Posted by: eaubeauhorn | July 4, 2012

July 4, 2012

This morning I was in the trailer fixing breakfast as usual, and I turned on the radio expecting to turn it back off again when I heard the inevitable harpsichord playing. But I was pleasantly surprised, first, to hear a John Williams piece called Born on the 4th of July; very nice, quite different from his movie music (which I also like, but it is designed for a different audience.) Then Liberty Bell by Sousa came on, a march I know well. It brought to mind my initiation into band music, which happened at a much later age than most wind musicians.

Since I played the violin all through school, I was never in a band, and I remember being quite happy about that in high school after seeing marching band members fainting from the heat on the football field. Indianapolis does not have a “dry heat” like Tucson does. I also thought band players were a little, uh, crude.

That all started to change when I took up the horn at age 45, which I did because I loved the sound of it so much, and because I needed a new musical project to focus on. After about a year I was able to join the local anyone-welcome concert band, and that is where I was introduced to what I still call the Band Sound. Quite different from the Orchestra Sound; you can hear all that air moving.

As time (and practice) went on, I was able to join higher level groups, ending up with an eight-year stint in a pretty decent amateur orchestra. I got to play music with fabulous horn parts, like Beethoven 7 and Tchaik 5. Plus a lot else in between. I was delighted with my 2nd horn position, finding it fit my personality and skill level really well. I also found that in terms of personality, I really am much more of a wind player than a string player…..strings require such ongoing delicacy to do well, which I was never good at, while brass requires more of a firm approach. Courageous, anyway. Horn, especially, requires courage, as my friend Mary used to tell me. She could tell which of her students would go places by how much courage they displayed in “just going for it” with the horn. Like tennis, horn playing requires a confident mindset if you don’t want to sabotage yourself out of competency.

Playing in a horn section in an orchestra had to be the stellar musical experience of my life! A horn section at full throttle can drown out most of an amateur orchestra, and I found that one horn player (me) at full throttle can drown out a violin section. Heh. Well, lessee, when I was a violinist I thought wind players a bit crude, and now as a wind player I find string players to be, um, twitchy little wimps, most of them. Not all of them of course, but, well, you know. I decided that all that bow-arm waggling had a lot to do with their twitchiness, just like trombone players with the slide, and bassoonists with the bobbing they have to do. The steadiest players are those who move the least playing their instruments….tuba players and hornists.

So back to the Liberty Bell; I know it inside and out, having played it umpteen times, on various parts too….horn, tuba, euphonium. So I don’t hear just one line. I can’t quite conduct it by memory with all the proper cues, but it sure is familiar. And quite welcome on this 4th of July. I have the radio on now hoping to hear more Sousa before the day is done.

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