I know it’s December when The Nutcracker rehearsals start, and for me, that’s tonight. As many times as I’ve played this ballet—several hundred times since my first performance in 1981—I still really like it. The Nutcracker marks the holiday season with cheer and a sense of expectancy, and this year, it also marks a return, at least in part, to a comfort level that we did not experience a year ago. Many around the world are enjoying the Hanukkah celebration, and Christmas is in just over three weeks. Whatever else this month brings for you, I sincerely hope it includes the peace and joy of these holidays.
The December issue of Horn and More will come in two parts. This issue will look like most, including a feature piece from the IHS53 presentation, Vienna Calling, as well as some news items from Latin America compiled by Gabriella Ibarra. This month’s Pedagogy column includes some genuinely insightful and helpful thoughts from Katy Woolley, solo horn of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam. (Here, I must gratefully acknowledge our editorial staff member, Ab Koster, who faithfully contacts the wonderful authors who contribute this column most months—thank you, sir!) Finally, I get to do something I never thought I would get to do and that is introduce a submission from my own sister in what will be a recurring column called Transitions. Her experiences starting horn later in life should encourage us all to be more fearless.
Mid-month, you will receive the second issue of Horn and More for December, and it will be one big Christmas gift to us all. You already know that a great interview with Sarah Willis is coming, and you will really enjoy her conversation with the delightful Angela Winter. Beyond this, you will just have to wait and see what else Part Two holds—but I guarantee that you will like this year’s special Christmas issue, so keep your eyes open for it.
Stay well, stay safe, and stay hopeful. Mike Harcrow, Editor, Horn and More
by Angelo Nuzzo, IHS Country Representative in Austria
The horn playing tradition in Vienna is strongly bound to the well-known Vienna horn as well as to the Classical composers who explored and established its value as a solo instrument (Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven) or who fully exploited its potential in large symphonic works (Bruckner and Mahler). This tradition is proudly continued and best performed by players in the top professional Viennese orchestras; yet there also exists a significant community of amateur players and educational systems which share the same pride and live the same culture.
In our contribution to IHS53 this past summer, we produced two videos to show how Vienna also offers non-professional players a unique environment where tradition and modernity coexist, and where locals and internationals are joined together, bound by the common passion of making music with this wonderful instrument. With that in mind, in our presentation, we took a brief historical journey exploring what an amateur ensemble might enjoy performing in the city and surroundings of Vienna, whether anchored in the most traditional or extended to the most modern.
The first of the two contributions is from Hornissimum, a Vienna horn ensemble founded in Baden bei Wien; and the second is by the horn section of the University of Vienna Philharmonic. The intent of the first is to give a concrete example of the traditional, while the latter aims to provide a taste of how the educational system in Vienna offers possibilities based on more contemporary music, exploiting the talents of its community of students from all over the world.
In summary, we hope to show that no matter what level of playing ability one has reached, whatever one’s geographical origin, or whatever musical taste one has, a horn player will always feel at home in Vienna!
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by Kami Harcrow
When I was eleven years old and about to enter sixth grade, the middle school band director came to visit my school. His job was to help students select an appropriate instrument for band class. I wanted to play the French horn, but my older brother was already playing horn and was first chair in the eighth grade band. Our parents would not allow me to play the horn because they didn’t want us competing against one another, so they said I had to choose a different instrument. My mother had a flute from her high school days and urged me to play that, but I did not want an instrument with so many keys. After a lot of back-and-forth discussion, my brother, in his eighth grade wisdom, suggested I play the bassoon because “you’ll always be first chair and never have to practice!” So, despite my flute trepidation, I took up an instrument with significantly more keys that was also much heavier to tote around. I often was first chair, but I did have to practice. I played bassoon through high school and for a year in college but quit after that. Since they were so expensive, I never had my own instrument, and did not play again for many years.
As I approached fifty, I prepared to retire from my career as an air traffic controller and searched for activities to occupy my time. I decided to take up playing bassoon once again. Craigslist offered up a nice, lightly-used Fox Renard bassoon which I purchased without playing (being too embarrassed to try it in front of its owner). I bought some reeds and a Weissenborn method book and started playing again. Fortunately, it came back more quickly than I expected, even after 30 or so years. I joined a community band—which was thrilled to have a bassoon player, and they did not require auditions.
Several years after retiring, I moved to a different city and joined a different band where I was once again the only bassoonist. As a small band, it had only a few of each instrument and no horns...
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Venezuela: During 2021, the Latin American horn community began developing several projects, and one of them has done a remarkable job of making it possible to connect the Venezuelan horn players who emigrated due to the current difficult circumstances in Venezuela. Most of these musicians were trained within the recognized El Sistema of Venezuela, an institution where the orchestra immediately becomes part of the day-to-day life of each of the children who are growing up within this huge “musical family.” The need to play together again was the main reason for the group Venezuelan Horns' emergence in 2019. After several remote recordings, Venezuelan Horns took the additional step of offering “Cornada 2021,” a virtual festival that provided a great opportunity for many children and young people to participate in masterclasses given by teachers like Joel Arias, José José Giménez, Hugo Valverde, Will Sanders, Jean Philippe Chavey, and David Cooper. The organization in charge of the young people included Ángel Eduardo Mendoza, David Mendoza, Javier Mijares, and Nelson Yovera, with additional support from the Venezuelan horn teachers and players Luis Fernando Ruiz, Javier Aragón, Luis Valladares, Liber Oscher, Alberto Arias, and Juan Sebastian Gimenez. Every teacher offered his knowledge and careful guidance to the students selected to play. The premise of the festival was to make it accessible but also free of charge to all participants, and thanks to the coordination of teacher Joel Arias as IHS Representative for Venezuela, this event became a reality. The National School of Horns Venezuela and El Sistema were also present at “Cornada 2021,” which is already planning now to offer the course again in 2022.
Argentina: Professor Michael Jimenez prepared his Horn and Trombone Chairs at the Higher...
I want to talk to you about practise. Maybe I’m a bit behind the curve here, but I only recently really realised the extent to which our private work is linked to the eventual outcome on stage. Am I unfocused in my practise? Then my performance will likely be distracted too. Do I beat myself up during my sessions? Then I will probably be suffering from detrimental negativity in the concert as well. Do I try random things over and over and hope that they work? Then the performance may well suffer from that hit-and-miss character, too. Now of course there is no one right way to practise—we are a wonderful collection of various learning styles, preferences, tendencies, etc. Imagination, therefore, ought to be the shining light at the centre of each player’s creative world.
Imagination: “The act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality.”
One of the fundamental points of practise is to improve. By necessity, we must continually be searching a multitude of newness and traversing what can be a scary voyage of change. We must be comfortable exploring actions/sounds/feelings/processes that have never before been wholly perceived in our realities. We must, therefore, also be understanding and respectful of a whole host of outcomes we are bound to experience, both desirable and, sometimes, not so desirable.
Many of my current students and friends know about my love of the following trilogy: Thought—Action—Result. I have noticed that my frustrating, less-effective practise sessions are when I become overly focussed on the result. At the end of the day, Result is what we want: a great entry, smooth lines, a ringing sound. But this is the one part of the trio that isn't directly under our control. Thought is trainable, controllable, adaptable. The resulting Action (and the link between the two) is also trainable, controllable, programmable....