by members of the Queensland Symphony Horns and the American Horn Quartet
Geoffrey Winter: The last AHQ CD production was one I approached with both excitement and sadness. After 30 years of playing chamber music with some of the most talented musicians I have ever had the privilege of working with, I knew that this Christmas CD would be our last project together. At the same time I was excited to have the chance to work with other talented hornists. In the previous 5 years I had several opportunities to work with many members of the QSO horn section, so I knew the production would be a treat. I wasn't disappointed! Some of my favorite recollections include hearing both Lauren and Viv, along with Charlie of course, playing low horn licks that made my jaw drop. And Charlie showed a gifted talent as a percussionist. And I will also never forget the bone-shaking experience of hearing a didgeridoo up close and personal - I had no idea just how loud and mesmerising it would be! Bravo to Harry Wilson! And also to Pete, Malcolm, Lauren, Viv and Ian, who all played an essential role in making this last AHQ CD come to life. It was a fitting epilogue to the career of the AHQ.
Vivienne Collier-Vickers: There are some events in your life that you know you will remember. But not for the reasons you might think. The AHQ have worked together for decades carving out a career as a spectacularly successful horn quartet, touring the world and making recordings that sell to quite a niche market. The QSO horns, while we enjoy playing as a section both professionally and personally, would never have expected to be a part of such a unique experience as recording, not only a CD with the AHQ but a Christmas one at that! For the AHQ, it was a commemorative CD as it was the last they would do as a group; nevertheless, they showed their experience and expertise throughout the sessions of recording the wonderful music compiled for the CD. To them it all seemed like it was ‘all in a days work’.
From my own perspective, I have to remind myself that not only did we have the honour of playing with the famed AHQ, but the QSO horns now have a tangible memento of what we as musicians strive to achieve everyday as we attach ourselves to this shiny, large, beguiling and noble instrument known as the horn. We derive pleasure, frustration, fulfilment, and hopefully a little money by our lips vibrating through a brass tube to produce a sound that can envelop your soul. Playing music on a recording may not sound out of the ordinary…however, playing wondrous Christmas music for 9 horns…now that’s remarkable.
Charles Putnam: The opportunity to collaborate with the Queensland Symphony Horns for our Christmas album project was exciting for the AHQ. Ever since the legacy of soloist Barry Tuckwell and excellent teaching and mentoring from others within the country, Australia has produced generations of world class horn players. In fact, Australia produces so many excellent horn players that you will find them in orchestras world wide. Personally, I have worked with many Australian horn players over my career and have always been impressed by the consistency and dedication to quality, hard work, perseverance and excellence. In spite of this inner drive, they remain humble and personable.
Working with the Queensland Symphony Horn section was very easy and satisfying. Rarely did we have to discuss or work out intonation problems, balance, or other ensemble issues. Things just fell into place so that more time was left for musical interpretation. Since rehearsal and recording time is always limited in these types of projects, having the luxury of working with such fine musicians was, in the Christmas sense, joyous.
Thank you to Peter, Malcolm, Lauren, Ian, Vivian as well as the Queensland Conservatory in helping with this project. Thank you also to Kerry Turner for the wonderful compositions as well as Kristina and Geoffrey of the AHQ for lasting memories of a Christmas down under.
Ian O’Brien: After years of listening to the AHQ and marvelling at their skill, music, and musicianship, I was thrilled to hear they were visiting little old Brisbane to perform Kerry’s ‘Bronze Triptych’ with the QSO Horns and some Conservatorium students in 2012….Fast-forward to one of my all-time career highlights playing the Triptych again in London along with AHQ and the Budapest Festival Horn Quartet conducted by Peter Luff (our very own horn guru in residence) to close the 2014 IHS Symposium. It was during the Symposium that the idea of the AHQ coming out to visit Brisbane to record an album of Christmas music started to take shape. This ultimately led to a glorious week of challenging repertoire, high-pressure takes and lots of fun & laughs, completely in the spirit of a Christmas album. We recorded at the Queensland Conservatorium’s beautiful recital hall - easily the best acoustic in these parts – with the highly experienced and talented recording engineers Paul Carasco and Pasquale Simonetti. Although exhausting, I’d say this was one of the most rewarding weeks of playing I’ve experienced – only slightly marred by having to return to the orchestra to play Sleeping Beauty at the end of most days! To top it off I had the absolute pleasure of working through the week’s takes in the subsequent months, directing Paul and Pasquale in the editing process and seeing the project through to completion from the Aussie end.
Kerry Turner: I had been constructing the repertoire for this CD for a very long time. When the others began to get involved with their suggestion of pieces, the creative process really took off. I think that, for me, the most impressive thing about the collaboration with the Queensland Symphony Horns was our seemingly identical interpretation of phrasing and style. There was never very much discussion about this during the rehearsals and recording sessions, even though I was really listening for it to be sure that we had an absolutely unified interpretation. It was dead simple. Without a doubt, however, the highlight for me was the second movement of my Symphony of Carols. We placed the QSO Horns in the hall about 15 meters away in order to achieve the distant echo-like chorals of the antiphonal quartet. The effect was stunning. I was fighting back the tears when we listened back after the first take! I also remember being jet lagged out of my gourd during our time there. All in all, it was a joy to work with my fellow AHQ colleagues and with the wonderful QSO Horns.
Lauren Manuel: I really enjoyed the hours of work, rehearsals and practice (including having to play ballet at the same time) that went into recording the CD. Never have my chops felt so powerful! It made the final take and the champagne afterwards taste all the more sweet. We have so much fun in our section of 5, so adding the AHQ just doubled (nearly) the amount of laughter, jokes and camaraderie. Lasting impressions left were Charlie on the whip and getting down and dirty playing the Grinch.
Kristina Mascher-Turner: Back in August, 2015 at the IHS Symposium in Los Angeles, the AHQ played our final live concert. It was the knowledge that we had this last CD recording project with the QSO Horns still to come that kept me in one piece during that performance. We had collaborated with the QSO Horns a few times over the years and knew that they would be a tight match for our style and concept of playing. One fun memory from the recording sessions was faking alphorns at the beginning of the 3rd movement of Kerry’s Symphony of Carols. Have you ever tried getting a hold of four alphorns on short notice…16,000 km from the Alps? We had the idea of removing our bells, going to the back of the hall behind the entrance doors, and playing with an airy sound. I think we pulled it off! Also, the Australian touch of Emma Gregan’s brilliant arrangement of “The Three Drovers” and a virtuoso moment of didgeridoo playing at the beginning of “Symphony of Carols” gave the album a flavour it never would have found without the particular chemistry with the QSO Horns - we are truly kindred musical spirits.