Trombone Day Out
Digital Ambassador Jodie Mitson shares with us about this year’s British Trombone Society Day.
Chamber music is highly valued at the RNCM but usually students would participate in a quintet, quartet or duo ensemble. It is quite a feat therefore to organise, rehearse and perform with 18 fellow students who all have recitals looming and end of year assessments to complete. This is what the Trombone department embarked on when the offer of playing at the first British Trombone Society Day since 2019 came up.
The preparation process was a little chaotic and tricky mainly because we had to find rehearsal spaces big enough for nearly 20 people and find an hour free in everyone’s diaries which matched with the rehearsal space availability! Good practice for a real-world musician. After our rehearsals and preparation, led by James Hunt, 3rd year trombonist, who excellently conducted and organised everyone and everything, the day itself arrived. The coach was scheduled to leave at 8am on Sunday 8 May, which is not a student time most days let alone on a Sunday! Nevertheless, we left (slightly after 8am), and woke up in Durham 3 hours later.
After we had signed-in we got to meet the organisers and other participants who had all signed up for a day of all-things-trombone. It was wonderful to be in a room with about 40 trombonists of all ages and abilities and the day started with a massed blow ensemble session where we could hear everyone play together a couple of arrangements of well-known tunes including: Here, There and Everywhere by The Beetles and Hot Stuff by Donna Summer. The rehearsals were led by Christian Jones, Principal Bass trombone of Opera North and Bass Trombone tutor at RNCM. We focused on breathing efficiently but smoothly, balance in the ensemble and tuning whilst attempting to listen to and blend with 40 other trombonists.
The day progressed with a Masterclass and Recital given by Christian Jones and a Brass Band interlude of excerpts and trios performed by the Trombone section of the WFL Fairey Band. Then it was the RNCM trombones’ time to shine beginning with a performance from the Genesis quartet, comprised of Toby Marshall, Freddie Hughes, Ollie Webb and Josh Cargill who excellently showed off the trombones versatility with a sonorous and hymn-like rendition of Eternal Father Strong to Save arr. John Van Gulik, and kept a lively energetic character in Tokyo Triptych mv.3 ‘Shibuya’ by Philip Sparke.
The might of the RNCM trombone department was unleashed next with our 18 piece choir including a contrabass trombone and Cimbasso. We opened our programme with Superman by John Williams arr. Jim Nova which opened with a sparse unison chord to draw the audience in. This excellent arrangement negotiated the technicalities of trombone playing well, whilst still being quite challenging in higher parts and insisting on a solid rhythmic drive from the bass end. The next piece in our programme was Sacrae Symphonie: Kyrie and Gloria by Giovanni Gabrieli arr. Russell Anixter. We were required to split into 4 quartets each of whom got their moment to shine. This was a huge contrast to the John Williams superhero we had just introduced the audience to, and it was a good programmatic choice for something lighter and cantabile which echoed the roots of trombone playing in choral settings. We closed with Great Gates of Kiev from Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky arr. Robert Holliday which many of us have played (and sat tacet for 6 movements!) in an orchestral setting, so our understanding of the orchestral context helped us structure the piece dynamically and build excitement whilst maintaining the grandioso feel. This was probably our favourite piece as it allowed us to play at a well-controlled and maintained loud dynamic showing off the trombones power as well as our teamwork within the ensemble whilst doubling parts and taking solos.
Safe to say, I think the audience enjoyed our performance almost as much as we enjoyed performing it and we were all thankful for the opportunity.
19 May 2022