Horns in the cinema

lines_spaces_coverKelli Marie,

This a great discussion you’ve started! The thing that struck me , and I can’t think why it never came to me before is that it was the cinema that first inspired me to play the horn. ” The Vikings” and “The Big Country” – The John Ford westerns all had such terrific scores and such a lot for the horns to play. When I first heard them, as a boy, I was playing the piano, singing and playing the flugel horn in the colliery band and the sound of the horn on screen in particular fascinated me. I wonder how many other players have had the same experience. It would be of great interest to me and to you too, to hear from others about this. One of the wonders of modern life and the internet is the access that we have now to this great world “horn community”. I take the greatest pleasure in the various groups and pages on Facebook, and the British horn society and the International horn society do a fantastic job. It wouldn’t be possible to mention all the people that work behind the scenes to make all this possible. What pleasure to be able to take part in such a discussion sitting here at my desk. When I started playing age eleven, we couldn’t get proper radio reception where we lived in Wales and we didn’t have TV so there was only the cinema. Today’s technology brings things that were beyond  my imagination then.

“STAR WARS” – Space and time.

These are recent interviews with Andrew Bain and myself, talking to Kristina Mascher Turner for the “International Horn Society” to mark the Premier of the new “Star Wars” film – This was the first of the sound tracks to be recorded in Los Angeles.  Andrew sounded great of course and the orchestra was “vintage” Hollywood plus, so there was nothing unexpected there, but what really interested and excited me was the prospect of these interviews and to find out how they work in 2016 compared to the way we did when the force was awakening. These interviews are almost a continuation of the conversations we had with our American counterparts, Jimmy Decker, Dick Perrisi et al in California bars and restaurants when we met on our US tours with symphony orchestras of the sixties and seventies. We spent hours trying to figure out ideal ways of working and our players were always amazed at the amount of money the Americans made compared to us. We have learned a lot from each other over time, and it’s great  now to see that through the internet and the IHS that we have a real WorldDrac-1 community

Terry Johns – the original Star Wars and the London recording studios

This month, we have the pleasure of presenting a double-interview issue, inspired by the Star Wars mania taking over the world. Both our featured subjects have illustrious activities outside of their studio work, making it fascinating to see how they do it all. Terry Johns is a prolific writer as well as distinguished horn player – you will be amazed at all he has seen and done in his decades-long career in the UK. Australian-born Andrew Bain, the fearless co-host of our most recent symposium as well as principal horn in the LA Philharmonic, has just led the horn section in the latest Star Wars adventure. Read on and learn what it was like to be a part of it! (May the Force be with you, of course) 🙂 -KMT

Kristina Mascher-Turner: Terry, during your illustrious career at the heart of the London horn scene, you have played on numerous movie soundtracks. Which scores stand out for you?

Terry Johns: The sixties was an amazing decade for music in Britain. The Beatles conquered America in 1964 and every international conductor wanted to have a London Orchestra. Andre Previn came to the London Symphony Orchestra in 1968 and he brought “classical” music to a vast new audience with his TV series “Andre Previn’s Music Night ” also many American film composers were coming to London to work in the studios at Denham and Shepperton. Though I didn’t know it at the time, I was very fortunate to have been a part of all this, having left the Royal Academy in 1965 and joined the Royal Philharmonic.

The first film sessions I was invited to were at Shepperton studios for “The Blue Max” – they began a few days before my 22nd birthday in April 1966 and it wasn’t solely because of the occasion that it stayed in my memory. I’ve listened to the sound track again recently. Jerry Goldsmith’s score is brilliant and the horn writing is terrific. I think it’s one of the best things JG ever did, and I found out later that he thought so too. The music has been performed quite a bit in the concert hall I believe but the film is hardly ever seen on TV now. I’m sure I don’t know why. It’s a terrific film with a great cast – George Peppard, Ursula Andress and James Mason – and a powerful story about a German fighter pilot on the western front during world war one. For the record, the horns were Alan Civil, Jim Brown Jim Buck (jnr) and yours truly.

I do remember also being amazed by the sound and the sight of the orchestra assembled for the film “Oliver” that was released in 1968. It was, by necessity a mixture of jazz, light music and orchestral players in large numbers not often seen in a studio, even in the London of the sixties. The great John Green conducted all the sessions, winning an Oscar for his “ best musical adaptation score” of Lionel Bart’s music.

A lot happened in 1969 that I remember for different reasons. I was part of the orchestra that got the sack from the film “Battle of Britain” along with Malcolm Arnold, who had conducted the sessions at Denham, and William Walton, most of whose music had been rejected by United Artists for a number of unlikely sounding reasons. Fortunately the recording was rescued later, and is still available despite nearly all of it having been replaced on the official release with a score by Ron Goodwin. Getting fired in such illustrious company was not such a bad thing I must say and there has been a lot of interest in the affair over a number of years.

In that same year, on the pavement outside CBS studios in London, Nat Peck introduced me to the slightly shy and then practically unknown John Williams, who was a little flustered and apprehensive because that morning he’d lost his bearings on the London underground and having found the studio at last, he felt uncomfortable because he didn’t know anybody in the orchestra. Nat (his old friend and fellow New Yorker) was introducing him to a few people to help him relax before the recording. We were all there to make the sound track for the musical version of “Goodbye Mr. Chips” with Peter O’Toole and Petula Clark, conducted by JW and with his orchestrations of Leslie Bricusse’s music. That, I believe was his first appearance in London. I saw him again on the sound stage at Denham for “Fiddler on the Roof” in 1971 conducting his orchestrations of Jerry Bock’s music for which he won an Oscar. Isaac Stern played the violin solos.
KMT: Let’s talk about the original Star Wars trilogy. What did you think of the music at the time? Did you have any idea it would live forever?

TJ: I was expecting something special actually. His great musicianship and skill as an arranger-orchestrator had been obvious to me and everybody who’d played on those first two films. But in between I had heard his original score for the TV film he did for CBS of “Jane Eyre” This is really great work I think, a clear sight of the finished article so rarely heard now – in Britain anyway.

So I was excited about what I was going to hear on that day at Denham, but I don’t think many of the LSO players of that time had worked with him before (Since the arrival of Previn in ’68 the orchestra had become so busy that nobody had any time to freelance!) but the atmosphere in the studio was electric even before we started, partly due to the huge orchestra that had been assembled and the presence of George Lucas and Lionel Newman in the recording booth. GL was so excited when he heard the opening fanfare that he phoned his pal Spielberg in L.A. and played it back down the phone to him!! (1970s technology !) There was talk in the studio too that the film was just the first in a series of eight that was planned to last thirty years in the making. I don’t know how many people believed that at the time!
KMT: How far in advance did the musicians receive the music? Did you have any time to prepare, or did you basically sight-read the score at the recording sessions?

TJ: On film sessions we never saw the music before the day. Quite a few cues were done in advance while we were playing, by a team of copyists in the studio because almost everything was done by hand at that time. One of the most remarkable things about those sessions was the reading at sight, particularly in the strings and woodwind, and of course, many people listening to the original tracks now won’t be aware of that. Things did get easier in the later films as people got used to the idiom and his style of writing.
KMT: Do you remember how long it took; start to finish, to record the original 1977 Star Wars soundtrack? How many hours were the individual sessions on average?

TJ: There were eight three-hour sessions in March 1977. I couldn’t remember I looked it up!
KMT: How much contact, if any, did you have with John Williams during the recordings? Was he active on the studio floor or just in the booth?

TJ: He conducted every session, apart from two or three runs-through that Lionel Newman conducted, and when JW felt that everything was on schedule and he could relax a little, he liked to wander around the studio in the breaks and talk to people. His “previous” life, as many people know, had been in studios in the US as a pianist. The studio was (is) his natural environment.
KMT: What equipment did you play on the Star Wars films? Was this what everyone in the horn section played?

TJ: David Cripps was the solo horn on the first two films. He really liked to use different horns for different things and could do it easily and sound great. I used the same horn for years and I always felt uncomfortable with an unfamiliar instrument. There certainly was no rule or tradition about what people played. I’m pretty sure there was a wide variety of horns in the studio and that was the same for the “Empire Strikes Back”. I know I had an Alexander 103 for all that time and I played everything on it.

But when I played solo horn on “Return of the Jedi” I had settled on an Elkhart Conn 8D after a long period of trying to outsmart the engineer at BBCTV who always insisted on placing the horn microphone six inches from the bell. The Conn sound was the only one that survived that treatment.
KMT: Would you mind telling us if you are a fan of the Star Wars saga itself? Or was it just another gig?

TJ: I love science fiction! The first book I ever read was by Isaac Asimov. But “Star Wars” was a real break through in cinematic terms wasn’t it? Some say it saved the cinema industry from the relentless advance of television and it did so with tremendous technical advances as well as by going back to a few basics.

John Williams’ music comes right from old Hollywood in the tradition of Korngold and Max Steiner with those lush upholstered orchestrations very often used under dialogue. Also when he needs to, he can write with that tremendous power that drives the action, very like the film scores Prokofiev did for Eisenstein’s films. But really it was his use of the Leitmotif and his mastery of it in the first film that took the whole thing to another level preparing the way for the whole great cycle.

It’s safe to say, I think, that Star Wars changed the course of cinema history and film music.
KMT: Do you have any funny or bizarre stories of things that took place during the Star Wars recordings that you can share with our readers?

TJ: My old friend Pat Vermont, a West Indian violist, who enriched the lives of all who knew him, and was blessed with a glorious, glamorous, sense of theatre, would often entertain the LSO players in band rooms in foreign concert-halls or in recording breaks in studios with his amusing monologues, referring dramatically to our labours and peregrinations as — “all this.”

“When ‘all this’ is over”, he would declare to the little band-room audience, “I’m going back to Jamaica to live with my auntie!”

Through the many hours of the Star Wars trilogy sessions, Pat had developed an intense dislike of Darth Vader who in Pat’s fertile imagination had become almost a real person and it was George Lucas’s “ colour coding” that seemed to annoy him the most.

”Oh why!” he would cry, “does the vilest person in the Universe have to be black!”

When Vader was Wagnerially incinerated at the end of “The Return of the Jedi” Pat sat watching almost ecstatic at the sight of the flames engulfing “that horrid asthmatic man”

There was a dramatic horn solo as the flames from the funeral pyre burned in the night sky and Pat told me during one of the play-backs, that “after nearly forty years in the LSO viola section” it was the ”only time in his life” that he wished he’d been a horn player!
KMT: When did you notice Wagner tuben being called for in horn parts for movie scores? It seems de rigeur these days.

TJ: I never was asked to play one on a film and I never saw any used but it’s a great idea!
KMT: I’ve read that you have extensive experience and a love for playing jazz. Would you say this has come in handy during your session work?

I played with a few jazz “greats” in my time. I played with Tubby Hayes. Kenny Wheeler and Mike Gibbs and I played on some records with Clark Terry, Phil Woods and Michel LeGrand so I was usually invited when there was anything “jazzy” to do. But for a time in London there was only myself and Mo Miller who would improvise and there were not that many horn players that were comfortable with the swing idiom. I expect Americans find that difficult to understand. It has always been second nature to your guys I know.

British players are much more versatile nowadays though. It even seems strange to be talking about it now. There are jazz courses at most music colleges. Jim Rattigan has one at Trinity Laban in Greenwich. Here’s a thought — In our day jazz was banned at the Royal Academy. I imagine it’s hard for you to believe that.
KMT: Did you get free tickets to the rest of the Star Wars movies for life? Because you should have!

TJ: No. I got a T Shirt!
Andrew Bain – “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and the LA recording studios

Kristina Mascher-Turner: The first question on everyone’s mind is, how long did it take you to recover from hosting #IHSLA2015?

Andrew Bain: I think I’m still recovering! It was such a wonderful week that I’ve been living off the memories for quite a while. Thank you to everyone who came to LA for the event.
KMT: In addition to your playing duties in the Los Angeles Philharmonic, you’ve been an active Hollywood studio musician. What are the most memorable movie soundtracks you’ve recorded?

AB: Well… Star Wars was AMAZING! I also really enjoyed the Good Dinosaur, Creed and Rwanda and Juliet which were recorded over the Summer. Other’s that come to mind are Godzilla, Minions and Night at The Museum 3 which were all fun and terrific music.
KMT: You’ve recently played on the soundtrack to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. How does it feel to be involved with such a legendary project?

AB: It was honestly a dream come true to work with John Williams and play this incredible score. As horn players we grow up listening to John Williams’ music and the Star Wars soundtracks. It was a thrill each day to go to the studio to record The Force Awakens. I still can’t believe I was lucky enough to be involved.
KMT: How far in advance did the musicians receive the music?

AB: The recording took place over a number of months and many sessions so we received the music to each session 3-5 days prior to the recording date.
KMT: Start to finish, how long did it take to record the whole soundtrack? How many hours did you spend in each session?

AB: The whole project was from June to mid-November which is quite unusual for a film recording. I’m not sure of the exact number but I think we recorded over 20 and 30 sessions of 3 hours’ duration. Sessions were usually grouped in 2 per day and 2-3 days at a time.
KMT: How much contact, if any, did you have with John Williams during the recordings? Was he around the whole time?

AB: John conducted the majority of the sessions and was always involved in making changes or suggesting ways of getting the best result from each cue. He is incredible to work with. A true gentleman! A humble and generous person and a wonderful musician. He has an incredible feel for creating a musical moment that always enhances what is going on in the picture.
KMT: Did the soundtrack call for Wagner tubas?

AB: No Wagner Tubas on Star Wars – just 6 horns!
KMT: Were you allowed a sneak peak at the film, either during or after the recordings?

AB: I was very fortunate to be able to go into the booth and listen to what happened on the previous take to give feedback to the section. As the music was played back it was matched with the film footage so I was able to see a little bit of the action. As a lot of film music is recorded out of sequence and as there is no dialogue I have no idea what was going on or who the characters were, but it looked really cool!!
KMT: What equipment did you play for the recording? Was this the same as the other horn players?

AB: I played on the horn I play in the LA Phil (I played on two horns – my 30+ year old Lewis Geyer and later and for most the recording process my new Lukas horn – that’s the one that you hear on the solo at the end of the film. Most of the studio players in LA play Conn 8D or 28D horns. I think we blended really well on Star Wars and the result is some exiting music.
KMT: 
Are you a fan of the Star Wars saga yourself, or was it just another gig?

AB: I grew up with the original Star Wars trilogy and absolutely loved the music and all of John Williams’ film scores. It was an incredible thrill and honor to play on this movie. I could not have been more excited to see the film when it was released this week. Congratulations to my wonderful colleagues of the horn group and the entire LA studio orchestra for an unforgettable experience and magnificent music making. I cannot express how proud I was to have been able to play on such a terrific project.
KMT: How do you arrange your schedule to accommodate your studio work? Do you take time off of the orchestra, or do you go from one to the other in the course of one day?

AB: Generally, I work the recording dates around my LA Phil schedule. Sometimes this means racing from a rehearsal at Disney Hall out to the studios, but this is pretty rare. I am incredibly fortunate to have a great job at the LA Phil, so it is a real bonus to have the opportunity to play some movie and TV recordings when the schedule allows. Occasionally, I will be able to take some time off from the orchestra to play film projects. I think it’s great to have variety and keep things fresh and interesting.
KMT: 
Did you get any Star-Wars-related perks for playing on the soundtrack?

AB: Disney were extremely kind and invited all of the Star Wars musicians to a pre-screening of the movie before it opened to the public. It was an incredible feeling to hear the opening chord of the film and the cheer of a packed theater full of people who work on the project. It was a really fun and emotional night knowing that we had been part of such an iconic piece of art and history. Having seen the movie and heard the soundtrack I couldn’t be more proud of the result. May the force be with you.

 

FOR THE ANNIVERSARY OF VE DAY.

lines_spaces_coverThis is possibly the most significant election of my lifetime. I was educated by the state and my youth orchestra and student days were care-free, debt free and the great teachers and lifelong friends I encountered along the way helped shape the marvellous life I have had in music. I strongly believe that there has for many years now been a negative and wholly materialistic force in politics in this country that would deny these essential things to many of our young people and I hope that at last the tide is turning against them.

Richard Chenoweth is professor of music at the University of Dayton Ohio, and the pioneer and developer of RRW (Rite Right, Write) the university based movement for the development and involvement of the arts in contemporary social issues.

Dear Richard,
Greetings from Edinburgh!
Thank you for your kind invitation! The RRW project excites me a great deal. I have visited your marvellous website and my head is already racing with thoughts and ideas. The connection between music and social issues is something, which has been a subject of interior debate for me, for most of my professional life.
I think you know that I learned to play in the brass band at Tower Colliery in South Wales. The band practiced in an old brick-built engine shed, and was supported, both by our own contributions and those of the miners, who each donated a penny a week from their wages. So making music and social struggle were already synonymous to me, and when I had finished my musical education at the Royal Academy, which was paid for by a scholarship sponsored by the county of Glamorgan, I found myself, as a very young man, embroiled in the famous battle for the survival of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
In 1965, when I joined the orchestra, it was besieged by its many detractors and malefactors in the Arts Council and the musical establishment, and had been so since the death of its founder Sir Thomas Beecham in 1961. The Royal Philharmonic Society and its allies had decided that the orchestral players should hold no rights to Beecham’s musical legacy. The orchestra must not be allowed to continue to perform without its founder at the helm, and could not use its Royal title. The players having rejected that proposition and in order to ensure the orchestra’s future, formed themselves into a company of which we were all shareholders, and we were obliged to play, sometimes for months without payment, in order to pay the fees of international conductors, which in many cases were extortionate.
Very few of them showed the slightest interest in our predicament, and their agents who worked as a sort of European cartel, displayed a similar indifference, while collecting their percentages and expecting prompt payment and first class hotel accommodation for their clients’ visits to London.
These were the difficult circumstances that formed the backdrop to my early life in music.
During the following decade, my father as a member of the National Union of Mineworkers was locked in a bitter struggle with the British Tory government, which was a precursor to the almost total destruction of the British mining industry, and surrounded by hostile, mainly conservative opinion I played in the London Symphony Orchestra under the guest conductorship of Edward Heath who was a patron of that orchestra and the prime minister of the day. There were bitter social and political divisions in Britain at that time, and my background and experience helped me to accept ideological isolation with resolve.
When I was twelve or so, my music master had given me a recording of “The Rite of Spring” and this, my first aural encounter with it shattered the few and fragile ideas about music that I had formed up to that time, and prompted me to read Robert Craft’s book on Stravinsky.
I learned that in 1913 when “Le Sacre” was first performed, it had shocked the European musical establishment to its foundations, punctuating world history as the incidental music for a Europe that was careering towards war: the dance of death, the barbaric sacrifice of beauty and innocence that prefigured three decades of the worst violence and inhumanity the world has ever seen, and saw the birth of the monster that is modern mechanized warfare.
My Grammar School education and the wonderful teachers I had, several of whom had survived the European conflict, gave me the belief I have held ever since, that after the fields of Flanders, the human disgrace of Auschwitz and the nuclear horror of Hiroshima, our new generation had a right to expect better things from the politicians and world leaders.
When I joined the Royal Philharmonic many of the men I met and played with had served in the forces in the European and the North African wars. There were many Jews also in all the London orchestras, who had suffered unspeakable persecution and deprivation, and I met some who had endured the horror of the Nazi death camps.
All these men had survived the conflict, only to enter yet another fight against their erstwhile benefactors, for their livelihood and the life of their orchestra.
In our modern war torn and anxiety ridden world, and beset with the worst economic crisis so far, it should be evident that the politicians and economists are still failing us all with depressing and familiar regularity, and it is only politicians or those of such persuasions, that would argue with that fact.
Preoccupied as they are with media management and presentation, as individuals they invariably and conveniently deny responsibility for our economic woes whilst many of them preside over the various ministries of science, technology transport and energy in most cases without holding the slightest qualification to do so. This shameful deception and posturing to the world gallery mirrors the antics of our conductors and critics, many of them millionaires that have never composed a note, nor are able to play an instrument to any accepted standard, posture and commentary being their own all but worthless currency.
Advancing years have brought me a freedom to speak the truth and a greater desire for it. A long life in an orchestra, spent as it is in providing conductors with their “raisons d’etre” inflated fees and adoration from concert- goers, can leave us with the dangerous illusion that listening to ourselves is in some way unwise, or, in the midst of the worst of our neuroses, even unthinkable. This is a similar psychic paralysis to the one that develops in the minds of the general public, enslaved by the economic system, and beset as they are by the continuous stream of unanswered questions, broken promises and half-truths from politicians, that actually persuades people that voting is futile, stifles sensible debate and inhibits sane and balanced thinking.
Can we provide hope to the young musicians in our care by advocating proper conditions of employment as some basis for optimism, not only for the security of their own future, but also for the future of the profession, and its duty to its audience. Their remuneration must be at least sufficient to sustain a new generation of players and commensurate with their value to the community. But how are we to do this when nurses and ancillary staff in our hospitals and other public services are being made to accept cuts in their wages by a government that is privatizing public services in order to provide tax cuts for the rich, whilst aided and abetted by a media network, owned by billionaires that conspires to confuse the printing of lies and the tapping of people’s telephones with “freedom of the press?”
There is much to be done!
The “Great War,” far from being the “war to end all wars,” marked the beginning of a new age of conflict that has continued to the present day, and warmongering and the threatening of invasion are still familiar weapons in the armory of our “leaders” seeking to plunder the resources of other countries or to shore up their counterfeit political reputations as they stand pleading and posturing in their Armani suits amidst the wreckage of the economic system. Are we to be left with a similar cadre of critics and conductors, crying for their past “glories” and denying their responsibilities among the ruins of a profession who can no longer afford to devote their lives to music or to play on a decent instrument.
The Royal Philharmonic has survived to this day as an example of what is possible when we return to the inestimable gift that was entrusted to us from childhood, and we reclaim our heritage, and cherish our responsibility when we say,
“We are the music makers”
Then music and the human spirit become once more synonymous. In the face of this, the whims and wilful miscalculations of the representatives of bankrupt companies become at once irrelevant.
Financiers and politicians have all but destroyed great orchestras in America in the recent past, while trying to shift the blame on to orchestral players and their “excessive” salaries which are held up to constant public scrutiny, while the huge fees and bonuses of conductors and CEOs are made to represent some certification of their artistic excellence and nobility of purpose. – Like the politicians, most of them are simply the commentators that witness and feed on our decline with the language of market forces, while WE, as performers, teachers and custodians, must FACE the threat of the two contemporary chimera — The great lie that is the media and the awful truth that is the crippled, fraudulent and outdated economic system.
Pontius Pilate, despite his politically typical efforts to avoid responsibility, eventually took one of the most momentous decisions in history, but at least he admitted when confronted with the word “truth” out of the mouth of Christ Himself, to not knowing the meaning of the word. If only our present day politicians could summon such honesty we would at least have found a starting point!
Please don’t confuse my feelings and observations with pessimism.
Nothing is wasted – “Our echoes roll from soul to soul,
And grow for ever and for ever.”
I wish you and your colleagues the best possible fortune in your efforts.
Best wishes.
Terry

SUPERBRASS

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superbrassAt the end of 2013, after the release of “ Brass Taps” which was the second CD that Superbrass issued, Roger Argente encountered familiar difficulties concerning the finance and management of the group. The recording had been financed, in part by “crowdfunding” which was a new internet based method of sponsorship that had proven successes in arts and other projects in Europe and America, but the continuing fragility of the domestic economy and the imbalance in the market for recorded music that had been created by free downloads and online music services, affected sales despite the exceptional quality of the recording and the acclaim it received from the critics and the brass community.

 

Waterfront Ave,

19 Nov 2013

Dear Roger,

Thank you for your e-mail. After five years of working on a computer here at home, I still marvel at the wonders of digital life, and discover new developments daily, with the thought that I’m able to keep touch with the world from my desk, and to follow the RPO’s frenetic itinerary with breathless admiration. I’m sure you will be grateful to be at home for Christmas!

It was so good to see the reaction and the press comments about the “Superbrass” recording.

The success of the group, in the face of the many difficulties that are now confronting orchestras and ensembles worldwide is astonishing, and your present problems are temporary I’m sure.

I think your new proposals regarding the publishing of the “Superbrass” commissions will be a great thing for everyone concerned, and your plans for more concerts are exactly right, given the present circumstances.

Everyone should hear “Superbrass”! And in these modern times we are able to reach a greater audience than ever before

I played with Philip Jones and with the Nash ensemble in their very early days, but of course their difficulties were different from yours. Their audience numbers were often disappointing at first. Publishing of the repertoire, which was at that time largely made up of arrangements, was possible only with one of a few houses and was difficult to establish, and recording contracts, which rarely included any commitment to new music were a long time coming. Superbrass hasn’t experienced these problems, and you are able to set your own agenda for the most part. But by far the most gratifying thing about it, is that the players and composers enjoy it so much and there’s a mutual trust within the group, and an unique feeling of joy and a lack of inhibition in the performances, that comes, largely from their not being involved with resident conductors, or record companies, who in my experience bring with them too many restrictions and boundaries, ( see under “raisons d’etre”) and on the business side, will often aggravate everyday difficulties, (see under “self justification”) often generating misinformation and dissent as their stock in trade. Please don’t suffer discouragement even for a second. The group has all the necessary spirit, self-confidence and dedicated irreverence required for the journey.

I was waylaid regularly in my early days, by well-meaning relatives, and local academics (most of whom, of course had “proper jobs”), with warnings of difficulties that could hinder my progress to becoming a professional player, that included almost everything from malnutrition to dental disfigurement. By contrast, the old colliers in Tower band encouraged me without reservation. Their lives having been been spent in darkness for the most part, in the bowels of the earth, surrounded by explosions, rats and poison gas, they assured me, with authority and optimism, that professional music would be a liberating and worthwhile occupation.

I still think of them when my spirits become depressed by modern life.

Thank you too, for the clarification of the financial position.

As far as money is concerned – I have been chiseled out of a great deal of it over the years (we regarded the “crooked fixer” as an occupational hazard in the old days.) So by contrast, the twin privileges of being consulted and of someone acting in my interests relieve my occasional feelings of isolation and lift the winter blues.

While you are being jet- propelled across the globe between the continents, and concert halls of the world, I spend most mornings at the piano, sometimes taking a walk in the afternoon, to listen to my thoughts and the sounds of the sea, giving thanks for my good fortune.

Close to our house, which stands between the city and the Forth estuary, Edinburgh council have transformed some waste ground into a park and a tranquil landscape of grassland and young trees, with a reed pond for the water birds. Yesterday some gulls and kittiwakes were roosting on the handrail of the bridge, their cries mingling with those of the children going home for tea. These sounds, drifting through the darkening, winter afternoon, were like an echo from pre-history; some universal force of gratitude that brings the need to sing. Loitering there in the park, in the grip of winter, I felt it strongly, and I found myself looking forward to Cardiff in March when I shall be singing “Cwm Rhondda” with forty thousand Welshmen at the Millennium stadium.

“Feed me till I want no more”

Your venture is brave and essential, and forged as it is in brass and nourished with such good fellowship and impertinence, I’m certain it will prevail.

Yours Ever Drac

 

 

CAMERON- CHILCOT -WAR-POLITICS- THE ARTS Extract from ” Ledger Lines”

 

lines_spaces_coverRichard Chenoweth is professor of music at the University of Dayton Ohio, and the

 

pioneer and developer of RRW, the university based movement for the development and involvement of the arts in contemporary social issues.

 

 

 

Dear Richard,

Greetings from Edinburgh!

Our Scottish days are getting shorter now, and the sharp evening breeze carries a few dry leaves and the whisperings of autumn.

Long hot summers disable me somewhat but I slowly find my feet and some appetite for work as the leaves start to fall. This summer has been exceptional, not only for its unusual warmth and dryness, but also for the variety of events that have occurred.

The month of June contained the date of our 40th wedding anniversary, which we celebrated with a visit to the Bolshoi Ballet at Covent Garden, and we went on the next day to Amsterdam for cool canal cruising, art and Indonesian food. A few days after our return to Edinburgh, Kay’s mother was taken ill suddenly and died a few hours later, in the hospital that is just a mile from her house. She was a grand old Edinburgh lady of 94 who had enjoyed a full and healthy life in business and the community and the very large attendance at her funeral certainly reflected that. Shortly after that sad day our daughter Sally announced that she is expecting another baby early next year so the mixture of feelings, emotions and exhaustion was a strange experience indeed.

“For each is a dream that is dying,

Or one that is coming to birth”

Thank you for your kind invitation!

The RRW (Rite, Right, Write) project excites me a great deal. I have visited your marvellous website and my head is already racing with thoughts and ideas. The connection between music and social issues being something, which has been a subject of interior debate for me, for most of my professional life.

I think you know that I learned to play in the brass band at Tower Colliery in South Wales, that practiced in an old engine shed, and that was supported, both by our own contributions and those of the miners, who each donated a penny a week from their wages. I can remember two old colliers in that band who could only read and write English with difficulty, but who could play their instruments with ease, and read the thousands of notes found in brass band transcriptions of Rossini and Verdi. So making music and social struggle were already synonymous to me, and when I finished my musical education at the Royal Academy, which was paid for by a scholarship sponsored by the county of Glamorgan, I found myself, as a very young man, embroiled in the famous battle for the survival of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

In 1965, when I joined the orchestra, it was besieged by its many detractors and malefactors in the Arts Council and the musical establishment, and had been so since the death of its founder Sir Thomas Beecham in 1961. The Royal Philharmonic Society and its allies had decided that the orchestral players should hold no rights to Beecham’s musical legacy and that the orchestra must not continue to perform without its founder at the helm. The players having rejected that proposition and in order to ensure the orchestra’s future, formed themselves into a company of which we were all shareholders, and we were obliged to play, sometimes for months without wages in order to pay the fees of international conductors, which in many cases were extortionate. Very few of them showed the slightest interest in our predicament, and their agents who worked as a sort of European cartel, displayed a similar indifference, while collecting their percentages and expecting prompt payment and first class hotel accommodation for their clients.

These were the difficult circumstances that formed the backdrop to my early life in music.

During the following decade, my father as a member of the National Union of Mineworkers was locked in a bitter struggle with the British Tory government, which was to result in the almost total destruction of the British mining industry, and surrounded by hostile, mainly conservative opinion I played in the London Symphony Orchestra under the guest conductorship of Edward Heath who was a patron of that orchestra and the prime minister of the day. There were bitter social and political divisions in Britain at that time, and my background and experience helped me to accept ideological isolation with resolve.

When I was twelve or so, my music master had given me a recording of  “The Rite of Spring” that shattered the fragile preconceptions of music that I had formed up to that time and prompted me to read Robert Craft’s book on Stravinsky.

I learned that in 1913 when “Le Sacre” was first performed, it had shocked European music to its foundations, punctuating world history as the incidental music for a Europe that was careering towards war: the dance of death, the barbaric sacrifice of feminine beauty and innocence that prefigured three decades of the worst violence and inhumanity the world has ever seen, and saw the birth of the chimera that is modern mechanized warfare.

My Grammar School education and the wonderful teachers I had, several of whom had survived the European conflict, gave me the belief I have held ever since, that after the fields of Flanders, the human disgrace of Auschwitz and the nuclear horror of Hiroshima, our new generation had a right to expect better things from the politicians and world leaders.

When I joined the Royal Philharmonic many of the men I met and played with had served in the forces in the European and the North African wars. There were many Jews also in all the London orchestras, who had suffered unspeakable persecution and deprivation, and I met some who had survived the Nazi death camps.

All these men had survived the conflict, only to enter yet another fight against their own benefactors, for their livelihood and the life of their orchestra.

In our modern war torn and anxiety ridden world, and beset with the worst economic crisis so far, it should be evident that the politicians and economists are still failing us all with depressing and familiar regularity, and it is only politicians or those of such persuasions, that would argue with that fact.

Preoccupied as they are with media management and presentation, as individuals they invariably and conveniently deny responsibility for our economic woes whilst many of them preside over the various ministries of science, technology transport and energy in most cases without holding the slightest qualification to do so. This shameful deception and posturing to the world gallery mirrors the antics of our conductors and critics, many of them millionaires that have never composed a note, nor are able to play an instrument to any accepted standard: posture and commentary being their own all but worthless currency.

Advancing years have brought me a freedom to speak the truth and a greater desire for it. A long life in an orchestra, spent as it is in providing conductors with their “raisons d’etre” inflated fees and adoration from concert- goers, can leave us with the dangerous illusion that listening to ourselves is in some way unwise, or, in the midst of the worst of our neuroses, even unthinkable. This is a similar psychic paralysis to the one that develops in the minds of the general public, enslaved by the economic system, and beset as they are by the continuous stream of unanswered questions, broken promises and half-truths from politicians, that actually persuade people that voting is futile, stifles sensible debate and inhibits sane and balanced thinking.

Can we provide hope to the young musicians in our care by advocating proper conditions of employment as some basis for optimism, not only for the security of their own future, but also for the future of the profession, and its duty to its audience. Their remuneration must be at least sufficient to sustain a new generation of players and commensurate with their value to the community. But how are we to do this when nurses and ancillary staff in our hospitals and other public services are being made to accept cuts in their wages by a government that is privatizing public services in order to provide tax cuts for the rich, whilst aided and abetted by a press owned by billionaires that conspires to confuse the printing of lies and the tapping of people’s telephones with “ press freedom”.

There is much to be done!

The “Great War,” far from being the “war to end all wars,” marked the beginning of a new age of conflict that has continued to the present day, and warmongering and the threatening of invasion are still familiar weapons in the armory of our “leaders” seeking to plunder the resources of other countries or to shore up their counterfeit political reputations as they stand pleading and posturing in their Armani suits amidst the wreckage of the economic system. Are we to be left with a similar cadre of critics and conductors, crying for their past “glories” and denying their responsibilities among the ruins of a profession who can no longer afford to devote their lives to music or to play on a decent instrument. The Royal Philharmonic has survived to this day as an example of what is possible when we return to the inestimable gift that was entrusted to us from childhood. Then music and the human spirit become once more synonymous. In the face of this, the whims and wilful miscalculations of the representatives of bankrupt companies become at once irrelevant.

Financiers and politicians have all but destroyed great orchestras in America in the recent past, while trying to shift the blame on to orchestral players and their “excessive” salaries which are held up to constant public scrutiny, while the huge fees and bonuses of conductors and CEOs are made to represent some certification of their artistic excellence and nobility of purpose. – Like the politicians, most of them are simply the commentators that witness and feed on our decline with the language of market forces, while WE, as performers, teachers and custodians, must FACE the threat of the two contemporary chimera — The great lie that is the media and the awful truth that is the crippled, fraudulent and outdated economic system.

Pontius Pilate, despite his politically typical efforts to avoid responsibility, eventually took one of the most momentous decisions in history, but at least he admitted when confronted with the word “truth” out of the mouth of Christ Himself, to not knowing the meaning of the word. If only our present day politicians could summon such honesty we could perhaps start afresh!

Please don’t confuse my feelings and observations with pessimism.

Nothing is wasted – “Our echoes roll from soul to soul,

And grow for ever and for ever.”

I wish you and your colleagues the best possible fortune in your efforts.

Best wishes.

Terry

SCANDAL AT THE COOP! – BULLINGDON CLUB TO THE RESCUE !!!

lines_spaces_coverIn November 2013 a scandal at the COOP bank revealed that the Rev. Paul Flowers had resigned his post as chairman, and the Prime Minister had called for an independent inquiry into the activities of the bank and its appointment of a chairman who offered no appropriate qualifications for the post.

 

 

The Editor,

The Times

3 Thomas More Square,

London.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sir,

Was the COOP bank unique, in having a person in charge who was technically unqualified for the task with which he was entrusted.

I ask this because I have no experience of banking, other than that of having to deal with inappropriate and hidden charges on my account, the gradual withdrawal of any personal service and the consequent increase in the amount of nuisance telephone calls, all of which leads me to a strong suspicion that a career in banking must demand some facility in fraud and deception.

My own life’s experience has been as a musician, playing mainly in symphony orchestras, and I speak from experience when I say that a great many conductors with whom I shared a concert platform, had never to my knowledge written a note of music, nor could they play an instrument of any kind. There is another parallel here in that most “international” conductors command fees that are the equivalent of more than treble the SUM total of the fees of the people that actually PLAY in a concert.

As George Osborne has so strongly and properly condemned this disgraceful deception at the COOP, will someone tell me in plain language, what qualifications are required for the post of Chancellor of the Exchequer and the stewardship of one of the largest economies in the world. In the absence of a response I will assume that Mr. Osborne’s degree in modern history is considered adequate for the purpose.

Yours Sincerely

Terry Johns ARAM

 

 

 

 

PAOLOZZI’S WINDOWS

lines_spaces_coverSir Eduardo Paolozzi was born in 1924 in Leith, Edinburgh and was imprisoned in Saughton prison when Italy declared war on Britain in 1940. He became Her majesty’s Sculptor in Ordinary for Scotland in 1986.

 

 

Dear Roger,

Thank you!

The “Superbrass” CD had arrived today when we returned from Holland. We played it after dinner, filling the house with a blaze of brass. It sounds even better than I expected, and reaffirms all my thoughts and feelings about British brass playing.

I am following (through the miraculous processes of the internet), your orchestral odyssey through Europe and the Far East and the latest chapters in the life of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. My observations, despite involving only a few clicks of a mouse, leave me exhausted and dumbfounded, but as I follow your itinerary I have to remember that my own life was, at one time, lived at such high velocity and in very similar environs, though I cannot imagine how my mind and body withstood such a test of endurance.

Free now from such duties and disciplines, I indulge myself by writing music (mainly for brass) and I find myself, as I get older, becoming more interested in the patterns of other people’s lives: obituaries being a favorite part of my daily readings. This morning, there was an item on television, about a Frenchman who, having been a prisoner of war in 1940, had escaped and returned immediately to serve in the French resistance. Having reached the age of a hundred he was being honoured appropriately by the French government.

The heroism of such people is remembered mostly through the annals of civil and military history but there are many artists whose wartime trials have received no such official recognition.  Eduardo Paolozzi was one such, who was interned at Saughton prison in Edinburgh in 1940 when Italy declared war on Britain, and while he was a prisoner, his father, his grandfather and his uncle lost their lives when the Arandora Star was sunk, on its voyage to Canada, by a German U boat in the Atlantic.

The Paolozzi family were ice cream makers and owned a fish and chip shop in Leith and in that sense were members of a close community, as were the Italians in Wales as you know, and I can remember my father telling me that the Italians were totally accepted by the people in the valleys and that they were left in peace, by and large, by the Welsh police at the declaration of war, who simply ignored orders and refused to arrest people who were in many cases family friends, or even relatives by marriage. Despite his humble origins and the effects of this enormous family tragedy, Paolozzi became greatly honoured in his lifetime, having been Her Majesty’s Sculptor in Ordinary for Scotland from 1986 until his death in 2005. His work now decorates the walls of Tottenham Court road underground station, the forecourt of Euston Station in London, and the piazza at the British library.

Here in Edinburgh, the Millennium Window in St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Palmerston Place is a truly glittering example of his genius, and his only work in stained glass. It illuminates the south transept from the south wall.

Having taken part in several concerts at St Mary’s in the light of those magnificent windows, it occurred to me on one such occasion, that it would be good to have a specially written piece of music that could be played there in that unique light, and I talked to Alba Brass about it, and began work.

I felt that the sound of brass would be suitably majestic for the subject, and for the acoustics of the building. I thought also, that a solo piano could bring some extra colour and fluidity to the music. Margaret Wakeford will play the solo part, and the concert will take place at 11 am on the 31st of August.

At the end of the concert the cathedral bells will ring to call the congregation to a wedding, the Edinburgh Festival 2013 will be nearly at its end, and the bride and groom will begin their new life together in the light of heaven as seen through the genius of Paolozzi.

“The symmetry acts as counterpoint to the movement of the Creation” Paolozzi wrote about the windows in 1999.

I’ll continue to watch your global peregrinations on the computer in my music room while you are no doubt planning the next ‘Superbrass” recording from a hotel room somewhere.

“Superbrass” is astonishing and simple in concept.

Like Paolozzi’s windows it sheds a different light on things ancient and familiar.

I’ll be in Wales in the New Year for rugby. I know you will be too if you can be.

Yours Ever

Drac

 

SUPERBRASS 2013

 

lines_spaces_coverOn the 26th of March 2013 “Superbrass” started the recording of their CD “Brass Taps” at the Henry Wood Hall in London.

 

The country was struggling to get free from the grip of winter, and our train traveled south from Edinburgh, through mile after mile of snow-covered fields.

 

(Michael Doran is the head of percussion at Trinity College of music.)

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Roger,

 

I’m in Edinburgh again. At last the late March freeze has given way to sunshine and there are spring flowers on the meadows.

 

How good it was to see you, and to be in London again, although I had quite forgotten how to navigate its vastness.

 

On Monday in front of an invited audience, I gave a little interview to Michael Doran at Trinity College in the grand maritime environs of Greenwich, just a few yards from the naval college and the Cutty Sark.

 

It was intended to entertain and prepare the students in part for a life in music, but had extended itself to people who had read “Letters from Lines and Spaces” some of whom are now part of Trinity’s distinguished teaching staff, and were old friends and colleagues that I had not seen since my Royal Philharmonic days.

 

The event seemed to be filled with many such pleasant surprises that continued into the next day when we took the train to the city from Greenwich.

 

As we walked south to Henry Wood hall from London bridge, we were startled by the Shard, leaping suddenly into the brilliant blue sky in the unfamiliar sunshine, and the thrilling sight of it reminded me of days gone by, when discovering new towns and cities was a weekly event for a young man breathless at the beginning of musical life, and green as the Welsh hills.

 

Then in the peaceful symmetry of Trinity Square the rush hour rumblings of Borough high street softened and gave way to the sound of brass that came striding across from the church to meet us, and I could feel the first vibrations of the exhilarating day that was to come.

 

I believe that the technique and versatility of British brass players is something unique in music in the World.

 

The power and energy in what they do transforms everything in its path like a revolution, and insurgence can make strong medicine for composers and players alike.

 

In this familiar company, I always feel safe from my self-protecting inhibitions and the music can breathe easily, free from the authority of conductors, managers and musical moralizing.

 

Thank you and Superbrass and for making it all happen with such care and professionalism. The CD is certain to sound very special. The fabulous sounds rang in my ears for hours afterwards, and my ribs were aching from laughing about old times with old pals.

 

Yours ever

 

Drac

THE DEATH OF MUSIC ! FROM POEMS FROM LINES AND SPACES.

 

Drac-1

 

 THE DEATH OF MUSIC

 

(The March to the scaffold – Berlioz)

 

 

 

Maestro – “ This must be like sinking into hell!”

A smoldering sulphorous effect of sorts fills the room –.

1stst Trumpet –“We’re sunk!

 

A string touched in the silence-

Stirs the malice – The dagger in the eye!

.Pat O’Brian (Desk 4) Smiles comfort – indifference – –  contentment.

 

In the 18th century people used to go to

  Bedlam (not far from here) to stare at the

 Lunatics

 

  

 

 

We watch the clock – The chauffeur kicking the gravel on the drive –.

HE has felt the sting  – The Arcadians and their money

 

Manager –(circling)

 

.(Soon we’ll be free to think and feel – and breathe)

Maestro –

“He is going to die! – In terror – agony!”

 

 

 

1st Trumpet –“He’s lucky!

Maestro –

                         “You sound like the most awful café band.

 

                         Don’t you care what happens to him?”

 

( Dramatic monologue, rehearsed on an airplane methinks, at great expense to us!, and while we wait )

 

 

 

 “For a penny one could peer into their cells, view

The freaks of the ‘show of Bethlehem’ and laugh

  at their antics.”

 

 

 

.Manager –“Maestro, it’s past one o’clock I’m afraid- lunchtime you see”

 

Seething, phosphorescent malice of a lifetime bubbling to the surface –

 

Reek of soup from the cafeteria.

 

Maestro – (Piano -adagio accelerando e crescendo) –

“You are afraid?  –You are not afraid evidently, to sound like circus orchestra or to be laughing stock of Europe – (Poco forte) – only 

 

 

 

 

afraid for  lunch. Fear no more my friends (Fortissimo) You will not see ME again!

“Entry was free on the first Tuesday

 of the month. In 1814 alone, there were 96,000

such visits.”

Pat O’Brian –“I’ll miss our little chats”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                             

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RETURN OF THE JEDI 30TH ANNIVERSARY TODAY ! INDUSTRIAL WRECKAGE !!

lines_spaces_cover

In 1983 the LSO recorded the soundtrack for the “Return of the Jedi” which was the third of the Star Wars films to be made.

 

 

 

Dear Martin,

 

I passed through Newcastle on the train last month while listening to Radio 3. Naturally, I was wondering how you were, when quite coincidentally, a broadcast from Newcastle started, just as the train pulled out of the station, – E.J. Moeran’s music it was, from the Sinfonia centre. Despite the inadequacy of my little Walkman, headphones, and the noise of the train, I really enjoyed it, and the horns sounded great! I always admired his music, It’s just beautiful, and I’ve never played a note of it in all these years.!

 

I was travelling up north on a “Shell-LSO” concert tour, and as part of our family plan to relocate and recalibrate ourselves, I broke off to view a couple of hotels that were for sale, and once or twice, I thought we might get to be neighbours again but I wasn’t moved to make any decisions by what I saw.

 

This is all proving to be more difficult than I imagined it would be, because a lot of the businesses are for sale on account of trading difficulties, and touring the north of England I’ve been shocked at the state of the country and the boarded-up shops and industrial wreckage. It’s obvious to me now that we haven’t felt the impact of the downturn so much in London, even though the LSO did hit another financial crisis, shortly after we opened the Barbican hall and called on Raymond Gubbay to help out.

 

Anyhow, we’re still in business and last week we recorded the sound track for  “Return of the Jedi”, but we had to go to Abbey Road to do it, Denham having being finally closed.

 

I will miss going there. What a film history it had! A draughty old aircraft hangar, where you could break your neck in the dark with all those cables lying about, and Oliver, Fiddler on the roof, Dracula, Star Wars, Superman, Indiana Jones, all recorded there. What an inventory! Not to mention the dramas that were enacted off the screen.

 

Getting the sack from “Battle of Britain” along with Walton and Malcolm Arnold was one such, followed by Gilbey’s gin and bitter recrimination at the village pub.

 

“The Return of the Jedi” was done in the usual congenial atmosphere, and all great fun. Darth Vader was Wagnerially incinerated at the end, accompanied by a horn solo from yours truly, and the great delight of Pat Vermont who always refers to him as “that horrid asthmatic man!”

 

“Oh mercy! Why does the vilest person in the universe have to be black?” he has been pleading since 1977.

 

He told me discreetly, to avoid offending the delicate sensibilities of the trombones, that he always dreaded Darth’s appearance on the screen because it involved more loud trombone music. He’s wearied by sitting in front of them for thirty years I think, but his going back to Jamaica to live with his auntie is scheduled definitely for next year, he says.

 

It did seem strange doing a film session in that studio. I can only associate it with those formal introductions, foreign accents and photographers from the “Gramophone”, but we’re still laughing here as you can tell.

 

I hope you still do lots of laughing in the Sinfonia. Give my love to the family. I wonder, do the children have a Geordie accent? Ours are learning “Saaarf” London.

 

Luv Drac

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