The Artistry of Lowell Greer

by Richard Seraphinoff

The horn world was saddened to hear of the passing of Lowell Greer on January 5th of this year. Lowell had a stellar career as a performer on both modern horn and natural horn, and he was known as a pioneer in natural horn performance, horn making, and scholarship. This tribute for corno y más will focus on Lowell the mentor and teacher whom many of us in Detroit got to know in the 1970s. For a longer tribute in the May issue of The Horn Call, I’ll write about Lowell as those of us who worked with him in later years knew him and enjoyed both his artistry and personality.

I first met Lowell when I was in high school and needed to find a private horn teacher. At that time, in the mid-1970s, Lowell was assistant principal horn of the Detroit symphony, and he taught a small number of students, a few of whom went on to become professional horn players, including Rob Danforth, R.J. Kelley, and myself. The three of us were members of the Detroit Youth Symphony horn section, and Lowell was our coach. Studying with Lowell was much more than just having a horn lesson each week. It often involved recitals of Lowell and his students and the parties afterwards, for which Lowell would cook elaborate meals—with plenty of Dr. Pepper. It was like an extended family, with Christmas parties at which we exchanged presents, and sessions playing quartets and chamber music throughout the year. I still have, and use, a few horn making tools that Lowell gave me for Christmas as far back as 1974.

It was at this point that Lowell started to learn about the natural horn, and of course, he had to share his exploration with his students. At lessons, after playing a Kopprasch etude, Lowell would say “Fine! Now play it again on this horn.” Then he would hand you a natural horn made from a single F horn with its valves removed. The result was that we became proficient on both instruments early on in our studies with him. We didn’t think of the valved horn as the ‘normal horn’ and the natural horn as some exotic and difficult way to play the same music. They were two different but equally legitimate ways of playing the horn, and that’s how Lowell thought of them. I played second horn to Lowell for two seasons in the Toledo Symphony, and when playing his Alexander 107 B flat/high F horn (his regular instrument), I heard totally high-tech, clean, precise modern horn playing of the highest level; and when playing with him on natural horn, it was the same remarkable musicianship and the same distinctive musical personality, but done on an authentic low-tech horn in an authentic, well-researched way.

As we, his students, became more excited about learning the natural horn, the logical result, and the very “Lowell” thing to do, was to organize an ensemble of natural horns known as the Detroit Waldhorn Society (I still have one or two of the T-shirts). This group, which included his students and a couple of Detroit professional horn players, presented concerts around the Detroit area, and we even went as far as the Interlochen Arts Academy, where Lowell was the horn teacher, to introduce audiences to the natural horn. As Lowell searched out method books and 18th y 9th century sources and studied them, we all learned more and more about how the natural horn was actually played. This became the basis for much period instrument playing over the next nearly fifty years. Though there were other people playing natural horn in the USA at that time (and even earlier), what Lowell developed and taught became the basis of what might be called the ‘American school’ of natural horn playing. This became clear to me at the Naturhorn Festival which took place in Essen, Germany in 1993. Also in attendance were representatives of the German school of natural horn players, led by Hermann Baumann, and the English school, of which Tony Halstead was one of the founding players and teachers. French-speaking players such as Francis Orval and Michel Garcin-Marrou represented a French school, and Lowell was the mentor and master of our American school. Hearing the players from different countries at this festival impressed upon me that, already at this relatively early date, distinct national schools of natural horn playing had developed. Lowell’s clean, singing way of playing the instrument—as can be heard on his Mozart concerto recording with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, and on his superb Brahms trio recording with violinist Stephanie Chase and pianist Steven Lubin—set the stage for how we all approached the natural horn in the United States. (Listen also to his assertive, noble playing in Va tacito from Handel’s Julius Caesar.)

My own introduction to horn making took place one evening in about 1974 when I brought an old flea-market horn to my lesson. At around 8 p.m., after my lesson, we descended into Lowell’s basement; at about 3:30 a.m., we came up the stairs again with my first natural horn—which I got to try out in a concert soon after in which Lowell and I played Handel’s Musica de agua with the Ars Musica Baroque Orchestra in Ann Arbor Michigan, one of the earliest period instrument orchestras in North America. We eventually played Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto no. 1 and many other works with this group as I followed along learning natural horn technique, performance practice, and horn making from Lowell.

I often wondered what drew Lowell to the natural horn. Was it the challenge of making nice music on an instrument that was more difficult to play? Was it the curiosity to understand how the music sounded to the composers and audiences of the time? Or was it an academic exercise of detective work to go back to the sources and figure out the horn technique of the distant past?

I was in Toledo this past week helping to catalog Lowell’s many instruments (and pieces of instruments), as well as his books and music, and his widow Patricia asked me, “What was it that made Lowell’s playing so distinctive and special?” It occurred to me, as I tried to give her an answer, that what made Lowell’s playing so special was a wide variety of colors that struck the ear like a human voice. I should preface this next statement by saying that I, like Lowell, am a total fan of the modern horn and think it’s one of the greatest instruments ever invented; but I believe that one of the qualities that intrigued Lowell about the natural horn is the subtle unevenness of colors and the vulnerability of its voice. The natural horn can be played with overly-closed stopped notes that can give it an ugly character, or it can be played, as the old treatises tell us, with only the most subtle differences between open and stopped notes, putting more musical tension on the closed notes, which are typically the non-harmonic tones in a melody. To instill emotion in the listener, those uneven colors, when skillfully managed, emulate the vowels and consonants as well as the emotional content that a singer or speaker can convey. This, I believe is the key to the magic of the wide palette of colors and emotions Lowell achieved in his playing—as one can hear in the third movement of the Brahms trio recording. This very organic way of expressing music on the horn, with its risks and with the imperfections we humans show when expressing ourselves, is what drew Lowell to the natural horn and made his playing draw us into the stories that he had to tell.

The HOW-TOO

by Patrick Hughes

p hughes190The “how-too” is an exercise first presented to me when I was studying horn with Doug Hill. It’s one of the regular high-range exercises I share with my students at the University of Texas at Austin. This exercise teaches a specific body rhythm when starting pitches in the upper range. Often, we start high pitches with a three-count approach (1=inhale; 2=close the throat and set tension in the lips; and 3=explode on the note). The “how-too” exercise eliminates count 2 where we tend to close our throats and overset our embouchures, basically creating tension before the note. So, the body rhythm is now a two-count approach: 1=inhale—letting go of tension in the upper body by inhaling “how” (this opens the back of the throat); and 2=the start of the note (or “too”).

The “how” releases any tension held in the upper body—it’s very “chill.” Conversely, the “too” is assertive and quick, and it happens at the moment our throat is most open, when we’re at the bottom of the breath. During the “how” inhalation, a deep breath really isn’t necessary, think of it more as a body relaxation rather than a taking-in of air—you’re only going to play one quick note, so you don’t need much air. Also, keep the mouthpiece “at bay” while inhaling/relaxing (“how”) and bring your lips to the mouthpiece as you say “how” (notice how your lips come forward when you shape the “w”). The “too” is a quick note with an open end at a comfortable dynamic. Be assertive with your “too.” Don’t hesitate! Articulate “too” before you think you’re ready to play a note. Most students find it easier to get the rhythm of the “how-too” by counting or setting a metronome to 4/4: inhale/relax the “how” on beat 4 and say “too” on beat 1. Be sure that your “how” lasts for the entire beat 4, and the “w” of how meets the “t” of “too” (as if you’re saying “howt—oo”). There should be no tension or stopping of the inhalation before the “too.” Follow through.

Pick a pitch higher than third space C and play five of the same pitch in a row with an intense focus on the approach (body rhythm) to the note rather than the note itself. Pull the mouthpiece away after each note, allowing the blood to flow back to the aperture, and so you can mentally reset to start the next one. Accuracy is not the point of this exercise—aim for a pitch but follow through and play whatever note comes out; don’t correct the pitch—let it be. Don’t judge! If the wrong pitch comes out, think, “Ah, very interesting! I think I’ll try that again!” Remember, the point of this exercise is learning a different and more relaxed body rhythm.

Start on a different pitch every day and ascend by half step through five pitches. Try for five good attacks in a row on any given pitch, but there is no need to practice more than ten. You’ve still rehearsed several great approaches regardless of hitting the desired pitch!

Special tips and reminders for the How-Too:

  • Never correct. Just “how-too” and let the note be whatever pitch it is, whatever dynamic it is. Imagine the correct pitch before your play. If you get the pitch, add to your list of duties acquiring the muscle memory of getting back to that same pitch the next time.
  • Don’t be in a hurry. You could hyperventilate if you go too fast. A relaxed approach is the key. Also, it won’t tire you out if you give your lips more off-time than on-time with this exercise.
  • This is a great exercise in any range. This may also be effective in eliminating hesitation/stutter issues.

Tips on doing any high horn exercise:

  • Practicing high range exercises with relaxation and effortlessness should be your focus!
  • Work on all aspects of playing high:
    • moving into the high register with less tension;
    • starting in the high register with less tension;
    • slurring about in the high register with very little noticeable facial movement;
    • fast, relaxed articulations in the high register.
    Work on each of these areas separately, starting in a range that you can handle and have some success. Spend 5-10 minutes on them, or however long you can manage.
  • Don’t force the issue. For most of us, it’s not that we’re trying to develop stronger chops to reach the upper register. Instead, tension in the face, aperture, neck, and shoulders are in the way of letting the air do more of the work; any tension we create above the lungs is inhibiting airflow which causes more tension, which inhibits more airflow, etc.. So, go up there, do some work on playing in the upper register while maintaining control of extra tension in your body (or think of displacing tension lower, away from your head, neck, and chest) throughout the exercises, and stop while you’re having reasonable success. Then move on to something else in your practice—something different.
  • Keep your right hand tight or compressed in the bell when playing in the high register; this helps to center the partials better.
  • Pelvic floor breathing works GREAT in the high register, but we should be breathing down (es decir,., throwing our tension down) to that muscle all the time!
  • It’s not necessary to do every high range exercise every day. Put them on a rotation during your weekly practice regimen. Don’t play them all in a row. Don’t expect that you’ll have more success with these exercises at the beginning, middle, or end of a practice session. We should be able to play high, low, soft, loud, at any time, as long as we’re sufficiently warmed up.

The Horn in Egypt

by Amr Abulnaga

abulnagaThere are two orchestras in Cairo, Egypt’s capital city: the Cairo Symphony Orchestra, and the Cairo Opera Orchestra, both of which provide full time positions with ten-month annual engagements. There is also a semi-professional orchestra in Alexandria on the north coast, the Alexandria Bibliotheca Orchestra, which performs once a month during their season. 

Since I returned to Egypt in 2008, I have performed a few solo recitals. I also established the Cairo Horn Quartet and the Cairo Brass Quintet. These groups, regrettably, only lasted until 2017. Beyond these, there is normally little else in the way of regular featured horn performances or chamber music. 

I have recently established the Mosaic quintet, a unique combination of musicians specializing in both Arabic and Western classical music. Besides myself, Hany Al-Badry performs on no (o ney, a traditional end-blown flute), Mohamed Essam on piano, Ahmad Osman on double bass, and Hisham Kamal on percussion. Mosaic’s instrumental line-up recalls jazz combos in which one or more solo instruments (here, horn and nay) become the protagonists of the show, accompanied by a rhythm section. But in Mosaic, the horn adds a Western classical flavor while the nay provides the color of traditional Arabic music. The result is of interest to a large segment of the Egyptian audience which enjoys Western harmonies and Arabic melodies alike. The Western ear is not accustomed to the Arabic maqamat [musical modes], but the dialogue created between the horn and the nay appeals to those listeners’ tastes, as well. My colleagues and I share the same passion and the same inspiration, believing that we can present something new and “outside the box.” Mosaic’s concerts have been very successful, and this has encouraged us to continue our work and to think more deeply about realizing our mission.

We have three faculty members at the Cairo Conservatoire including myself and two senior faculty members, Khalaf Farag and Maha EL-Ghandour. Farag studied under Georges Barboteu in France in the 1980’s, and EL-Ghandour received her education in Cairo. 

Generally, the horn is a less appealing instrument for Egyptian students because it is more expensive than trumpets or trombones. Additionally, music classes are not offered in the K-12 school system; the only place to learn the horn is to be admitted to the Cairo Conservatoire where we normally accept 4 to 6 students annually. Such small numbers are insufficient for establishing a strong foundation on which to develop players of the highest caliber. Another difficulty is the funding needed to obtain instruments so that performers and teachers can establish a community and events through which our future players can grow and flourish.

From the 1940’s to the 1970’s, Egypt had fine hornists, most of whom were foreign players hired from Europe. Today, while our numbers are still small, there are enough local players who are strong enough to fill the sections of the two orchestras in Cairo.


Amr Abulnaga

Dr. Abulnaga received his Bachelor of Music degree from the Cairo Conservatoire, a Master of Music degree from the University of Southern Mississippi, and his DMA from the University of Alabama in 2007. He has been a member of several orchestras both in Egypt and across the southern United States, and he has appeared as a soloist with many of these orchestras. He has performed as soloist on the recordings of Mozart’s Symphonie Concertante with the Orchestre Pour La Paix, and St. Säens’ Romance with the Alexandria Bibliotheca Chamber Orchestra.

Dr. Abulnaga is the former principal horn with the Cairo Symphony Orchestra. He currently serves as the horn professor in the Cairo Conservatoire, and he is also a member of the faculty of The American University in Cairo where he teaches introduction to music, world music, and music fundamentals courses. 

Greeting - Horn and More, February 2022

radegundis 190Estou muito feliz em escrever para vocês e compartilhar boas notícias: O conselho da IHS aprovou em dezembro uma nova Visão, Missão e Valores da nossa associação.

misión: Conectar artistas de todas as idades e contextos de todo o mundo e promover a performance, educação e parcerias através de eventos, publicações, prêmios e novas composições.

Visión: Uma comunidade mundial de trompistas vibrante e conectada.

Nuestros valores:

  • Comunidad
  • Respeto
  • Diversidad
  • Inclusión
  • equidad
  • Colaboración

Isso é muito importante pois nos oferece uma base clara para planejar e trabalhar pelos nossos membros e pelo futuro da IHS.

Vivemos em tempos de mudança em relação a vários aspectos ao redor do mundo. Com os nossos valores, tentamos apresentar como queremos seguir em frente em relação a como conectamos e nos importamos com a nossa comunidade.

Trabalhando juntos, podemos fazer muito pela arte e pelo mundo da trompa. É essencial que trabalhemos para contemplar diferentes culturas e pessoas (assim como suas respectivas particularidades) buscando ajudar aqueles que querem tocar, aprender, ensinar, pesquisar, compor, realizar eventos ou qualquer outra ação relacionada à trompa, o que no geral, faz com que se tornem parte da nossa comunidade. E tudo isso deve ser feito com respeito ao próximo.

Preconceito, assédio, intimidación, intolerância e discriminação, por exemplo, acontecem no nosso mundo e é fundamental, na minha opinião, que trabalhemos no que pudermos para evitar que algo assim aconteça no nosso ambiente de trabalho e nas ações idealizadas pela IHS. Portanto, com essa nova Visão, Missão e Valores, acredito que temos inspiração e um norte claro para seguir liderando nossa Associação.

No último mês, como devem ter ouvido, perdemos dois trompistas muito representativos e que influenciaram muitas pessoas ao redor do mundo – Lowell Greer e Dale Clevenger. Meus sentimentos às famílias e amigos e desejo força nesse momento difícil. Teremos artigos específicos em memória deles nesta edição do corno y más e na edição de maio da Llamada de bocina.

Meu colega professor de trompa na UFRN, Adalto Soares, estudou com o Lowell por alguns meses. Algo que me chamou a atenção nos comentários de Adalto, sempre positivos, foi quando ele mencionou que Lowell ensinou a ele a partir de suas boas ações no dia a dia muitos aspectos importantes da vida para além de tocar trompa, destacando o quanto esses ensinamentos foram importantes para ele (Adalto). Acredito que é muito importante oferecer esse tipo de aprendizado quando passamos a ser parte da educação de alguém.

Sobre o Dale, cresci escutando várias de suas gravações, especialmente com a Chicago Symphony, que tiveram uma grande influência em mim. Me lembro de uma gravação da terceira sinfonia de Mahler, que costumava escutar em um volume alto com o meu pai no carro dele. Era muito legal e inspirador!!

Com essas boas memórias, apresento a vocês esta boletín de noticias. Além dos artigos sobre o Lowell e o Dale, temos o artigo “Meu desafio de dez anos”, de Gary Kuo, “Horn happening” no Cairo (Egito) e em Manila (Filipinas), novidades da américa latina e a coluna de pedagogia com o Patrick Hughes neste mês.

Gostaria de lembrá-los que o livro “The International Horn Society: Los primeros 50 años” continua disponível no link https://www.hornsociety.org/257-uncategorised/1665-the-international-horn-society-the-first-50-years e espero vê-los no IHS54, em Kingsville – Texas, do dia 1 a 6 de agosto! Mais informações disponíveis no link https://ihs54.com/.

Abrazos,

Radegundis

América Latina em duas novas vozes

Por Gabriela Ibarra

Olá a todos da nossa maravilhosa e única comunidade de trompistas!

Da América -latina, tenho o prazer de apresentar a vocês dois novos projetos que nasceram durante estes últimos tempos de pandemia:, E POR QUE NÃO! e o Octeto Feminino Brasileiro, ambas as ideias têm mantido uma motivação constante para produzir conteúdos audiovisuais inovadores e com características muito bem definidas.
Graças aos seus criadores, pude obter em primeira mão uma contagem do nascimento, formação , participantes, lançamentos e status atual.

Verónica Guardia: ¿¡Y POR QUÉ NO!?
“É um projeto que nasceu do interesse de demonstrar a trompa em um palco completamente oposto e alheio à música clássica. YPQN é um projeto que nasceu de Daniel Zárate na minha pessoa, (Vero la Cornista) promovendo os estilos latino-americanos que temos em nossa música, como uma nova linguagem para a trompa. Normalmente a trompa francesa é catalogada como um instrumento sinfônico, mas há já algum tempo, pela mão de grandes trompistas, este instrumento começa a fazer parte de casts de jazz, salsa, merengue, reggaeton, entre outros.
A ideia deste projeto é continuar promovendo novos artistas emergentes que estão envolvidos nesses estilos musicais. Sem descurar os nossos grandes expoentes.

Em 2021, tivemos três versões, com a presença de grandes mestres de diversos países da América Latina, como Nuez Orquestra do Chile, Emilio Galvez do Chile, Claudio Bande da Argentina, Arturo Ortiz do México, Víctor Prado do Brasil, Melany León do Equador, Diego Parra da Colômbia e a coctelera del indio da Espanha... Encerramos também com um especial, com a presença de grandes trompistas do mundo da música popular como Joshua Pantoja, Giovanni Hoffer, Pau Moltó, Dante Yenque.

Para este ano de 2022 estamos programando as novas temporadas, com novos temas e novos convidados. Você não pode perdê-los!!
Não se esqueça de se inscrever no canal do YouTube YPQN FRENCH HORN e nos seguir em nosso Instagram para fazer parte de nossas interações semanais
@y_porque_no_frenchhorn”

Paula Guimarães: Octeto Feminino do Brasil
“O OFB - Octeto Feminino do Brasil - surgiu como uma tentativa de reunir mulheres trompistas brasileiras de diversos estados para trocarmos experiências e tocarmos em uma formação que ainda não é muito explorada no país. Inicialmente, nos reuniríamos no encontro da ATB - Associação de Trompistas do Brasil - em 2020, porém os planos mudaram completamente por causa da pandemia. Então, eu decidi entrar em contato com as trompistas que eu sabia que iriam aceitar começar o projeto mesmo que de forma totalmente online e marcamos uma reunião para colocar em prática a realização desse grande sonho. Ao lançarmos nossos primeiros vídeos, a comunidade brasileira de trompistas apoiou totalmente a ideia, nos incentivando a continuar e contribuindo com partituras, sugestões e parcerias. As mulheres e meninas trompistas brasileiras, para quem especialmente dedicamos nossos vídeos, automaticamente abraçaram a ideia e começaram a se enxergar através desse trabalho, o que certamente nos motiva a continuar todos os dias. Houve dois destaques no ano de 2021. Primeiro, conseguimos realizar o projeto Série Mozart, onde gravamos um arranjo para quarteto e solista convidada de um movimento de cada concerto de Mozart para trompa. Depois, para o encerramento do ano, lançamos em dezembro um vídeo muito especial da canção Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen), muito conhecida no mundo inteiro, que contou com a participação de muitos convidados, tendo um total de 31 músicos. Esperamos muito em breve poder nos reunir pessoalmente pela primeira vez e estamos ansiosas pelo caminho que ainda iremos trilhar!”

Para curtir o último vídeo e se juntar ao canal do Youtube dele, siga o link abaixo:
https://youtu.be/tMxXEzNsCo0

Como membro desta comunidade, é maravilhoso ver como a América Latina está se envolvendo cada vez mais com todos os tipos de atividades da Sociedade Internacional de Trompistas e mais uma vez: todos são bem-vindos!

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