Horn Playing in the Time of the Pandemic
The Bamberg Symphony Orchestra’s aerosols study of wind players and the impact on returning to the concert stage
By Christoph Ess
I had just gotten started on a tour of six concerts in southern Germany with my quartet, German Hornsound, in early March, when a wave of cancellations hit all public events and led rather quickly to a complete lockdown. The reason for this was, of course, the mutation of the already recognized SARS-CoV-2 virus, probably triggered in China, known as the Coronavirus. The problem is that the virus and the illness it causes, Covid-19, can be extremely serious (even to the point of causing death), particularly among those in high-risk health groups. Even though the WHO along with virologists around the globe are searching for treatments, vaccines, and especially information about the disease, a total social lockdown was unavoidable in the eyes of national and local governments. The protection of life must take priority over all other concerns. In the first few weeks of lockdown, a global feeling of solidarity was palpable. The hashtag #stayhome was everywhere and was our reality. At least in Germany and in many European countries, the numbers of infection and the mortality rate have fallen to the point that a loosening of restrictions is possible; life has started to regain some elements of normality. There are many heated discussions about how sensible it is to continue such a long lockdown, especially from an economic standpoint.
Culture, and music specifically, were the sectors hit first and will be those affected for the longest time to come. The music profession is dependent upon audiences (ideally with sold-out venues), upon applause, upon the response and reactions to live performance. Only in this manner is it fun to play and perform. Obviously, the music world has found a way to present music in the time of Corona. Thousands of split-screen videos are all over social media. Home concerts are being live-streamed. We’ve noticed very quickly that this is amusing for a while, but it is in no way a real substitute for our own music-making, especially playing music with other musicians.
Even now, when the first relaxing of restrictions in public life are coming into effect, one condition remains with us as long as we are without a viable treatment or vaccine: keeping a distance of 1.5 meters apart and wearing protective covering over the nose and mouth. So how can we translate this into our sector? It’s only possible to keep social distance in the audience if every third or fourth seat is sold. This is unprofitable for organizers and unsatisfactory for us as performing artists. The next question: How is this possible on stage with an orchestra or other ensemble? Remaining 1.5 meters apart and playing with a mask on? It’s the proximity and immediacy of the musicians that makes the magic possible. And masks on wind players? Absurd! Then we keep hearing about how wind instruments are virus spreaders, that blowing air through the instruments presents a high risk of infection and that the musicians should keep a distance of up to 12 meters.
To put a stop to all these rumors and speculation, various orchestras, music physicians, and institutes collaborated on a series of studies to debunk these theories and to come up with a road map to get orchestras back on track. My orchestra, the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra (Bamberger Symphoniker), cosponsored one of these studies. They performed qualitative experiments to visualize the flow of air combined with quantitative measurements of air velocity at different distances, to determine if playing a wind instrument really does cause a dangerous cloud of droplets or aerosols where the air escapes from the instrument. A fog machine with a very narrow nozzle released a constant spray of white vapor around the instrument. Additionally, air speedometers placed 1 meter, 1.5 meters, and 2 meters away from the instrument were meant to show if and at what velocity the air moves perceptibly.
The results of these measurements were clear. In the case of nearly all the instruments, the air barely moved at all at the points where it exited the instrument. On top of this, even at a 1-meter distance, there was no perceptible movement of air. The only exception to this was the flute. The flute player blows air over and past the mouthpiece and, as a consequence, droplets and air displacement were minimally noticeable up to a distance of 1.5 meters. At 2 meters away, no change in the air movement was perceptible.
With the horn, as with brass instruments in general, the results of the study had a logical explanation. Obviously, we have a very high speed of air going into the tightest part of the system, namely the bottom of the mouthpiece cup. After that, however, the air has such a long way to travel as it moves through the conical tubing up to the bell. At a distance of anything over 10 cm, there was no more air speed to measure. Only the sound expands, not the air. This study indicates that a distance of more than 2 meters is unnecessary, even with wind players, to prevent the spreading of aerosols through playing.
The more important question seems to be this: how contaminated could the condensed water be that we brass players produce in the metal tubing and need to empty out? Other institutions have carried out studies about this. The Institute for Music Medicine in Freiburg collaborated with the Freiburg University Clinic and produced the results of their study entitled “Risk Assessment of a Corona infection in the Music Branch.” Their recommendations currently serve as the basis for the resumption of performance and teaching. You can see this 34-page document for yourself here (in German).
Where do we go from here? Since mid-May, we’ve seen more and more easing of restrictions, and life in public has begun to return to normal. Restaurants, bars, and cafes are open for business. Schools, kindergartens and crèches have started up again. And in the music world, concepts and plans of action to allow us to make music together started to take shape. The major obstacle continues to be that a maximum of only 50 people may congregate indoors. Given these restrictions, a regular concert hall could never be filled. This will continue to be the case until a medical treatment and a vaccine are found. Musicians are worried about how our branch will survive the crisis, and we can only hope that new formats and creative concepts will develop and continue to do so in the post-Corona era.
On a personal level, I have gone through various phases and states of mind. The life of a professional musician is determined by numerous concerts as well as travel. When one has family at home, it’s often complicated to divide the time and priorities between being on the road frequently for concerts and finding time for the family. This crisis solved the dilemma for me, and I suddenly had much more time for my children and my wife. That was wonderful, and it allowed me to see many things from a new perspective. I’d like to hang on to this feeling even after the crisis has passed, and perhaps to say no to the occasional concert that causes undue stress on my schedule or creates difficulties for my family. Because neither my wife nor I have jobs that are considered essential at the moment, we didn’t have to, weren’t able to, and weren’t allowed to work. This means that we have had time to take care of the children, 24/7. This comes with its own kind of stress, and sometimes it’s necessary to get some distance.
We were lucky, though, because we could alternate childcare tasks and only have one school-aged child at the moment that needed home schooling. At the beginning, I watched a lot of those split-screen videos on all possible channels and made two categories of horn players in my mind. Some must have more time than ever to practice and will come out of the crisis more fit than ever. The others – and I count myself among them – have small children, don’t get around to practicing, and need rehearsals to get into shape.
After some time had passed and after many talks with friends and colleagues, I came to one conclusion: it is extremely difficult to stay motivated and to practice without a real goal. Everyone misses playing with others, whether it is in a professional orchestra, in an ensemble, at lessons, or as an amateur. With my quartet, German Hornsound, we used the time to write several new arrangements. We also developed a new series called “Fantasies for Horn Solo,” in which we adapted pieces from the orchestral repertoire and came up with arrangements for one horn, giving people something interesting to practice during the Corona period. The first two volumes featuring Bruckner’s last 3 symphonies as well as Mahler’s Wunderhorn-Lieder are available from our GHS Edition (www.koebl.de). In the middle of May, we were able to meet up again for the first time in 10 weeks, rehearsed together, and gave a small livestream open-air concert. On top of that, we’ve organized summer Corona concerts together with a few festivals, allowing for and abiding by the hygienic and social distancing regulations. At least through these activities, we have a few concerts on the calendar that we can prepare for and look forward to playing. My orchestra is also planning on starting up again in the middle of June. We are putting on a large conducting competition, the Mahler Competition, at which we are rehearsing and performing Mahler’s 4th symphony (!) with 2 meters’ distance between musicians. I’m looking forward to the coming period, though at the same time I’m very worried about the performing arts. How will they go on? It will be different than before, in any case!
Aside from his activities as solo horn of the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, Christoph Eß has won several prizes in international competitions. He studied with Prof. Christian Lampert in Basel and Stuttgart and graduated with honors in June, 2008. The ARD Music Competition (2005), Prague Spring Competition (2007), the Richard-Strauss Competition, as well as the “Concorso per Corno di Sannicandro di Bari” have all awarded him prizes, among others. As a soloist, he has appeared with several leading orchestras in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Czechia. He is also a founding member of the horn quartet, “German Horn Sound.”
Hornspielen in Zeiten der Pandemie
Über die Aerosol-Studie der Bamberger Symphoniker bei Bläsern und deren Auswirkung für die Wiederaufnahme des Spielbetriebs der Orchester
von Christoph Eß
Ich war gerade mit meinem Hornquartett german hornsound in Süddeutschland unterwegs zu sechs Konzerten, für die wir Anfang März 2020 eingeladen waren, als eine allgemeine Absagewelle zunächst alle öffentlichen Großveranstaltungen betraf und relativ schnell zu einem kompletten Lockdown führte. Schuld daran ist und war ein nicht ganz unbekanntes Sars-Virus, der sich durch eine vermutlich in China ausgelöste Mutation unter dem Namen SARS-CoV-2, oder kurz Corona-Virus, ausbreitete. Das Problem ist, dass das Virus und die damit verbundene Krankheit COVID-19 vor allem bei Risikogruppen (älteren und gesundheitlich vorbelasteten Menschen) zu einem sehr schweren bis hin zu tödlichem Verlauf führen kann. Auch wenn die WHO sowie Virologen auf der ganzen Welt nach Medikamenten, Impfstoffen und zunächst vor allem nach Informationen über das mutierte Virus suchen und forschen, war ein weltweiter wirtschaftlicher und sozialer Lockdown aus Sicht der Regierungen unausweichlich, da der Schutz des Lebens über allem stehen muss.
In den ersten vier Wochen dieses Lockdowns war eine große weltweite Solidarität zu spüren. Überall wurde der Hashtag #stayhome gelebt. Die Infektionszahlen sowie die Mortalitätsrate, zumindest in Deutschland und vielen europäischen Ländern, sind glücklicherweise so gering ausgefallen, dass es mittlerweile wieder erste Lockerungen geben konnte; das Leben nimmt wieder Fahrt auf und es entbrennt eine große öffentliche Diskussion, inwieweit ein solch langer (vor allem wirtschaftlicher) Lockdown sinnvoll ist und war.
Was die Kultur und hier insbesondere die Musik anbelangt, so ist diese Branche als erste betroffen gewesen und wird noch am längsten betroffen sein. Der Beruf des Musikers hängt von einem Publikum ab, möglichst einem ausverkauften Saal, von Applaus, von Reaktionen. Nur so macht uns das Spielen und Aufführen Spaß. Selbstverständlich hat auch die Musikwelt in Zeiten von Corona Möglichkeiten gefunden, Musik zu präsentieren. Tausende von Split- Screen-Videos wurden auf den sozialen Netzwerken veröffentlicht. Home-Konzerte wurden live gestreamt. Schnell jedoch haben wir gemerkt, dass das zwar ein oder zwei Mal lustig ist, aber unser eigentliches Musizieren, vor allem das Musizieren mit anderen Musiker*innen, in keinster Weise ersetzen kann.
Auch wenn nun wieder die ersten Lockerungen im öffentlichen Leben durchgesetzt wurden, so bleibt ein wichtiges Wort über allem stehen, zumindest so lange, bis ein Impfstoff oder Medikament gefunden wird: das Abstandhalten von 1,5m und der Mund-Nasen-Schutz. Doch wie ist das in unserer Branche umzusetzen? Abstand halten im Publikum ist dann möglich, wenn nur jeder dritte oder vierte Platz verkauft wird. Das ist für Veranstalter absolut unrentabel und für uns Künstler*innen unbefriedigend.
Zunächst jedoch stellt sich überhaupt einmal die Frage: wie ist das eigentlich auf der Bühne im Orchester oder Ensemble möglich? Mindestabstand von 1,5m und eine Maske beim Spielen? Gerade die Nähe ist das, was Musik den Zauber verleiht. Und Maske bei Blasinstrumenten? Absurd! Und dann hörte man plötzlich von immer mehr Seiten, dass die Blasinstrumente Virenschleudern seien, dass durch die Luftverwirbelung eine hohe Infektionsgefahr ausgehen würde und man von Abständen bis zu 12m sprach.
Um all diesen Gerüchten und Spekulationen Einhalt zu gebieten, haben sich dann Ende April verschiedene Orchester, Musikmediziner und Institute zusammengetan, um Studien durchzuführen, die diese Thesen widerlegen und einen Fahrplan für eine Wiederaufnahme eines Orchesterbetriebs aufstellen sollen.
Mein Orchester, die Bamberger Symphoniker, hat eine der Studien mitinitiiert. Es wurden qualitative Versuche zur Strömungsvisualisierung und quantitative Messungen der Luftgeschwindigkeit in verschiedenen Abständen durchgeführt, um festzustellen, ob beim Spielen eines Blasinstrumentes wirklich eine starke Verwirbelung von Tröpfchen oder Aerosolen an den Stellen erzeugt wird, an denen die Luft am Instrument ausdringen kann. Hierzu wurde eine Nebelmaschine mit sehr feiner Düse benutzt, die dauerhaft einen weißen Nebel um das Instrument herum versprühte. Zudem wurden verschiedene Luftgeschwindigkeitsmesser in den Abständen von 1m, 1,5m und 2m Abstand aufgestellt, die zeigen sollten, ob und wie schnell die Luft durch das Hineinblasen ins Instrument noch spürbar bewegt wird. Die Ergebnisse dieser Messungen waren eindeutig. Bei fast allen Instrumenten wurde die Luft kaum spürbar an den Austrittsstellen bewegt. Zudem nahm man schon in 1m Entfernung keine Luftgeschwindigkeit mehr war. Die einzige Ausnahme bildet die Flöte, da bei der Flöte über das Mundstück hinweggeblasen wird und somit auch Tröpfchen und bewegte Luft bis 1,5m minimal spürbar waren. In 2m Entfernung war dann gar keine Luftveränderung mehr zu sehen.
Beim Horn bzw. bei den Blechblasinstrumenten im Allgemeinen sind die Ergebnisse der Studie logisch zu erklären. Selbstverständlich haben wir eine sehr hohe Luftgeschwindigkeit an der engsten Stelle des Systems, nämlich am tiefsten Punkt des Mundstückkessels. Danach jedoch hat die Luft einen so weiten Weg, der bis zum Schalltrichter konisch aufgeht. Bei einem Durchmesser von mehr als 10cm am Schallbecher ist nichts mehr von Luftgeschwindigkeit zu messen. Nur der Klang breitet sich aus, nicht jedoch die Luft.
Wir konnten mit dieser Studie aufzeigen, dass ein größerer Abstand als 2m auch bei Bläsern nicht notwendig ist, um eine Infektion über durch das Spielen erzeugte Aerosole zu verhindern. Die wichtigere Frage scheint zu sein: Wie kontaminiert könnte das Kondenswasser sein, das wir Blechbläser in den Metallrohren erzeugen und ausleeren müssen. Hierzu wurden Studien an anderen Orten durchgeführt.
Die Ergebnisse aller Studien hat das Musikmedizinische Institut Freiburg in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Uniklinikum in Freiburg zusammengeführt und eine „Risikoeinschätzung einer Corona-Infektion im Bereich Musik“ erstellt. Diese Empfehlung gilt momentan als Basis für eine Wiederaufnahme des Spiel- und auch des Unterrichtsbetriebs.
Wie geht es also weiter: Seit Mitte Mai gab es immer mehr Lockerungen, das öffentliche Leben nahm wieder Normalität an. Die Gastronomie öffnete wieder, Schulen, Kindergärten und Kindertagesstätten nahmen den Betrieb wieder auf und auch im Bereich der Musik durfte an Konzepten gearbeitet werden, die ein gemeinsames Musizieren wieder ermöglichen.
Das große Problem ist nach wie vor, dass sich in geschlossenen Räumen nur eine geringe Anzahl von 50 Menschen treffen und versammeln darf. Somit kann ein großer Saal niemals voll besetzt sein. Und das wird wohl auch noch so lange andauern, bis wirklich ein Medikament
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und ein Impfstoff gefunden wird. Als Musiker*in macht man sich natürlich Sorgen, wie die Branche diese Krise übersteht und man kann nur hoffen, dass neue Formate und kreative Konzepte entwickelt werden, die auch in Post-Corona-Zeiten weitergeführt werden können.
Was mich persönlich angeht, so gab es verschiedene Phasen während der letzten drei Monate. Das Leben eines Musikers ist bestimmt von vielen Konzerten und damit verbundenen Reisen. Wenn man Familie zu Hause hat, ist es oft nicht einfach, den Spagat zwischen den vielen, durch die Konzerte bedingten, Abwesenheiten und der Zeit mit der Familie zu bewältigen. Dieser Spagat wurde durch die Krise erstmal aufgelöst, und ich hatte plötzlich viel Zeit für die Kinder und meine Frau. Das war sehr schön und lässt einen auf viele Dinge neu und verändert blicken. Dieses Gefühl möchte ich unbedingt auch nach der Krise beibehalten und vielleicht das eine oder andere Konzert, welches terminlich mit hohem Stress verbunden wäre und die Familie vor Schwierigkeiten stellen würde, nicht unbedingt zusagen.
Da sowohl meine Frau als auch ich keine systemrelevanten Berufe haben, konnten, durften und mussten wir nicht arbeiten, sodass wir auch die Zeit hatten, uns 24/7 um die Kinder zu kümmern. Auch das kann sehr anstrengend sein und man muss sich selbst oft zurücknehmen. Aber wir hatten trotzdem viel Glück mit der Situation, weil wir uns abwechseln konnten und auch momentan nur ein Schulkind haben, mit dem man Homeschooling machen muss.
Anfänglich habe ich mir viele Split-Screen-Videos angeschaut auf allen möglichen Kanälen und habe uns Hornist*innen innerlich in zwei Kategorien aufgeteilt: Die einen müssen jetzt unglaublich viel Zeit haben zum Üben und gehen fit wie noch nie aus der Krise heraus. Die anderen – und dazu zähle ich mich – haben kleine Kinder, kommen gar nicht zum Üben und brauchen erstmal wieder den Dienst, um überhaupt fit zu werden.J
Nach einiger Zeit und vielen Gesprächen mit Freund*innen und Kolleg*innen stellte sich jedoch eines heraus: Es ist sehr schwierig, sich zu motivieren und zu üben, ohne ein richtiges Ziel zu haben. Das Spielen mit anderen fehlt jedem doch sehr, sei es im professionellen Orchester, im Ensemble, im Unterricht und im Laienbereich.
Mit meinem Quartett „german hornsound“ haben wir die Zeit genutzt und viele neue Arrangements geschrieben. Zudem entwickelten wir eine neue Reihe, die „Fantasies for Horn Solo“, bei denen wir Stücke aus der Orchesterliteratur für ein Horn adaptierten, um auch in Corona-Zeiten interessante Stücke zum Üben zu erschaffen. Die ersten beiden Hefte über Bruckners letzte drei Symphonien sowie Mahlers Wunderhorn-Lieder sind jetzt in unserer GHSedition erschienen (www.koebl.de). Mitte Mai konnten wir uns auch zum ersten Mal wieder treffen (also nach fast zehn Wochen), haben geprobt und ein kleines Livestream- Konzert open air aufgeführt. Außerdem haben wir gemeinsam mit einigen Festivals im Sommer Corona-Konzerte organisiert, die sich mit den Hygiene- und Abstandsregeln durchführen lassen. Somit sind nun wenigstens wieder ein paar Auftritte in Aussicht, auf die wir uns freuen und vorbereiten können. Und auch mein Orchester nimmt den Betrieb ab Mitte Juni wieder auf. Wir veranstalten einen großen Dirigenten-Wettbewerb, the Mahler Competition, bei dem wir tatsächlich Mahlers 4. Symphonie mit 2m Abstand proben und aufführen werden.
Ich freue mich auf die kommende Zeit und bin trotzdem in großer Sorge um unsere Branche. Wie wird sie weitermachen? Es wird auf jeden Fall anders sein als zuvor!
Vielen Dank. Euer Christoph
Interview: Renee Allen
Kristina Mascher-Turner: Renee, your fascination with historical instruments, particularly the natural horn, goes back at least as far as your studies in Stuttgart with Hermann Baumann. Can you take us back a little further and tell us what first drew your attention in this direction?
Renee Allen: After my Bachelor’s studies at the University of McGill in Montreal, I heard a recording of the Mozart Grand Partita played on period instruments. I was blown away by the sound of the horns in Bb basso and the blend with the woodwinds. At that time, I was hired for a season in the Quebec Symphony orchestra and the solo horn player there was interested in the natural horn, so we got together and performed Mozart Divertimenti and Telemann’s Tafelmusik with gut strings. This was in the late 70’s. I had an Alexander large hooped natural horn with a modern leadpipe and bell. To transpose down to D, one added tubes to the tuning slide that pushed into one’s cheek when playing - not ideal, but enough to get me hooked!
KMT: When you finished your studies, was there a point at which you felt compelled to choose between a career in performance and other pursuits? What was/is the viability of making a living playing instruments other than the modern horn?
RA: I came to study natural horn with Hermann Baumann in 1981 because of his recent recording of the Mozart horn concertos on the natural horn. There were no study programs for natural horn majors at that time. After winning an audition for the theater orchestra in Mainz that year, I stayed on for six years. It became obvious to me, despite my love for opera and the enticement of job security, this was not why I had come to Europe. I had the opportunity to perform often with Ensemble Modern but took a conscious decision for old, rather than new or mainstream music. I quit my job in Mainz to start training as an Alexander technique teacher and devoted myself to historical performance practice, but I took another detour by playing a year in Stuttgart at the opera house, thanks to the insistence of Mahir Cakar, who had been Baumann’s assistant, to take the audition. I have never regretted going free-lance and have continued to perform opera, all the way up to Parsifal, but on historical instruments.
There was more opportunity to have a personal voice in the interpretation of early music than in a standard orchestra where the hierarchy is clearer, and the conductor has the final word. We were all researching, reading treatises, discussing, looking for the correct style, and it was a wonderful creative period. Each step brought new insights - a historical mouthpiece, an original crook, an original instrument, an unknown treatise or book of etudes - all widened my palette of colour or taught me something. Now that schools provide early music training programs, the students can benefit from all this knowledge. Although this is great, there is something to be said for getting the understanding through personal research and experience, so that performances become not just be a matter of reproducing music but making it your own. This is especially valid when you are working with unknown music where you decide the style and interpretation to the best of your knowledge - this is very freeing!
KMT: You have been an Alexander Technique teacher for many years now. For our readers who are not familiar with it, can you explain the basic principles and practice?
RA: This is a difficult question requiring a lengthy answer that I will attempt to shorten with a promise to write an article on this topic for the Horn Call in the future ;-)) The Alexander technique is based on the dynamic relationship between head, neck and back and how thought affects this delicate balance, that Alexander called the primary control. It is about using your body in an efficient way with a minimum of effort for a maximum of results, allowing support to come from your innate system of uprightness. This is done by being aligned with intention and creativity in the moment and consciously directing the outcome without attachment to it. Releasing the goal (like a hitting a high C), allows you not to do the thing you usually do that makes it difficult! Sounds very Zen? Well it is, in a way! During the learning process of recognising and inhibiting unconscious habits, your awareness becomes very attuned so that you have a more holistic sense of what you are doing or not, and which thoughts support or hinder your intention. That you gain good posture and a general sense of wellbeing is standard. Applying this to balancing a heavy horn in front of your body without pulling yourself out of alignment so that the muscles needed for airflow remain flexible, is of course a great bonus. The Alexander technique is learned with a teacher who teaches not only knowledge and concepts, but provides a direct experience through trained touch, releasing tensions and reorganising your body over time. This can be heard instantly by the improvement in sound quality. The technique is not only for musicians and can be applied to any activity.
KMT: We musicians are often reminded to breathe consciously, to use proper air support, to fill the instrument with air, etc. Our natural relationship with breath and breathing often suffers through stress and anxiety. Would you say that a particular breathing practice or meditation is the key to reducing stress and fear, or does confronting emotional blockages and anxieties help us to breathe more naturally and freely?
RA: In my own playing and teaching, I focus on the dynamic use of the outbreath, and the passive allowance of inhalation. This requires a clear mind to work against all the concepts (and physical reactions to those) I was taught about taking in air and support over the years. A silent inhalation and quiet mind allow me to stay in creative flow. I also work with a breathing tool so as to make air flow visible as can be seen in the video. I touched on this subject in my article in the February Horn Call.
KMT: Let’s move on to the topic that inspired this interview, saving and preserving the music in the book of horn solos brought out by the Fischer publishing house in Bremen. How did you first learn of this volume? What happened to the original music? What is your particular connection to the original location and era of this music?
RA: At the beginning of the new millennium, I performed and recorded Brahms symphonies on Viennese horns with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen and fell in love with the city and the openness of its inhabitants. Bill Melton had given me a copy of this album shortly beforehand, and I was impressed by the collection in that it not only contains a myriad of unknown composers but also a wide range of music. All the typical genres of salon music are accounted for in various degrees of difficulty: romances, elegies, long virtuoso pieces, works using mutes or hand stopping for color, paraphrases or variations of contemporary folk songs such as the Loreley, short moving melodies with suggestive poetic titles, in short something for every level. Although mostly composed for valve horn, natural horn pieces from Gallay and others are interspersed showing a cross-section of the time when the horn was developing. The Schumann Adagio and Allegro and the Weber Concertino authorize and elevate the little-known composers to a higher status. A third of the album is comprised of shorter, simpler melodies, providing the amateur horn player with music in line with the romantic themes and ideals, to perform within the framework of a house concert.
The rest of the collection requires a high level of breath and dynamic control, endurance as well as virtuoso technique as prerequisites for performances by a professional. The original printing plates were sold to Benjamin in Hamburg in 1924, taken by the Nazis in 1932 then destroyed by bombings and fire in WW II. With the help of collectors, colleagues and research in libraries, I was able to find accompaniments for many of the works, sometimes looking in clarinet or violin files as some of the pieces were transcriptions or composed for horn or basset horn, a popular instrument of the time.
KMT: You mention that you had to approach this music with your whole body and had to re-think the way you move and breathe in order to bring it to life. What changed, exactly, and how did you make that shift?
RA: In accordance with historical methods, it is learning a controlled diminuendo that demands the most time and attention, being a process of releasing tension gradually. The key to this was (according to Alexander and historical singing methods) keeping the breastbone elevated when exhaling and not compressing or pushing the air. I had to re-educate my muscles to react differently and to consciously release effort at the end of a phrase to allow a passive inhalation, without gasping. This made the breath an integral part of the music and not a tool to achieve it. In attempting not to play static notes but to keep the dynamics ever-changing, even if almost imperceptibly, I had to always be a step ahead of the music, actively creating it anew, not allowing the sound to get out of control, which really extended my boundaries. The results surpassed my greatest expectations in that this way of playing somehow touches the listener deeply.
KMT: Period music unfolds its secrets when played on period instruments. Please tell us about the horn you used for this project.
RA: I actually used two horns, one with and one without valves as the collection has pieces for both. I had the great good fortune of playing on a Leopold Uhlmann horn that has a second engraving from A.E. Fischer on the bell, proving that this instrument was built and sold in Bremen! It is a simple F horn with rotary valves. When I first bought it, there were many leaks and the leadpipe was very large so that no mouthpiece would fit. It was not clear if it would be playable at all. The horn was restored slowly, so that I could understand the steps and the influence on the sound. I always ask myself “What kind of sound does this horn want to make?” and try not to force a pre-conceived notion on the instrument. After having the valves re-plated, it was no longer possible to use natural horn technique where one “floats freely” through the overtones (as needed for the Rummel for example), and I actually had some of the plating sanded down to make the valves somewhat leaky again! Some of the tiny leaks in the tubing I fixed myself using melted violin rosin, as was historically done. This avoided having to take the instrument apart, which it probably would not have survived. This horn is a pleasure to play with its large bell and dark, velvety sound. I chose a late, original Viennese natural horn built by Lorenz in Linz, because it has a similar construction, also assuming that in Germany, it was most likely that at the end of the 19th century, French instruments would not have been played. The recordings clearly show the similarity between valve and natural horn sound of the time and the difference is not as big as one would assume! For the piece by Gräfe, I played the Uhlmann/Fischer horn, using valves for the recitatives, but hand horn technique for the theme and variations.
KMT: How did the coronavirus affect your funding? How have you compensated for the loss of income?
RA: Before corona, I expected the funding to come together in that many of my colleagues would simply order a CD but most of them are free-lance musicians and find themselves, like myself, with a complete loss of income. Instead the universe provided in surprising ways: an ex-student whom I last saw 35 years ago when he was 16, contacted me out of the blue. He is now a successful lawyer. When he heard of the project, he was most generous. Also, an elderly lady now over 90 whom I had supported when her son was in a plane accident 30 years ago, insisted on refunding the money I had given her to help at that time. It touched me deeply knowing that things come around, that the actions that we take in a lifetime are not forgotten and that there is a circle of appreciation that connects us. Compensation? The crowdfunding was successful in that more than the amount needed was collected, refunding the recording costs of the last year and taking the edge off the financial stress of the crisis. Against all odds, the timing was perfect.
KMT: What was the most challenging aspect of preparing these recordings and scores? What brought you the most joy?
RA: A problem piece was “Le Baiser” by Gallay that is altered and shortened in the collection; it did not fit the original accompaniment that Anneke Scott provided. Eventually, my pianist Zvi Meniker composed parts in the style of Gallay so we could use the Fischer version. Zvi and I had both researched how Messa di Voce was used during this period and for the piano. Where crescendo and diminuendo are not possible on long tones, Zvi chose to interpret the markings as indications of rubato. This gave us a baseline for style where fluctuating tempo and dynamics were used as the main expressive elements. Zvi also plays preludes to some of the pieces, (even before the Schumann Adagio and Allegro!!) providing the listener with a closer historical experience of a typical salon concert. The Schumann also posed difficulties in that it is such a warhorse of our repertoire, with many great recordings by fantastic horn players and every talented student has performed it at least once in a recital! It was difficult to erase all these performances in my head and keep to our parameters. Choosing which works would be recorded was difficult not only because of the sheer number, but the practicability of what I can perform in a four-day recording period. I have worked as a featured soloist in Baroque recordings but this was a new situation for me and frankly, I could not perform this music all together in a concert. The endurance required on old instruments with original mouthpieces is considerably greater than on modern horn, but the joy comes with the rich full sound by using this equipment. I am deeply grateful that this project can come to fruition, bringing together so many aspects of my lifelong research on music, instruments, style, use of the breath and the Alexander technique.
KMT: What is next on the horizon for you, as much as any of us can know the answer to that question in these times?
RA: Although concerts and a production of Cosi van Tutte at the festival of Aix-en Provence this summer were cancelled, it will be resurrected as a concert for ARTE television. Mozart arias and Beethoven’s 5th Symphony with Thomas Hengelbrock and his Balthasar Neumann orchestra and are on the program. We are a group of dedicated musicians with a dynamic conductor and it is sure to be an exciting concert, even if we all have to be tested for Corona beforehand! More Beethoven is planned for the fall, including the 7th Symphony in Copenhagen and the Misa Solemnis later in Hannover. It is not sure if these concerts will happen, as social distancing is next to impossible in most church venues. Although festivals and concerts have been cancelled or the programs changed, I am staying positive, avoiding fear, and waiting to see what surprises are in store.
Renée Allen graduated from McGill University in Montreal and came to Germany in 1981 to study natural horn with Hermann Baumann. She played several years in the German opera orchestras of Mainz and Stuttgart before devoting herself to historical performance and the F.M. Alexander technique. She has taught natural horn at the conservatories of Leipzig, Freiburg and Wurzburg and has been teaching the Alexander technique since 1993.
She performs with Balthasar Neuman Ensemble, Anima Eterna, Concerto Köln, Freiburgerbarock Orchestra, Hannoverische Hofkapelle, La petite Bande, Concerto Copenhagen, Musica Antiqua Köln and can be heard on CD recordings with these ensembles.
The Gift of New Arrangements for Horn Quartet
by John Lynsdale-Nock
The founding idea of Corniworld Publications was always about having great arrangements of horn music written by horn players in order to best show the versatility and capabilities of the instrument. The recent pandemic and lockdown restrictions around the world have meant that horn players have found themselves, like many others, in isolation and in need of musical projects to focus the mind.
Almost as soon as lockdowns were announced, it was great to see how musicians from around the globe were finding new ways to keep playing with the use of various apps and home recording equipment, producing music either as solo projects or with others. The internet has allowed musicians to collaborate, not just with colleagues, but with players from around the world. It has been incredible to see musicians adapt to this most unprecedented situation. With this in mind, I decided I wanted to contribute in some way within my musical field - the horn community. With just short of 250 horn arrangements in the catalogue I could have sinply advertised the Corniworld Publications website. Instead I decided to use the extra time I found myself with to produce some new horn quartet arrangements. With so many people facing employment difficulties, it seemed only right to offer these for free. Each day after supervising my two children's home schooling, completing my own online teaching timetable and horn practice, I would set up my laptop on the dining table to indulge in my first love: arranging music for horns. It gave me a focus for each day and a great sense of accomplishment when each arrangement came to fruition. This has led to me completing 6 quartets. Once each arrangement was completed I would upload to the website and advertise the piece via social media. All I have asked is that people would post their performances so I could share via my social media platforms. All can be found at https://www.corniworld.com/free-music. I have been fortunate to have had Corniworld Publications music performed around the world, but this is the first time I have been able collect recordings.The growing collection can be seen both on the Corniworld Publications website and Facebook page. The initial idea has now gone a stage further as I'm now collaborating with a "lockdown" horn group from the USA - "The Unofficial, Unnamed Online French Horn Project" organised by Evan James (EJ Young Music - Youtube Channel). They have come together from across the US to perform and record horn ensemble music. They have very kindly agreed to record pieces from the Corniworld catalogue and we are also producing new arrangements, the latest being "Here Comes The Sun" by G Harrison for 8 horns.
John Lynsdale-Nock started playing the horn aged 12 and has been working as a freelance horn player and horn/brass teacher for over 25 years. He started arranging music whilst at school to broaden the repertoire of his brass quintet. His arranging skills continued to develop with works for various brass and horn ensembles. His pieces have been commissioned by The British Horn Society, Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra horn section, Cyprus Symphony Orchestra Brass section, London Symphony Orchestra horn section, the LSO Discovery (education department) and most recently "The Unofficial, Unnamed Online French Horn Project", a group of American horn players who have come together during the Covid-19 lockdown to perform horn ensemble works.
His works have been performed at horn festivals around the world including Montreal Horn Days and The British Horn Society festivals.
IHS Announces Virtual Workshop 2020
Obviously, the cancellation of IHS 52 is disappointing at many levels. In an effort to provide an opportunity to share information that would have been a part of IHS 52, the IHS Advisory Council has approved our first-ever Virtual Workshop!
This workshop will be limited to presentations that were accepted for IHS 52, and the result will be a collection of videos that will be launched on August 2, 2020, the same day as we would all have been able to enjoy them in Eugene. All presenters have been invited to participate, and most of them have agreed!
IHS members can look forward to video sessions on mental health, physical health, horn pedagogy, career issues, and a range of research topics from historical instruments and performing practices to women brass players…FOR FREE! This virtual workshop will be free to all current members. If you are not currently a member, join NOW.
This Virtual Workshop will be available to members for several months and will serve as part of a new planned collection of educational resources on the IHS website. Stay tuned for more updates, and a message will go out to all members announcing the start of our first virtual workshop.
Jeffrey Snedeker, curator
IHS Virtual Workshop 2020
We Are….Horns United!!!!
by Marc Lumley
It is 11:56 pm as I begin typing. I cannot remember the last time I hit the pillow before 1am and I’m enjoying every second of it. I am Marc Lumley and many people call me the founder of Horns United. Not so much, as we start each show I explain that this is a group effort, and without divine inspiration, we could not have done it. Done what? Established a fledgling multi-national charitable organization that showcases the finest hornists on the planet in masterclasses with students ranging from beginners to aspiring pros, all to raise money to donate to charities and hospitals that are providing Covid-19 relief. We hornists come from a hunting tradition and I, frankly, was tired of being the hunted. So what was I told to do?
Contact David Cooper! This was in late March when the shelter-in-place orders were about a week old. I asked David to do a Zoom masterclass, fully expecting to be graciously rejected, when I heard him say, “Sure Marc, what do you need?” With that, Horns United was born and has grown exponentially since. I reached out to more hornists around the world, and before I knew it we had a Dream Team. “The Section” is Michael Gast-Principal, Ellen Dinwiddie Smith-3rd, Minnesota, Scott Strong-3rd, Detroit, Peter Rubins-2nd, San Antonio, Robert Johnson-Associate, Houston, Kristy Morrell-2nd, LA Chamber, Benjamin Jaber-Principal, Douglas Hall-4th, San Diego, David Heyde-Associate and Acting Principal, Dallas, James Ferree-Principal, Matthew Wilson-2nd, St. Paul Chamber, Robert Ward-Principal, Jonathan Ring-2nd, San Francisco, Tod Bowermaster-3rd, St.Louis, Erik Ralske-Principal, The Met, Frøydis Ree Wekre-Co-Principal (retired) Oslo, Emma Gregan-tutti, Adelaide, Australia, William Caballero-Principal, Pittsburgh, Richard Todd-Recording Artist, Jennifer Montone-Principal, Jeffrey Lang-Associate, Philadelphia, Jaclyn Rainey-Associate, Los Angeles, Rachel Childers-2nd, Boston Symphony, The Virtuoso Duo-Kerry Turner and Kristina Mascher-Turner and Javier Bonet-Ayuda de Solista, Orquesta Nacional de España. And growing….
That’s the shortest history I can give you. So what, you wonder, do we do to achieve our philanthropic goals? We charge a small fee for our Master Series classes that meet most Thursdays and Saturdays. Simple really. We set out to provide some fun time for hornists who are all locked down. We did the normal but in an abnormal venue, the cell phone. By now we all have experienced the joy of teaching via Skype, FaceTime or Zoom. Yes it is limited and, at times, very frustrating but without it right now, where would we be? Standing outside students homes listening to their lessons through an open window? No thank you. So we made a decision, embrace the situation and concentrate and improve upon what we COULD do and ignore what we couldn’t do. This has become amazingly successful for us. Claude, our microphone and ‘net expert has been figuring out how to get water out of a rock by using combinations of settings that go well beyond what have been tried previously. This was because he was expanding on what he could achieve. It’s working! I also think that the audience is listening more intently. The aforementioned Claude is one of the most critical listeners I know and even he is starting to be somewhat satisfied with what we’re getting.
Also we are telling the artists, “Innovate, do something you’ve always wanted to in a masterclass, we are here to do our best to deliver your package.” If we have to be so limited then, by God, let’s have as much fun as we can! Besides being his wonderful self, Erik Ralske was ready for Q&A with charts and demos and all sorts of engaging things that sent the program a little over 30 minutes long! Everyone stayed too because it got juicy! That’s what we want. Defeating the limitations by maximizing our strengths. We also tell everyone, “We want the audience to not think of you as the person in formal wear 250 feet away concentrating like mad… but rather, be like them. Kerry Turner and Kristina Mascher-Turner performed in flip flops and bare feet! Michael Gast did this triple tongue arpeggiated part of his warm up at light speed and then give them that grin of his and the looks were all jaws on the ground. Priceless! But everyone is walking away having learned a tremendous amount and having fun in the process. Our audience varies from middle school beginners to seasoned pros, and they keep coming back for more.
Now we have Cor Camp. We/I am obsessing over it and want it to be a huge success. We are expanding our template to a blocked out schedule running from 8:30am US central to 4:30 pm US central. We exist solely to raise money for charity so we suggest a donation of $145.00. With that you not only have the opportunity to learn from the very best but you get to see Bill Caballero zoom in driving his convertible or eat popcorn while listening to a round table with Eldon Matlick or listen to the greatest names in the business tell you they get nervous too and then give strategies to help get past them. But the two most important things your $145.00 does are save lives and develop a vaccine.
Yes, I know there are places doing this for free this summer and I applaud them for their generosity. But WE want to stop this horrible virus, how else are we going to get back into full concert halls or football stadiums? We won’t even be able to rehearse properly! And forget opera and broadway, with the projection of singers? They’ll all be in hazmat suits! No! The future of our craft, our love, is dependent on everyone doing their part to rid the world of covid 19. Playing your horn or washing cars, what does it matter. People do carwash fundraisers all the time. We play horn.
To close we are presenting the hopeful, exuberant finale from Gustav Mahler’s Symphony #1 with our “Mahler 1 Heard Round The World” event. We will have all musicians interested playing it as hard as they can. Horn, harpsichord, it makes no difference as long as we bring joy. We will need organizers to get permissions to go into parks, city hall steps and deploy with proper social distances. The venue doesn’t matter with a group of hornists.
Finally, we are looking to the future. We fund infectious disease research and will continue to do so because this isn’t the last one. We want to help with preparations. So we are looking at making our organization grow and expand our skill set. But that’s a surprise and a subject for another article. Meantime, we are doing our Cor Camp fundraiser starting June 8th. Details are at www.horns-united.com. Please consider helping or joining us. And remember,
For The Love Of Music, For The Love Of Mankind,
We are…HORNS UNITED!!!!
God bless you all,
Marc Lumley is Principal Horn of The Symphony of the Hills in Kerrville, Texas and Co-Principal Horn of The Mozart Festival, Texas. He is a retired band director, and former Air Force Band member. Marc is a very active private teacher and, as his students say, his “Cult of Lumley” has enjoyed great success. His studio has produced multiple Texas All State players for 26 consecutive years. Marc studied with legendary Texas horn instructor, Leland Sharrock in High School. He attended the University of Texas where he studied the great Wayne Barrington. Winning his Air Force position moved him to Los Angles where he had the privilege of studying with James Decker and Richard Todd. After realizing he wanted more of a family life he left full time playing to become a music educator. Returning to college at The University of Texas a San Antonio he studied with Beth and David Mairs and ultimately with Bruce Gifford. He enjoys running with his wife Monica, running after his grandson Atlas and running to see his sons, Claude and wife Julie, and Hayden and wife Brandi.
DMV Horn Academy
by Larry Willams
I would like to share a new and exciting project that I have been working on with all of you. I have been teaching horn for over 25 years now both privately and at several music schools including the Peabody Institute and Florida International University. In addition to teaching horn, I perform with several orchestras and chamber ensembles and conduct masterclasses as a Yamaha Performing Artist & Clinician. I have wanted to expand my reach as an educator for some time now, and have just launched DMV Horn Academy.
DMV Horn Academy is a center for innovative teaching and mentoring for horn players who want to grow musically and personally while being a member of a positive and supportive community of learners, teachers, and performers. The academy offers horn lessons to students of all levels of experience in the DC, Maryland, Virginia (DMV) region in the US. Online lessons are also available. In addition to lessons, the academy will host a series of Masterclasses, Workshops and Seminars throughout the year. These offerings will take place at colleges, universities, conservatories, and schools across the US and online as well.
I’m really excited about launching this new model. It is not a formal school. Rather, it is a hub for hornists who are interested in growing musically in a supportive and inclusive community of students, teachers, and clinicians.
I am equally pleased that joining me on the faculty are Amanda Collins, Assistant Professor of Horn at the University of Missouri, and Alberto Suarez, Principal Horn in the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra. Both Amanda and Alberto are phenomenal horn players, fantastic teachers, great people to work with, and former students of mine (very proud). Amanda and Alberto and I will conduct masterclasses, workshops and clinics throughout the year, in person at colleges, universities, conservatories and schools, and online as well.
I am very pleased to announce the DMV Horn Academy Summer Horn Seminar, which will be sponsored by Yamaha, Brass Arts Unlimited and Stephens Custom Horns. We will be offering 2 sessions to be held virtually through Zoom videoconferencing:
|Session 1||July 27-31||Middle/High School|
|Session 2||August 3-7||College/Amateur/Pro|
Warm Up & Fundamentals (M-W)
Each day starts off with a warm up session led by our faculty. Participants will warm up alongside them while discussing warm up routines and fundamentals.
Daily Masterclass (M-W)
From playing techniques to audition preparation and repertoire coaching, our faculty masterclasses will focus on all aspects of horn playing: performance, artistry, mental focus, and other topics.
Workshops & Breakout Sessions (M-W)
Each day, our faculty will lead group conversations on a variety of topics, including: Mental Focus, Auditions, Careers, Marketing, Communication Skills, and more. Small groups will be formed and coached by our faculty to find creative and fun solutions to challenges, and then present their solutions to the rest of the attendees.
Private Lessons (M-F)
All participants will receive 3 (45 minute) private lessons with our horn faculty each session.
I hope that you will consider helping us build a great community of horn players.