The Horn as Voice of Sorrow and Reconciliation

By Bruce Richards

Nearly 15 years ago, I came across an album by the Southern Cross Soloists from Australia. (Peter Luff, horn)  The album, Song for the Shadowland, featured music by Paul Stanhope. The title piece is a four movement work for soprano, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn and piano. This includes four settings of aboriginal poems by Oodgeroo Noonuccal.  The first, second and fourth movements are sung, but the third is a solo for horn entitled Interlude.  This solo horn piece was so successful that Paul Stanhope published it separately under the title Dawn Interlude.

Here is an excerpt of the description that Stanhope gives to the solo: 

“This piece is in some ways a commentary on Oodgeroo's poem Dawn Wail for the Dead but also, in its own way, a personal gesture of sorrow for past wrongs perpetrated against Indigenous Australians.” 

A video interview with Australian composer Paul Stanhope by Bruce Richards (with French subtitles):

stanhope interview

Used with kind permission by the Liège Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Belgium

Read more: The Horn as Voice of Sorrow and Reconciliation

Breathing Life into a World Premiere

by Ann Ellsworth

Premiering Sheila Silver's “Being in LIfe,” for Horn, Alpenhorn, Tibetan Singing Bowls and String Orchestra

ellsworthSheila Silver’s new piece, “Being in Life,” for Horn, Alpenhorn, Tibetan Singing Bowls and String Orchestra, was premiered in Seattle by the Philharmonia Northwest, Julia Tai conducting. I have never premiered a piece of this scale and magnitude or worked in such close collaboration with a composer. Sheila is an amazing creative force - watching her process different textures and phrases within her rhythmic sound world gave me a glimpse into her deeper relationship with music and sound. I was also fascinated to see firsthand how Sheila, as a composer, took this idea of a piece and grew it into a premiere. The love and commitment she gave to this piece had the same energy with which she gardens, teaches and cares for those around her. Her passion for life and music is inspiring and life-changing. I had met Sheila very briefly as a colleague when, as a junior faculty in crisis, I reached out to her for advice. Sheila reached back as a mentor and friend, played music with me, encouraged me, listened to me and talked with me about Being in Life. 

Sheila’s partner, John Feldman, is a filmmaker and needed a soundtrack for his film about biologist  Lynn Margulis called, “Symbiotic Earth.”  Sheila invited me up to their home in the Hudson Valley near Great Barrington to “improvise the soundtrack,” an offer I feared but could not possibly resist. I had been to her home once before with Rachel Drehmann - we were in Great Barrington playing with Ken Cooper’s Berkshire Bach Festival - and after dinner (amazing!), Sheila took us up to her studio and proceeded to beat, ring, clang and sing her impressive collection of Tibetan singing bowls for about an hour. She wanted to know what would happen when the horn and bowls played together, and it was with this vision in mind that she asked me to come and stay for three days and make a soundtrack. 

I am no wilting violet here but I have to admit, trying to keep up with Sheila’s work pace is exhausting. We’re about 20 years apart but her energy level is so high, I often forgot that I was the chronologically younger one. She’s a morning person; rehearsal would start at 6:00AM, which I pushed back to 6:30 because I had to “warm-up,” a concession she made graciously. We’d play for a few hours then go for a brisk 45-minute walk in the hills near her home. Breathless might be an appropriate word to describe our pace, and yet somehow we were able to converse. I loved her stories about studying abroad with Karkoschka and Ligeti. Sheila filled me in on her new opera, “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” which is slated for premiere with the Seattle Opera. She told me about asking Khaled Hosseini for the rights, getting her Guggenheim Fellowship and traveling to India to study Hindustani music. She was immersed in this sound world and spoke at length about instrumentation, how to be true to the spirit of this music, and when to abandon the form and be true to her Western setting of the piece. At times she would tear up talking about the Hosseini story and the hardships faced by the women in Afghanistan. I was working on a book about my adoptive family. (It’s been released this month - see the link at the end of this article. -Ed.)

Read more: Breathing Life into a World Premiere

November Trivia Contest

This month’s trivia contest questions come courtesy of Ken Pope of Pope Repair in Boston! Test your knowledge of horn maintenance and send us your answers at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

  1. The reason you oil your horn FREQUENTLY is because:
    1. Your teacher told you to.
    2. To keep the valves moving freely.
    3. To keep your horn clean.
    4. To keep dezincification from occurring.
    5. All of the above.
  2. Which of these products should never come in contact with the exterior of an unlacquered horn
    1. Soap and water
    2. Ammonia-based cleaners
    3. Brass Polishes
  3. Which of the following have I NOT found in a brass instrument while repairing it:
    1. A bottle of Bacardi 151 rum
    2. A dead mouse
    3. A wind-up toy
    4. A mouthpiece
    5. Subway tokens

If you answer all three questions correctly, you will have the chance to win one of three prizes (also courtesy of Ken Pope): 1 $20 voucher and 2 $15 vouchers for his online shop.

The holidays are just around the corner!

 Did you know that when you shop for the holidays at, AmazonSmile donates to International Horn Society? 

Don’t forget about gift memberships to the IHS! Our Annual Membership Drive through the month of December brings you many membership options:

Gift Memberships:

Club Memberships: $35 for 8 or more people
Family Membership: $75 for up to 3 members at the same address
Lifetime Membership, electronic membership, student membership . . . find the option that fits for you!

The IHS also offers discounted rates based on the categorization of a country on the IHDI (Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index). Countries are in one of 4 zones, and based on this a reduced membership rate is offered, and for Zone 4 countries membership may be free! Please reach out to us if you have any questions!

Help us improve our website

We Want to Hear from You! As a valued community of horn players, we want to hear what you think about our website ( Your feedback from this brief survey will help us improve our current site and better serve your needs.

Complete the survey by Friday, December 20, 2019 for a chance to win one of these gifts:

A copy of Richard Watkin’s CD “The Romantic Horn”
An IHS logo ‘condensation collector’ towel (choice of red or black)
A 1-year IHS electronic membership

Read more: Help us improve our website

Holiday Horns New England

New Hampshire: Saturday 7 December (Plaistow, NH)
Boston: Sunday 8 December (Boston University)

Come play in New England's ONLY mass horn choir events this Christmas season. Join us in New Hampshire on Dec 7 or in Boston on Dec 8....or both! All ages and abilities are welcome. No competition, no stress, just a day of fun horn choir, all ages playing all together. Ugly / festive sweaters & decorate your horn, prizes will be awarded! To participate in the White Elephant gift exchange: $5 buy in or donate a baked good.


Please register for either (or both!) dates here:
These are FREE to participate, and the concert is free and open to the public. 
This year we are endorsed by the International Horn Society and will be sponsored by Pope Instrument Repair

Myron Bloom Tribute

by Philip Myers


I had the opportunity to study with Mr. Bloom at the Blossom Music School during the summer sessions of 1970 & 1971. It changed my life. Up until that time I was consumed with the difficulties I was having on the horn. He helped me learn to think and listen to music without filtering it through the technical issues of the horn. This I had never done.

If I could attribute the main thought I got from him, it was the inexorable march forward of a phrase. This idea that most of the time music is moving forward, not falling away, has so many ramifications that present themselves to the curious that I have spent the last fifty years trying to realize them.

At the time I studied with him he had an absolutely unique teaching style. In my mind it could be described as “defender of music and the phrase”. When I played for him I felt like he was literally protecting the purity of his ideas from what I was doing. And he should have been as I had no idea what I was doing. 

Not to be sacrilegious, but to me “he spoke as one having authority”. I had no doubt from the moment he began to teach me that he knew something connected to a greater knowledge that I wanted desperately to know - and he did share it.

He knew precisely what he liked and what he did not, but I always felt he was a very realistic and humble man, and with me as a student, very open. I heard him play about 40 live concerts and have every recording of his that I can find. To this day, if I think about a piece that he recorded or that I heard him play live, in my head I hear him playing it, his idea, not my own.

Myron Bloom Tribute

by Ellen Dinwiddie Smith

bloom1Like many of the young musicians of my generation, I was inspired by the Cleveland Orchestra recordings conducted by George Szell. Soon I began hearing the name Myron Bloom and words like "legendary" being used in connection with those recordings. At that point in my life, I had not heard many orchestras 'live', but in 1982, I did have the opportunity to hear L'Orchestre de Paris when they played in Austin, Texas. Luckily, Myron Bloom was playing first horn on that evening's performance of Brahms Symphony #3. The beauty of his sound, the inevitability of his phrasing and the sheer musicality that his playing embodied drew me in and I immediately made it my goal to study with him. Thankfully, Myron accepted me as a student and became my teacher and mentor first at the Juilliard School and then at the Curtis Institute of Music. Perhaps because my father was a West Point graduate and Lieutenant Colonel, Myron's no-nonsense communication style worked for me. Many of his 'barked' commands remain seared into my memory: "Prepare the sound! Play the phrase! Connect the notes! Rhythm!" He often made short exclamations and expected one to immediately follow them. He was demanding but always with the goal of making great music. It should not go unmentioned that I was not treated differently because I was a female horn player. There were several young women in the studio, and his teaching style did not change. He was incredibly respectful of his female students but did not pull any punches. Being true to the music was the most important thing. 

Myron taught me that I was indeed a musician (not just a horn player!) and opened my ears to intensive listening. If it didn't sound good it couldn't be right! He set the bar high. We talked about musicians he admired and recordings that he loved. One summer at the Waterloo Festival in New Jersey, I was privileged to play alongside him. His rhythm astounded me - he was a rhythm machine! As my time as a student came to an end, I kept in touch with Myron (and got to start calling him that, or Mike, instead of Mr. Bloom). I enjoyed getting to know his wife Susan and visited several times over the years. We spoke about articles in the New York Times, David Brooks columns, the death penalty, the nature of true genius - things we hadn't covered in lessons. I continued learning as I watched him live with dignity and integrity. His dear wife Susan Moses kept in touch whenever something new was going on with his health, and for that I'm thankful. Myron Bloom was loved for his heavenly sound, and it is my hope is that he found the perfect horn in heaven. He deserves nothing less. 

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