Making and sharing music in a challenging time

Making and sharing music in a challenging time

The coronavirus pandemic has shuttered concert halls and theaters, opera houses and nightclubs. Live music with multiple performers working together in a collaboration just can’t be done in public in most places these days.

Yet musicians are finding creative ways to bring music to a world that seems to need it now more than ever. A day doesn’t go by when someone doesn’t forward me a video of some group of performers who put together a music video with a number of “socially distanced” players who have recorded a track individually and then put it together to make a group performance. I’m involved in a project with some friends as well; more on that once we get it done. Some of these projects are not very well done or are just not that interesting to me, but others make me smile, cry, laugh, and celebrate. Here are a few I’ve enjoyed recently. I hope you enjoy them, too.

The Milwaukee Symphony has recorded Edward Elgar’s “Nimrod” from his Enigma Variations. I find this performance very moving on a lot of levels, especially because the music itself is so compelling. Among those members of the orchestra who are performing are my friends, second hornist Dietrich Hemann and his wife, principal trombonist Megumi Kanda, who share a screen. To view this video on YouTube, click HERE.

In 1996, the Boston Pops Orchestra recorded an album of music to celebrate the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta. Conducted by John Williams, it included many works that had been written for previous Olympic games, as well as Summon the Heroes, a fanfare which Williams wrote for the Atlanta games. I was a member of the Boston Symphony at that time (1985-2012) and I count recording that album as one of the most memorable events of my musical career. Recently, 50 members of the Boston Pops Orchestra recorded Summon the Heroes once again, conducted by Boston Pops conductor, Keith Lockhart. Tom Rolfs plays the trumpet solo and the low brass section is Toby Oft, Steve Lange, Jim Markey (bass trombone), and Mike Roylance (tuba). To view this video on YouTube, click HERE.

I’ve played many concerts – playing serpent, ophicleide, and bass sackbut – with Boston’s Handel & Haydn Society, an early music group based in Boston. Here’s a fun video by H&H principal flutist Emi Ferguson who makes a do-it-yourself baroque flute. Seriously! And it sounds great (and Emi sounds great, too). Try it! To view this video on YouTube, click HERE.

Here is a new piece, All Day Long (The Coronavirus Song), written by my friend, Paul Langford, and his 14 year old daughter, Chloe. Paul has been a singer and arranger for the acapella group GLAD for many years and I think this original song and Chloe’s performance are absolutely terrific and inspiring inspiring. And there’s euphonium and trombone content, too! For more about the piece and how it came about, see this article from Chicago’s WBZ; click HERE to read it. To view this video on YouTube, click HERE.

Terry Everson is professor of trumpet at Boston University, and a good friend of our family since he and his family moved to Boston in 1999. Terry served as principal cornet of the New England Brass band for most of my tenure as the band’s music director, and he is a super trumpet player (and teacher), pianist, and arranger. In this video of John Dykes’ Holy, Holy, Holy, Terry is joined by his wife, Lori, on violin, and their son, Peter, who just graduated with a degree in trumpet performance from Boston University. To view this video on YouTube, click HERE.

Mashups of classical and popular music don’t usually work for me, but this performance of J. S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 and Paul Simon’s American Tune does. The group is The Knights, joined by vocalist Christina Courtin. American Tune is my favorite pop song; it has been since it was first released on Simon’s solo album, There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, in 1973. The music is adapted from a tune by Hans Leo Hassler, adapted by J. S. Bach in his Saint Matthew Passion as, O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden (O Sacred Head, Now Wounded). The group gives a superb performance of Bach’s Concerto, and Courtin’s take on American Tune is honest, heartfelt, and moving. Paul Simon’s text never felt more relevant to me than in this challenging time; he could have written it yesterday. To view this video on YouTube, click HERE.

Our youngest daughter, Robin, is Director of Public Relations for San Francisco Symphony. She recently shared this fine performance of Paul Dukas’ Fanfare from La Peri, featuring members of the San Francisco Symphony brass section. And while you have the San Francisco Symphony on your mind, take the time to view the orchestra’s excellent video series, Keeping Score, where music director Michael Tilson Thomas and the orchestra provide an in-depth look at some of classical music’s greatest works including compositions by Aaron Copland, Charles Ives, Ludwig van Beethoven, Hector Berlioz, and many others. To view this video on YouTube, click HERE.

I’ve played the ophicleide for many years, a bass instrument in the brass family that was invented in France in the early nineteenth century and was a predecessor to the tuba on a long evolutionary path. In recent years, the ophicleide has gotten the attention of many superb, young players, including Francesco Gibellini. Of the many overdubbed recordings people are making these days, I think this one is one of the best. I have no idea how he did it but I think this will make you smile. To view this video on YouTube, click HERE.

The coronavirus pandemic is challenging for all of us. But in the midst of the storm, we can hold on to the promise of God: He is faithful. Stevener Gaskin, who is Intercultural Arts Associate at Wheaton College where I teach trombone, has contributed an inspiring video – Faithful Promise –  in his unique performance style. I have heard Stevener in person several times and I’ve never failed to be moved by his work. This video was filmed in part on the front campus of Wheaton College; you will see the College’s first building, historic Blanchard Hall, in the background. I return to this video over and over again to be encouraged to persevere through this storm, knowing that God is faithful and He will bring us through this, even as we pray that we will also learn the important lessons God would have us see and understand that are already unfolding before us. To view this video on YouTube, click HERE.

[Header image of coronavirus in headphones from Variety.]