An Historical and Pedagogical Overview
will inspire, challenge and help you. I want to once again extend my thanks to Joella Utley and Sabine Klaus of the Utley Collection for their gracious hospitality when I was
filming the video (the photo above, right, shows, left to right, Sabine Klaus, myself, Craig Kridel and Joella Utley), to Craig Kridel for his advice and friendship and his considerable help as co-director of the
project, Martin Aigner, Wayne Wilcox, and Tom Daly of
Crooked Cove Records
who shepherded the project through the manufacturing process. Also I want to thank
Berlioz Historical Brass
and the faculty development fund of
New England Conservatory of Music
who generously provided some funding for the project. Each of these individuals and organizations helped considerably to make my DVD what it is and for their help and
kindness, I am most grateful.
As British author Thomas Hardy said in his novel, Under the Greenwood Tree, "Old things pass away, 'tis true; but a serpent was a good old note: a deep rich note was the
serpent." With Approaching the Serpent: An Historical and Pedagogical Overview,
I hope the serpent has received new life.
October 15, 2010 - COMMENTARY
On October 2, 2010, the Boston Symphony began a new era with a new trombone section, comprised of
Stephen Lange and myself (photo at left). Since the retirement of my friend and
colleague Norman Bolter from the Boston Symphony's second trombone chair in January 2008, the Orchestra's second trombone chair has been vacant. It has been filled over the last two
and a half years by several fine substitute players, but this past spring, an audition was held to fill the position and it was won by Stephen Lange who at the time was playing
Assistant Principal and Second Trombone with the Saint Louis Symphony. Earlier this month, we played our first concert together as a section, on the Boston Symphony's 2010 opening night.
The concert consisted entirely of the music of Richard Wagner, and with the first C major chord of his Prelude to Die Meistersinger, our new section was on its way
to being a part of Boston Symphony history. It is such a pleasure to have Steve in our section; he brings fine playing and a great outlook and it is great to be getting to know him.
Already Toby, Steve and I are enjoying a nice period of rewarding playing and good personal communication - what more could a trombone section ask for? I can't think of anything.
In the weeks since our opening night concert, we've played concerts with Mahler's Symphony 2 and Symphony 5, both pieces that have given our
section plenty to play as we begin building our relationship together. I played together with Norman Bolter and Ronald Barron for 22 years before their retirements; while I don't expect
I'll have that long a tenure in our new section with two young players like Toby and Steve, I am very happy to be part of this new section and all that the future will bring for us
The BSO's opening night brought another happy occasion: my reunification with
bass trombonist of the Detroit Symphony (photo at right). Randy was a Fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center
(the Boston Symphony's summer program for young players at Tanglewood, the orchestra's summer festival home) in the summer of 1985. That was my first summer with the BSO and
Randy and I spent a lot of time together in those weeks in July and August. That fall, he won the bass trombone position in the Detroit Symphony. Randy is recognized as one of the
finest bass trombonists of our time and we have had him to Boston on several occasions to substitute for me over the years (such as when I was on sabbatical in 2009). But we had not had
occasion to play together and in fact have not seen each other since we parted in 1985. Fortunately, our need for four trombones for our all-Wagner opening night concert and in the Mahler
Symphony 2 the following week gave me a happy excuse to suggest that we see if Randy might be available to fill in as an extra player in our section. Happily, he
was able to come to Boston for two weeks and it was nice to collaborate with him again for the first time since we played Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture in a
combined Tanglewood Music Center/Boston Symphony concert in 1985. It's not very often two bass trombone players get together on stage, so Randy's playing with the BSO along with Steve joining our section as our new
second trombone player has made for a very satisfying month of October. With much more to come...
October 15, 2010 - NEW
Many readers have enjoyed hearing the recordings made in 1906 by the Boston Symphony trombone section. I have just updated my page on those recordings with some new information,
including the name of the fourth player (in addition to Carl Hampe, Anton Mausebach and Leroy Kenfield) on the recordings. Click
HERE to read about and listen to these historical recordings.
October 3, 2010 - NEW
I have added several new photos to my
serpent photo gallery
and also added a new
gateway page to all of my website articles and resources relating to the serpent.
September 28, 2010 - NEW
Readers will notice that this page has a slightly different look. I have been putting updates to yeodoug.com and commentary on some events on this page since 2003. Since that time, the page
has gotten very large and, with many images, slow to load for some readers. I have now separated entries from "What's New?" by year. Simply click above on the year that interests you and you
will find all of the "What's New?" material from that time.
September 28, 2010 - NEW
I have added two clips of my playing the serpent from my forthcoming DVD, APPROACHING THE SERPENT: AN HISTORICAL AND PEDAGOGICAL OVERVIEW. The videos are on YouTube and can also
be viewed on my website page devoted to my serpent DVD. To view these videos, click
September 28, 2010 - COMMENTARY
I have recently returned home from a week of performances in Indiana, all of which brought great personal satisfaction as I rekindled old friendships and enjoyed explorations in environs
familiar and new.
For the 1973-74 academic year, I was a freshman trombone major at
in Bloomington, Indiana. I went there to study with Keith Brown, who I had first met when he conducted
the All-Eastern Orchestra in Boston earlier that same year. It was at All-Eastern that I first played a bass trombone part in an orchestra (the program consisted of Brahms Symphony 3,
Dvorak Symphony 8 and Bernstein's Candide Overture). I had known of Keith Brown from his many arrangements for trombone published by International Music
Company and while in Boston for the All-Eastern Festival, Mr. Brown and I had several conversations that convinced me to attend IU. While I subsequently transferred to Wheaton College
in Illinois - for the love of a girl who has been my wife for the last 35 years and to be near a big city - Chicago - where I studied with Edward Kleinhammer of the Chicago Symphony - my year
at IU was memorable and formative.
My home for that year was the Willkie South dormitory, an 11 story high-rise on the edge of campus, a twin for Willkie North that was, at the time, a girl's dorm. My roommate, fellow
trombonist Dave Kauffman, and I found IU to be a strong mix of a serious environment for learning (mostly in the Music School) and the quintissential "party school" which held no interest for
us. Yet it was the Music School that commanded my attention, and I am very grateful for the time I had at IU, playing in my first semester in Orchestra 4 (my first concert was the opera,
Tales of Hoffman and my principal trombone section mate was William McElheny who, some years later, joined the Vienna State Opera/Vienna Philharmonic; we have enjoyed a rich
friendship in the years since we were at IU) and, in my second semester, in the top orchestra, the Philharmonic, and played Alban Berg's opera Wozzeck in what was a
heady and unforgettable experience.
While visiting IU last week, I was happy to have my friend, Carl Lenthe, organize my activities. I met Carl in 1984 on a Boston Symphony European tour; he was at the time principal trombonist
of the Bavarian Radio Orchestra and, needing a substitute trombone player for part of the tour when one of our players took ill, and wanting a good English speaker to make communication on
short notice as ideal as possible, Carl was located and he subbed in the BSO for several concerts. It was great to see Carl again after so many years, and while on campus I taught several
lessons in his studio and gave a masterclass for about 75 students in a room where I had last been as a member of Louis van Haney's trombone choir in 1974.
I was especially happy to spend some time with the IU trombone faculty - pictured above, left are Ed Anderson (retired), M. Dee. Stewart, Carl Lenthe, myself and Peter Ellefson. We enjoyed
lunch together in the student union building and I was honored by their coming to my masterclass in the evening. Carl also took me around campus as I revisited places that I had
remembered but nearly forgotten, including a visit to Willkie South which still stands tall, although the rooms have been completely renovated in the 36 years since I lived there.
In the afternoon, we went to visit Keith Brown at his home (photo at above, right) which was a joy. Mr. Brown was very influential on me as a young player and I had not seen him since
I left IU after my freshman year. We kept in touch ove the years fitfully, and renewed contact in a more substantial way earlier this year when we realized that all three members of the Boston Symphony
trombone section - Toby Oft, Stephen Lange and myself - all went to Indiana University and studied, at least for a time, with Keith Brown. I was so happy to see him again and we look
forward to his visiting Boston this fall so our section can enjoy time with our former teacher together.
From IU I travelled west to Terre Haute, Indiana, the
Crossroads of America,
where the primary reason for my trip began to take shape. While a student at
from 1974-1976, I
met a piano player in my class, David Bowden, whose career as a conductor I followed off and on over the last few decades. Earlier this year, David contacted me, asking if I would be interested
in being soloist with the
Terre Haute Symphony,
of which he is music director. It is not everyday that one gets such an offer, and I was happy to accept. I pitched a few concerto ideas to
David and he decided that for the orchestra's opening night concert, he'd like to have me play Simon Proctor's Serpent Concerto which I had played previously with five
different orchestras, including the Boston Pops Orchestra, conducted by John Williams and also recorded on my CD,
Le Monde du Serpent.
Always interested in exposing new audiences to the serpent, I was happy to agree, and details began to
fall into place for my visit to Terre Haute.
Terre Haute is also home to
Indiana State University,
,and David worked with the University so my visit to Terre Haute could be a collaboration between the Symphony and the University.
I gave a masterclass at ISU and also gave a recital of music for bass trombone and serpent with piano. I played a duet with ISU's trombone professor, Randy Mitchell and teamed up with the
ISU Trombone Ensemble for a performance of Tommy Pederson's Blue Topaz. I am very grateful to the ISU administration and staff that made my visit there so rewarding.
To say I enjoyed my work with the Terre Haute Symphony would be a great understatement. I gained such respect for my friend, David Bowden, as he works to plan a season for three regional orchestras
in Indiana. Renewing our friendship - and meeting his wife, Donna - was a joy and we had to much to share about how our lives had turned out since we were last together at Wheaton
in 1976. The Terre Haute Symphony is a mixture of students (many make the trip from IU in Bloomington), college professors from ISU, and other local players. David has big plans
for the orchestra - also on the opening night concert was Mahler's Symphony 5, not a piece for an orchestra without vision! The orchestra plays at a very high level, and
has many ambitious activities such as "Concert Conversations" before each concert, where audience members can gather to hear David discuss the evening's program along with the
night's soloist. I enjoyed introducing those assembled to the serpent - an instrument most of them were hearing for the first time. The Orchestra proved to be a sympathetic accompanist and
the Serpent Concerto went over well to the very enthusiastic audience (photo on the right shows me with David Bowden at the conclusion of our performance).
WFIU Radio, an Indiana National Public Radio station, interviewed me about my performance on serpent with the Terre Haute Symphony. Having been broadcast, it will remain avilable on their
website with an article, audio interview and photos for a little while; you can access it by clicking
This week of performances and teaching in the heartland has left me with a lot to think about. Having lived in "the big city" for most of my life, I enjoy going to smaller markets where
the pace and focus of life is very different that what is ordinarily around me. My hosts were generous and gracious, and this week I return to work with the
night being on Saturday evening. Ironically we will be playing Mahler's Symphony 5 in two weeks time, and now I come to it having just heard it played by the Terre Haute
Symphony. As one who does not go to many concerts - since I am on stage so frequently - I enjoyed hearing the piece from "out front" for the first time in many years, and I know I will bring
some insights from that recent experience to my playing of the piece in the Boston Symphony. My thanks to all those in "Hoosier Land" who made my time in Indiana so rewarding. I hope it will
not be 36 more years until I return again.
August 14, 2010 - COMMENTARY
Last week I enjoyed two forays with the serpent, the ancient instrument of which I have become a leading exponent. Since first playing serpent in 1994 for performances of Berlioz's then newly discovered Messe
solennelle in performances swith Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony, I have played serpent in many different kinds of performances, including with modern and period instrument orchestras, in recital, as soloist with
orchestra and in chamber music settings. I have also enjoyed giving talks and demonstrations of the serpent in museums around the world.
On August 1, I gave a gallery talk at Boston's
Museum of Fine Arts.
I first gave a talk there on the serpent in 1997 and since that time have ocnduced a great deal of research there and given several
subsequent talks on various instruments. I am also a volunteer at the MFA and enjoy ongoing interactions with people who come into the musical instrument gallery. For this talk, I brought along several of my own serpents
including my Baudouin serpent (c. 1812), and two serpents by the late Keith Rogers: his extraordinary plum wood serpent covered with a python skin, and an English military serpent. To these were added the MFA's Baudouin
serpent, their Thomas Key bass horn, and two instruments from the Boston Symphony's Casadesus Collection: an unsigned French military serpent and a basson Russe. The talk, which was given to a capacity audience in the
musical instrument gallery, featured me talking about and then playing the assembled instruments before ending with a lively period of questions and answers. The photo at left shows me holding the two serpents by Keith Rogers in front of the MFA
display of their Baudouin serpent and Thomas Key bass horn.
For those interested in more about the MFA's collection of serpents, a click on
THIS LINK and you will be directed
to a page with images of all of the Museum's brasswind instruments. If you click on the first image of a Baudouin serpent (Accession number 17.1954) you will get some detailed information
about one of the museum's Baudouin serpent (one of two the museum owns) and there is a link on that page to the sound file I recorded for the MFA's audio guide which you can get at the museum.
Then, last Friday, I played serpent in the Boston Symphony, in a performance of Mendelssohn's Overture Calm Seas and Prosperous Voyage. As he did in his Reformation Symphony, Mendelssohn wrote a part to be played by serpent and
contrabassoon, so the instruments would play the same part but would sound in octaves. Christoph von Dohnanyi was the conductor and he was enthusiastic about performing the piece as Mendelssohn had originally scored it; he
had played the piece on other occasions with one or two contrabassoons but had never conducted it with serpent in the orchestra. At right is a photo of me warming up back stage before the concert, taken by my BSO
trombone colleague, Toby Oft.
I thoroughly enjoyed myself - sitting in the bassoon section (the piece has no trombones) gave me a rare chance to sit in the middle of the BSO, and I was pleased when
the Boston Globe review of the concert
took notice of the serpent's contribution, writing, "Douglas Yeo brought some exotic colorings to the wind section by trading in his bass trombone for serpent, a rarely spotted period instrument."
This would be a good time to make mention that The Bate Collection in Oxford, England, has recently added my performance of Rule Britannia on their extraordinary English military serpent by Thomas Key that
was used at the Battle of Waterloo (1815) to their website. To see that instrument and hear my performance, click
July 17, 2010 - COMMENTARY
I have recently returned home from a two week tour of England as guest soloist with the
Natural State Brass Band
of Little Rock, Arkansas. This was a rich time, enjoying making music with good friends and returning to
my ancestral home - England - where I met up with old friends and met new people.
My relationship with the NSBB goes back several years. The band's conductor, Rusty Morris, became a good friend through our work together on the
North American Brass Band Association
board of directors. Rusty has served two terms
as NABBA President and I served a term as Vice President under his leadership. On several occasions, I have travelled to Little Rock to work with the band before the NABBA brass band championships and it was such a thrill in
2009 to see the band win their section at the contest. In 2009 the band named me their associate conductor and Arkansas' governor issued a proclamation naming me an official "Arkansas Traveler." This year the band's big project
was the tour of England and I was pleased to go along as soloist. As a bonus, my wife, Pat and oldest daughter, Linda (shown at right in their NSBB uniform), came on the tour
as well, playing baritone horn and bass trombone respectively in the band. What a thrill it was for me to look over my shoulder and see them playing in the band while I was playing solos up front.
The tour included five concerts in the northwest of England. The first concert was performed at the Guild Hall in Preston, immediately preceeding the English National Brass Band Championship. The other four concerts
were joint concerts with other bands: Freckleton, Poynton, Wingates and Thorseby. Crowds were enthusiastic and the band played so well. I also gave a trombone masterclass in Kirkham (photo below, at left) and conducted a trombone ensemble of
30 players at the evening band concert. It was great to see the interaction between British and American players and
how friendships were made.
The solos I played on the tour had a lot of personal significance for me. Bill Geldard's arrangements of "In The Hall of the Mountain King" and "Stella By Starlight" were written for me in 1996 for my first CD,
Proclamation, that I recorded with the Black Dyke Mills Band (now the Black Dyke Band). To bring those solos back to England and play them where they were first heard was very special for me. Also, David Herring
wrote a new solo for me and the band to play on the tour, "Theme and Variations on Arkansas Traveler." The tune is well known and it was a technical tour-de-force that always seemed to make a great impression on the audiences.
A video of the performance we gave of the piece in Wingates, England, has been posted on YouTube and can be viewed below.
In addition, I had a chance to conduct John Williams' "Liberty Fanfare" on two of the concerts, featuring the NSBB combined with the Freckleton and Thoresby brass bands.
Our family went over to England a few days early to spend some time in London and in the middle of the tour, we travelled to the south for a few days to visit friends and enjoy some of the glories of Wiltshire including
Bath Abbey and the Roman Baths in Bath, Wells Cathedral and Stonehenge. On our way back up north we stopped at Snowshill Manor where I did a little research on several serpents they have in their collection and we
stopped at Coventry Cathedral, one of the most powerful places on earth.
There were other highlights as well, including a trip to the Brass Band Archives, a rehearsal in the band room of the famous Black Dyke Band, and the chance to hear some of the best bands in the world at the English
Nationals (which was won by the Fairey Band).
While I've been to England more times than I can count, it was a first trip for most members of the NSBB. What a treat it was for them to make this trip and for us to be on the tour with them and to represent both Arkansas and the USA as musical
There were some nice reviews of concerts as well that appeared on the website
You can read them
and if you would like to hear a podcast of me talking about the tour, click
HERE and click
for a podcast featuring Rusty Morris talking about the tour.
Congratulations to the Natural State Brass Band for their great performances on the tour. I look forward to many more shared musical experiences with this fine band of friendly people. The bringing together of a trombone
player from Boston with a brass band from the American South has been a great joy for me and these new memories of the trip to England will last for all of us for a long, long time.
June 14, 2010 - COMMENTARY
Yesterday, I had the thrill of playing the National Anthem with members of the Boston Pops and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus (conducted by James Orent)at Game 5 of the National Basketball Association Finals game 5 between the Boston Celtics
and the Los Angeles Lakers, held in the TD Garden in Boston.
In my career as a member of the Boston Symphony, I have done this at many high-level sporting events, including Game 2 of the 2008 NBA FInals and
Superbowl XXXVI (when the New England Patriots defeated the Saint Louis Rams). It is always a special thrill. The game was won by the Celtics, 92-86, and to be in a private
box with several colleagues as well as former Celtics Bill Walton and coach K.C. Jones was a rare and special thing. Below is a selection of photos from the game that show, among other things, the trombone players
at the Garden (Ronald Barron, Hans Bohn and myself), Celtic Ray Allen practicing free throws before the game (which he did for an hour), the view of the action from my seat, and me with Bill Walton (he is a giant among men -
I am six feet tall - and he is one of the nicest people I have ever met - and a former trombone player as well) and former Celtics coach K.C. Jones. A video of the performance has been posted on YouTube - click below to play it.
May 24, 2010 - NEW
On May 22, I was privileged to take part in a memorial service for my friend, trombonist Bill Pearce (see my entry for February 25, below). In additional to playing some of Bill's
arrangements for trombone and piano, I was asked to give the Homily at the service, which I titled, To God Be The Glory: Bill Pearce and Musical Excellence.
To read my Homily, and see some photos of the memorial service and Bill Pearce, click
May 15, 2010 - NEW
On May 2, I was inducted into the Hewlett-Woodmere Alumni Association Hall of Fame, in a ceremony at George W. Hewlett HIgh School (Hewlett, New York). This was a wonderful time of
remembering my 11 years of living in Valley Stream, New York and my attending elementary, junior high, and high school in Hewlett. To read the comments I gave after my induction,
and view some photographs of me in the influential years of 1960-1971, click
April 25, 2010 - NEW
A memorial service/tribute for trombonist Bill Pearce (see the "What's New" entry below, for February 25, 2010) will be held on May 22 at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. I've been asked to take part
in the event and have added a page on my website with details about the service. To go to this page, click
February 25, 2010 - COMMENTARY
On Monday evening, February 22, my friend, trombonist Bill Pearce, passed from this life to the next. He was 83 years old; his death came after a long battle
with Parkinson's Disease.
I first met Bill Pearce in 1974 while a student at
My friend, Jim Roskam, was playing an LP of Bill's down the hall from my dormitory room and I was
astounded with his tremendous trombone artistry. Of course Bill was far more than a trombone player - he was a pioneer of Christian radio
broadcasting, and a gifted vocalist who sang in a duet team with Dick Anthony. He was also a member of the Melody Four Quartet and the Sixteen Singing Men.
His radio program
is heard around the world with Bill's unique blend of music and commentary.
Earlier today, I was interviewed for the radio program Prime Time America, produced by WMBI Radio, the radio station of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago
where Bill got his start in broadcasting. I was honored to be asked to say a few words in tribute to Bill, along with Dick Anthony and George Beverly Shea (who is
101 years old and worked alongside Bill in many vocal groups). If you have
a chance to listen to this program, I am sure you will be moved, as was I, by George Beverly Shea's account of Bill's final moments before he died. You can hear the
program (archived on the Moody Radio website) in the first hour of the
Moody Radio Prime Time America on February 25, 2010.
It is impossible for me to sum up Bill's influence on me. Along with Edward Kleinhammer and George Roberts, Bill Pearce is one of my greatest
trombone role-models. His sense of phrasing and legato - and the beauty of his articulation - are things I have worked to emulate for all of my
professional life. Bill was also a person of great humility and kindness. His willingness to narrate passages from the Bible on my CD
is indicative of how Bill did things. To say his voice added measurably to the album is a profound understatment. I am just so pleased
that even though he is now gone from this earth, his voice, trombone playing and legacy continue.
I interviewed Bill for an article for the Online Trombone Journal
(photo at left).
That interview has been read countless times, and each reader has gotten to see Bill
talk about the trombone, his work in radio, and his Christian faith. He was also very open about his struggles with Parkinson's Disease which had then
just recently been diagnosed. Over the years, I kept in touch with Bill. He rarely complained about his condition; instead, he always wanted to talk about the trombone,
about trombone players and to find out how I was doing. He rarely allowed the conversation to turn to himself.
When the interview went online, I invited readers who wanted to send Bill a note or card of appreciation to send it to me and I would then forward
it - unopened - to Bill. Over the years, many people did this, and Bill often talked of how he was so greatly encouraged by those messages. He was not
able to reply to them due to the Parkinson's Disease, but they meant so much to him. Those of you who are reading this should know what an
encouragement you were to Bill.
If you have a chance, visit the
and order one of Bill's many trombone recordings. His "Touch of Gold" anthology is a convenient way to sample Bill's
trombone playing over a nearly 50 year span. You will not fail to be impressed - not only by his unique kind of trombone artistry, but by the man who meant so much
to so many, including me.
January 15, 2010 - NEW
I have added a new article,
Wir bin Ich: Meaning and Self for the Artistic Christian that I first gave as a lecture at the
Lee University School of Music Performance Seminar at Lee University, Cleveland, Tennessee, in April of last year. In it, I speak about the challenge of living
authentically in a post-modern world.
January 1, 2010 - COMMENTARY
The calendar has turned to a new decade, bringing with it many thoughts of the 10 years just past. The world has changed in that time, but before I comment on a significant decade, it is
January 1 that is first on my mind.
In our house, we always tune in the Tournament of Roses Parade, held annually in Pasadena, California. The beautiful, colorful floats - that must be covered entirely with natural flowers and vegetation -
are certainly a focus of attention. But for us, it is the bands that bring us back year after year. Because in 1973, I marched in the Tournament of Roses Parade - a memorable experience that
gave me my first taste of significant travel as a member of a musical organization.
In 1972, shortly after I began my senior year in high school, I was chosen for the McDonald's All-American Band. This band, put together for several years by the McDonald's Corporation, selected
two high school students from each state and one from the District of Columbia to form a 101 piece marching band. The band marched in two parades: the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in New York City
(November 23, 1972) and the Tournament of Roses parade, always held on January 1. I was a senior at Jefferson Township High School in Oak Ridge, New Jersey, having moved to New Jersey from Valley
Stream, New York, in the summer of 1971. That same fall, I was selected to be principal trombonist of the New Jersey All-State Orchestra and bass trombonist of All-Eastern Orchestra (which met
in January 1973 in Boston - my first trip to what was, many years later, to become my home town). My fellow member from new Jersey in the McDonald's All-American Band was Jeffrey Venho from Glen Rock,
New Jersey (Jeff has been principal trumpet in New Jersey All-State Orchestra that year).
The trip to California with the McDonald's Band was a thrill; I shall never forget the feeling I had when I stepped to curbside at Los Angeles International Airport and saw a live palm tree for
the first time in my life. From there it was to the campus of UCLA where we rehearsed, and then finally to Pasadena on January 1 to march in the great parade. The photo above shows me (far right)
with Jeff Venho, Betty White (grand marshall of the Parade), conductor Paul Lavalle (who at the time was music director at Radio City Music Hall in New York City) and Sally Noren, the Rose Queen.
The day dawned with beautiful weather and the parade was a blur of memories. The crowd was enormous, the parade route very long, and the sense of "moment" very strong. In the photo at right, I
can be found in the front rank of the band, third from the left, marching along the double line. January 1, 1973 - a big day in a decade long past, but a day that each year brings back strong
and wonderful memories.
The decade we have just completed - what WILL we call it - the "zeroes" - the "Ohhh's" - the "Oughts"?? - was full of events that are unforgettable. Surely the most memorable were the terrorist
attacks of September 11, 2001. A day doesn't go by without some reminder of that terrible day and its effects are still with us, nearly 10 years later. Yet time moves on. In my own life,
there have been many memorable personal experiences in the last 10 years, many of which are documented on this page. I do not know what the future holds, but I do know that God will lead in the
life of me and my family, and I consider myself a very blessed man to have a wonderful, faithful wife of nearly 35 years at my side with whom to walk side-by-side into what awaits. Happy new year,
friends. On to the 10s.