There are no concerts today at Carnegie Hall, or Symphony Hall, Boston, or in Edman Memorial Chapel on the campus of Wheaton College (IL) where I teach trombone. The Star Spangled Banner won’t be sung tonight before any sporting events. The world of live, public performances of music is shuttered now—all around the world. To even write these words seems incomprehensible. Yet, for the good of humankind, we are taking extraordinary measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Even as we do what we can, we pray that God will deliver us from this pandemic and also give us the eyes to see and the ears to hear what it is that we should learn from this challenging experience.
It is an adjustment, for sure, to not be able to listen to live music and to make it together in community. In addition to the loss of the performances themselves, we ache for the musicians who were to have played them. Most of those players are not getting paid now. Many of our country’s top symphony and opera orchestras have been telling their players that their salaries will be reduced or cut completely in the coming days, although many employers say they will continue to pay for their players’ health insurance benefits. Freelance musicians are adrift, with neither salaries or health insurance. Tomorrow is April 1; rents and mortgages are due and without any income, many people are facing an existential threat. These are real challenges that are felt by all of us in the trickle-down connectedness of our world.
My own trombone playing is now being done solo, by myself. Many engagements that I had planned for these weeks—a solo appearance at a brass band festival in Seattle, a masterclass at Interlochen Arts Academy, concerts in Helsinki and Japan with the Finnish National Radio Orchestra—have been cancelled and I expect more planned engagements will be cancelled as well.
Yet music is still important to us, and there are still ways to hear it. While watching performances in front of a computer or smartphone screen can’t take the place of live music, with a set of headphones, earbuds, or AirPods, or connecting those devices to a larger stereo system or television or other remote speakers, we can enjoy performances from the past on demand. Many orchestras and popular music groups are offering superb videos of recitals and performances. A a quick look throughYouTube brings countless offerings.
I think one of the most interesting classical music offerings is that by the San Francisco Symphony. Click HERE to go to the orchestra’s YouTube channel and their fantastic series of documentaries and performances by several composers, Keeping Score. The programs are superbly produced, the Symphony sounds fantastic, and Michael Tilson Thomas’ commentary is informative and engaging. Have a look!
I’ve put together a few videos of my own performances that have enjoyed some popularity on YouTube. Below, you’ll find performances I gave while I was professor of trombone at Arizona State University (2012-2016), several from my time with the Boston Symphony and Boston Pops (1986-2012), a video I made in the YAMAHA factory in Japan about how trombones are made, and a few other surprises. We pray for the day when we can all go to enjoy music while sitting chairs in concert halls, jazz clubs, and sports arenas. Until then, we can be grateful we live in such a time as this when we have at our fingertips so many enjoyable and inspiring performances to help us get through each day. For each of the videos below, you can view them right here on The Last Trombone or click on the YouTube link that’s provided..
The Star Spangled Banner, arranged by Robert Elkjer. Arizona State University Desert Bones Trombone Choir, Douglas Yeo, conductor at Chase Field, Phoenix, August 31, 2014. I have played the national anthem at more sporting events than I can count, including Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002 as a member of the Boston Pops Orchestra. When I came to Arizona State University, I wanted to share that great experience of playing the national anthem at a sporting event with my students. We played at Arizona Diamondbacks baseball games several times, as well as at several ASU games. This performance was from the first of our appearances at Chase Field; the video was made and supplied to us by the Diamondbacks. Click HERE to view this on YouTube.
Making trombones. A tour of the YAMAHA Toyooka factory in Japan with Douglas Yeo, 2004. I have been playing YAMAHA trombones since 1986, and in 2004, I was asked to make a video of a tour of the YAMAHA factory where many of their trombones are made. It’s a fascinating process—as you can see. Click HERE to view this on YouTube.
Prayer from Jewish Life, No. 1, by Ernest Bloch, arr. Gordon Cherry. Douglas Yeo, bass trombone; Aimee Fincher, piano, 2014. This performance was recorded on my 2014 faculty recital at Arizona State University. Bloch’s Prayer was originally written for cello and was beautifully arranged by my friend, Gordon Cherry, former principal trombonist of the Vancouver Symphony and owner of the music publishing company, Cherry Classics. Click HERE to view this on YouTube.
Heart, We Will Forget Him from Three Emily Dickinson Songs by Michael Hennagin. Douglas Yeo and Randall Hawes, bass trombone; Aimee Fincher, piano, 2015. In 2015, I invited my friend, Randy Hawes (bass trombonist of the Detroit Symphony) to give a masterclass at Arizona State University. At the beginning of the class, we played this beautiful duet by Michael Hennagin. This was recorded in the large rehearsal room where we had our weekly ASU trombone studio class. Click HERE to view this on YouTube.
The Chief for bass trombone and trombone ensemble by John Stevens, and A Song for Japan by Steven Verhelst. Douglas Yeo, bass trombone solo, with members of the Nagoya Trombone Association, 2018. In 2018, I traveled to Nagoya, Japan, to be the guest artist at the Nagoya Trombone Festival. The gala concert at the end of the Festival included several trombone ensemble works, including John Stevens’ tribute to the great trombone teacher, Emory Remington, The Chief, and an arrangement of Steven Verhelst’s beautiful A Song for Japan. The two pieces are combined in this video, below. Click HERE to view this on YouTube.
Demonstration of a buccin (dragon bell trombone) at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Douglas Yeo, buccin. While living in Boston, I had a long and happy relationship with those in the Musical Instrument Gallery of the Museum of Fine Arts. I gave many concerts and demonstrations there, and conducted a great deal of research in its back rooms. A few years ago, I recorded some demonstration videos on several MFA-owned instruments, including a buccin made by Jean Baptiste Tabard around 1830. I’m playing a bit of the buccin part from Hector Berlioz’s Messe solennelle. Note the tongue that moves in the instrument’s bell throughout! Playing the buccin is like playing the trombone with your eyes closed; with the bell over my head, I don’t have the bell in front of me as a visual reference point to aid in accurately hitting all of the slide positions. It is a great challenge but great fun to play, with its deep, teutonic sound and rather unconventional overtone series that is related to but not exactly like a modern trombone. Click HERE to view this on YouTube.
The Lost Chord by Sir Arthur Sullivan. Douglas Yeo, ophicleide; Kimberly Marshall, organ, 2012. In 2012, I gave my first faculty recital at Arizona State University. The concert featured me playing bass trombone, bass sackbut, serpent, and ophicleide, all accompanied by ASU’s organ professor, Dr. Kimberly Marshall. She had been the Director of the ASU School of Music when I was hired and I told her that I wanted my first recital to be a collaboration with her, in thanks for her confidence in hiring me. This performance of The Lost Chord, a well-known Victorian era vocal and instrumental solo, features me playing the ophicleide, used extensively in the nineteenth and early twentieth century particularly in France, Belgium, and England (although it was in use around the world) before the nearly universal adoption of the tuba as the preferred bass brass instrument. Click HERE to view this on YouTube.
Rhapsody for Bass Trombone by Stephen Bulla. Douglas Yeo, bass trombone, with the New England Brass Band; Terry Everson, conductor, 2008. I was music director of the New England Brass Band for 10 years, from 1998–2008. We played many concerts together, and also recorded five compact discs in Boston’s Symphony Hall. My last concert with the Band was at Hope Church in Lenox, Massachusetts, near the summer home of the Boston Symphony, Tanglewood. This performance is from that concert, and I chose to play Rhapsody by my good friend, Steve Bulla, who succeeded me as music director of the NEBB. I recorded the Rhapsody in 1996 with England’s Black Dyke Mills Band on my first solo CD, Proclamation, and it was always a joy to play it with my hometown band, the NEBB. Click HERE to view this on YouTube.
Southern Gothic from Three Imaginary Landscapes by James M. David. Douglas Yeo, bass trombone with Sangmi Lim, piano, 2019. In March 2019, I traveled to Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas, to give a recital and masterclass. I performed the recital on my YAMAHA YBL-822G bass trombone with a carbon fiber bell, tuning slide, and outer hand slide by Dave Butler of Butler Trombones in Dallas. I’m very enthusiastic about Dave’s work with carbon fiber and you can hear the result for yourself. This video was put up without editing out my introductory comments where I speak about the carbon fiber trombone so if you want to go right to the music, drag the slider to 1:24. Click HERE to view this on YouTube.
The Crimson Collop by Tommy Pederson. Douglas Yeo and Gerry Pagano, bass trombones, 2014. In 2014, I invited my friend, Gerry Pagano, bass trombonist of the St. Louis Symphony, to give a masterclass at Arizona State University. We opened the masterclass with a performance of this great duet by Tommy Pederson but after the class, we learned that the camera operator forgot to hit RECORD. So after the class, Gerry and I went back to my office and recorded the duet. It’s an informal collaboration between two friends that later led to us deciding to make a CD of bass trombone duets. More about that below. Click HERE to view this on YouTube.
Star Wars Main Title by John Williams. Boston Pops Orchestra, John Williams, conductor, 1993. This performance was recorded in 1993 in a concert from the Boston Pops Orchestra’s tour of Japan. The concert was entirely of John’s music and that evening was one of the highlights of my career with the Boston Symphony/Boston Pops. Yup, look at all of that 90s hair. . . The trombone players in this performance are Norman Bolter, Douglas Wright, Darren Acosta, and me. Click HERE to view this on YouTube.
There are also several other videos from that 1993 concert that appear on YouTube that can’t be imbedded here on The Last Trombone. If you’re interested, click HERE to see the March from Raiders of the Lost Ark, and click HERE to see Adventures on Earth from E.T.
Selections from Horn Trios, Op. 82 by Anton Reicha, arr. John Ericson. John Ericson, horn; Douglas Yeo, bass trombone; Deanna Swoboda, tuba, 2013. This performance of several trios by Anton Reicha was given at a Trombone Studio class at Arizona State University in 2013. Subsequently, my good friends John Ericson, Deanna Swoboda, and I recorded a CD on Summit Records, “Table for Three,” that included these trios and other pieces for horn, bass trombone, and tuba. The performance is rather informal but it’s a very happy memory of many nice collaborations with these friends. Click HERE to view this on YouTube.
Bone Moan by David Jones. Ryan Haines, trombone solo; Arizona State University Desert Bones Trombone Choir, Douglas Yeo, conductor, 2015. I met David Jones in the 1990s when he was a student at New England Conservatory. I conducted several performances of his superb work for tenor trombone solo and trombone choir, Bone Moan, with the New England Trombone Choir at New England Conservatory with Douglas Wright (now principal trombonist of the Minnesota Orchestra) as soloist. The opportunity to conduct the piece again arose when I was at ASU and Ryan Haines, who at the time of this recording was the jazz trombone teacher at ASU, gives a great performance of this evocative and unusual piece. Click HERE to view this on YouTube.
Song for Lotta by Jan Sandstrom. Douglas Yeo, bass trombone; Aimee Fincher, piano, 2013. I have played Jan Sandstrom’s Song for Lotta many times over the years, in recitals all around the world, including in China and Japan. I have found it is a very powerful final piece on a recital. Rather than something flashy, I like playing something soft and contemplative which gives the audience something special to think about as they leave the concert hall. Click HERE to view this on YouTube.
Theme and Variations on Arkansas Traveler by David Herring. Douglas Yeo, bass trombone; Natural State Brass Band, Rusty Morris, conductor, 2010. The world of the British-style brass band has been important to me for many decades. Earlier in this article, you saw a performance by me of Stephen Bulla’s Rhapsody for Bass Trombone with the New England Brass Band. I’ve also enjoyed a long friendship with members of the Natural State Brass Band of Little Rock, Arkansas, especially the band’s former music director, Rusty Morris. In 2010, I joined the band on their tour of England, both as guest conductor and guest soloist. A bonus of the trip was that my wife and oldest daughter played baritone horn and bass trombone with the band on the tour. David Herring’s piece based on the familiar folk tune, Arkansas Traveler, and was especially written for me to perform on this tour. This performance was recorded in a Wesleyan Church in Bolton, England, just north of Manchester. Click HERE to view this on YouTube.
Below 10th Street by Tommy Pederson. Gerry Pagano and Douglas Yeo, bass trombone; Mike Lake, Hammond Organ and drums. 2017. In August 2017, in the thick of the heat of the Arizona summer, Gerry Pagano and I came together make a new CD of duets for bass trombones, FRATRES. We recorded the album in the studio of Michael Lake, a tremendously gifted jazz trombonist, recording engineer, and digital media guru. The album has many duets by Tommy Pederson (including The Crimson Collop which you have seen earlier in this article). Mike had the idea to add accompaniment to several of the duets and Below 10th Street features Mike on Hammond B-3 organ and drums. Thanks to Mike’s drone, he put together a promotional video of Gerry and me in the Sonoran desert north of Phoenix, horsing around with our trombones to the background of our performance of Below 10th Street. Fun times. For those interested, I start the piece, followed by Gerry, although our parts go back and forth between the top and bottom voice throughout. Click HERE to view this on YouTube.
Quidditch from Harry Potter by John Williams. Boston Pops Orchestra Brass Section. While I was a member of the Boston Symphony/Boston Pops Orchestra, I played many concerts with John Williams; earlier you saw several videos of performances of his music with the Boston Pops Orchestra from our 1993 Japan tour. Here is a video of John’s arrangement of his Quidditch—a game played by Harry Potter and his friends—from a performance in the early 2000s. The video begins with a little spoken commentary from John. The trombone players are Norman Bolter, Darren Acosta, and me. Click HERE to view this on YouTube.
Dear Lord, I Love Thee, by Wycliffe Gordon. Arizona State University Desert Bones Trombone Choir, Douglas Yeo, conductor, 2015. The great jazz trombonist, Wycliffe Gordon, is a good friend, and he came to Arizona State University in April 2015 to give a masterclass for my students. He brought along some music he had written and later that month, I decided to include one of them on our trombone choir concert. Click HERE to view this on YouTube.
His piece, “Dear Lord, I Love Thee,” is beautiful in its simplicity. Wycliffe composed words to the piece which he included in the trombone parts. It is a fitting benediction for this playlist that reminds us that while the concert halls around the world are dark, the music still goes on. In this challenging time, Wycliffe’s prayer is shared by me and so many others, as we turn to God, the giver of everything, for guidance and sustenance.
Dear Lord, I love thee. Saviour that saved me.
Lost, my soul was in sin, cleansed, made whole from within
by my Lord God, Jesus, who made me and saved me.
He’s God! God, mighty Lord, God who saved me.
Wretched my soul was in sin, then He gave me life anew.
Dear Lord, I love thee. Saviour that saved me.
Came inside and made me whole.
Blessed me, then saved my soul!!!