by Anthony Schons


Most of the information about the early history of horn choirs comes from Norman Schweikert. In his publication in The Horn Call , he discusses how the hunting horn tradition, particularly in France and Germany, did not immediately take hold in the United States. The idea of the horn ensemble, mainly quartets at this point, arrived in the United States from Europe in ballets and operas.1 There are many operas and some ballets featuring hunting horn ensembles, with the “Hunting Chorus” from Der Freischutz leading the way. These non-academically affiliated ensembles grew in popularity through numerous performances which lead to the first US horn clubs that centered around the literature for the horn quartet.2 This stabilized for many years and eventually evolved into the first organized horn ensemble of more than four horn players. This ensemble, the Echo Club, was started in New York in 1900 by 44 horn players who were participating in a concert put on by the Aschenbroedel-Verein to raise funds to assist those affected by a hurricane that had damaged Galveston, Texas on September 8th and 9th of that year.3 The Aschenbroedel-Verein served as a sort of musicians union in that day, and the Echo Club was a club for horn players inside of the larger Aschenbroedel club. The next performance, which was reviewed by the Musical Courier, took place on April 28th, 1901 to benefit the Aschenbroedel Vernin sick fund.4 A year later, on May 4th, 1902, the Echo Club performed on another concert that benefited the clubs sick fund.5 This concert was again reviewed positively by the Musical Courier. The last public concert, known to the author, happened on March 8, 1909. The New York Times wrote that “...The twenty- four members of the New York Echo Club played a Beethoven hymn and Schantl's 'Hunters Drinking Song'...”6 The final mention of the club, as believed by Schweikert, was in an obituary in 1921 about an Echo Club member funeral where a “double horn quartet” performed Koschat's “Verlassen”.7

In research that relates to the modern American development of horn choirs, the material now shifts to Eldon Matlick, Max Pottag, and Paul Mansur. Matlick, Pottag, and Mansur discuss in several articles the history of Wendell Hoss and Max Pottag, two German hornists, and how nearly 50 years after the Echo Club was founded and vanished, they played a large role in the revival of horn ensemble music that extended beyond the horn quartet. Max Pottag became a faculty member at Northwestern University, and decided to produce a program of music for a horn choir with his horn studio. The concert to place on April 14, 1947.8 The ensemble, which became a permanent part of the music program at Northwestern, was mostly made up of his students. Pottag did, however, invite a few community players to take part in the ensemble.9 Pottag later conducted a horn choir of 90 members at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic in the late 1950's, which many in attendance felt “stole the show” and established a recognition of the horn choir’s role as a unique and versatile ensemble in the musical community.10 The horn choir, under the direction of Max Pottag, made three more appearances at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic after this.11 The new recognition for this type of ensemble lead to the development of horn clubs and other horn ensembles in various regions of the country, making the ensembles educational and musical value evident. In 1951, 36 professional horn players, organized by Wendell Hoss and James Decker, assembled a horn choir concert similar to the one at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic which lead to the foundation of the Los Angeles Horn Club.12 The concert included Max Pottag as a guest conductor.13

The members of this horn club consisted of professional hornists that, due to having contracts with the various film, radio, and recording studios, were prohibited from performing in other studios.14 The Los Angeles Horn Club gave these musicians the legal opportunity to perform outside of the studios with the other professional hornists and present regular concerts.15 Many film composers used this horn ensemble to experiment with different sounds and textures in original compositions for the ensemble.16 The Los Angeles Horn Club, in turn, guaranteed that each work would have at least one performance.17 The Los Angeles Horn Club was also the first horn choir to professionally create two albums of horn ensemble music in 1960 and 1970.18

The Los Angeles Horn Club published many of the compositions that were written for it, making the literature accessible for other horn players which assisted in the creation of new horn ensembles across the nation.19 The strict contracts ended in 1959 and the musicians union ended the quota laws. As a result, the hornists of the Los Angeles Horn Club became too busy to continue because of their many obligations and the ensemble is no longer active.20 Two other major horn clubs, the Buffalo Horn Club and the Baltimore Horn Club, began around the mid-1950's. Lowell Shaw organized the Buffalo Horn Club from college students, area professionals, and high school students.21 He later created a publishing company: The Hornists Nest, to keep up with the demand for his horn ensemble arrangements.22 The Baltimore Horn Club was organized by Leigh Martinet and was made up of musicians from the Baltimore Symphony and local free-lance players.23 Because of the lack of pieces written for horn choir during this time, Martinet arranged new material for the ensemble.24 Some of these arrangements were published by Lowell Shaw and the other arrangements were published through the publishing house Martinet created: The Baltimore Horn Club.25

A more recent large advancement of horn choirs in the United States was the introduction of the yearly horn workshops, which started in 1969 in Tallahassee FL.26 The International Horn Society was founded at the second international workshop a year later in Tallahassee.27 Horn choirs are now traditionally a part of the International Horn Symposiums, which draw a large number of attendees. In many areas of the country, they have become a part of university music programs composed primarily of students. The spread of horn choirs throughout the United States has allowed for more original pieces to be composed for the ensemble, as well as new transcriptions and arrangements on the professional and amateur level.

The instrumentation of the horn choir is also diversifying as more music becomes available. A modern example of this is the final concert at the 41st International Horn Symposium where Wagner tubas were used on several pieces. Other examples of this include the University of Northern Iowa Horn Choir while it was under the direction of Dr. Thomas Tritle. He would frequently include other instruments for color, like a tambourine on a Renaissance piece or the university West African Drum Ensemble for pieces from Africa.28 Tubas and Euphoniums are also becoming more common in horn ensembles. This is because of the low, conical sound they add, as well as the ability to perform the low parts that many horn students, especially at the undergraduate level, have difficultly playing.

 

Anthony Schons is currently studying at Florida Gulf Coast University, earning a Bachelors Degree in Music Education, as well as Horn Performance. He is currently studying under Kirsten Bendixen-Mahoney.

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1. Norman Schweikert, “A History of the Organized Horn Ensemble in the United States,” The Horn Call, (Volume XVI, Issue:1, 1985): 20-32

2. Ibid

3. Norman Schweikert, “A History of the Organized Horn Ensemble in the United States,” The Horn Call, (Volume XVI, Issue:1, 1985): 20-32; “Concert for Flood Victims, The Aschenbroedel Verein Benefit at the Garden” New York Times, October 1, 1900

4. Norman Schweikert, “A History of the Organized Horn Ensemble in the United States,” The Horn Call, (Volume XVI, Issue:1, 1985): 20-32

5. Ibid

6. “Concert by Mammoth Band” New York Times, March 8, 1909

7. Norman Schweikert, “A History of the Organized Horn Ensemble in the United States,” The Horn Call, (Volume XVI, Issue:1, 1985): 20-32

8. Max Pottag, “Reflections on the History of the French Horn Ensemble,” The Instrumentalist, (Vol. XIII, Issue: 11, 1959): 36;Paul Mansur, “Horn-Ensembles In Den USA,” Osterreichische Musikzeitschrift, (38, No.9): 500

9. Eldon Matlick, “The Horn Ensemble Tradition,” The Instrumentalist, (Vol. 54, Issue: 4, 1999): 44-54

 

10. Max Pottag, “Reflections on the History of the French Horn Ensemble,” The Instrumentalist, (Vol. XIII, Issue: 11, 1959): 36;Eldon Matlick, “The Horn Ensemble Tradition,” The Instrumentalist, (Vol. 54, Issue: 4, 1999): 44-54

11. Max Pottag, “Reflections on the History of the French Horn Ensemble,” The Instrumentalist, (Vol. XIII, Issue: 11, 1959): 36

12. Max Pottag, “Reflections on the History of the French Horn Ensemble,” The Instrumentalist, (Vol. XIII, Issue: 11, 1959): 36;Eldon Matlick, “The Horn Ensemble Tradition,” The Instrumentalist, (Vol. 54, Issue: 4, 1999): 44-54

13.Eldon Matlick, “The Horn Ensemble Tradition,” The Instrumentalist, (Vol. 54, Issue: 4, 1999): 44-54

14. Eldon Matlick, “The Horn Ensemble Tradition,” The Instrumentalist, (Vol. 54, Issue: 4, 1999): 44-54;Paul Mansur, “Horn-Ensembles In Den USA,” Osterreichische Musikzeitschrift, (38, No.9): 500

15. Ibid

16. Eldon Matlick, “The Horn Ensemble Tradition,” The Instrumentalist, (Vol. 54, Issue: 4, 1999): 44-54

17. Ibid

18. Ibid

19. Eldon Matlick, “The Horn Ensemble Tradition,” The Instrumentalist, (Vol. 54, Issue: 4, 1999): 44-54;Paul Mansur, “Horn-Ensembles In Den USA,” Osterreichische Musikzeitschrift, (38, No.9): 500

20. Paul Mansur, “Horn-Ensembles In Den USA,” Osterreichische Musikzeitschrift, (38, No.9): 500

21. Eldon Matlick, “The Horn Ensemble Tradition,” The Instrumentalist, (Vol. 54, Issue: 4, 1999): 44-54

22. Ibid

23. Ibid

24. Ibid

25. Ibid

26. International Horn Society, “About the his,” International Horn Society, http://www.hornsociety.org/about-the-ihs;Paul Mansur, “Horn-Ensembles In Den USA,” Osterreichische Musikzeitschrift, (38, No.9): 500

27. Ibid

28. Dr. Tritle, Interview by Anthony M. Schons, Iowa, July 31, 2007

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