TAPAS enjoyed by North-East trombonists

Written By: David Read Comments: 0

For many a British trombonist, the big event of 2006 will undoubtedly be the International Trombone Festival in Birmingham in July, but players from Stockton-on-Tees and the surrounding area were able to whet their appetites for all things trombone-related at the North-East region???s first BTS Trombone Day in May. Hosted by Tees Valley Music Service, the event attracted beginners, students, teachers, amateurs and professionals from across Teesside and beyond. Headline artists were ITA vice president Jiggs Whigham and former BTS president Chris Houlding, both of whom gave inspiring and entertaining recitals and masterclasses during the course of the day.  Chris welcomed the 40-or-so participants and led the Massed Blow, which included pieces as diverse as Mozart???s Ave Verum Corpus and that Tutti???s Trombones favourite, Lassus Trombones. The trombone choir, in which a wide range of ages and abilities were represented, sounded terrific and clearly made an impression on some of the youngest players in the room who then stepped up to contribute to the next item on the itinerary, Tees Valley Music Service???s Endangered Species Project. The aim of the project, as TVMS trombone teachers Steve Baxter and Stuart Gray explained, was not saving the giant panda(!) but ensuring that sufficient numbers of pupils take up the trombone to prevent the instrument from becoming extinct in schools and colleges. The two small groups of beginner and intermediate players performed a short selection of pieces, some with CD backing tracks, my particular favourite being a funky version of I Want It That Way by Backstreet Boys! The pupils??? obvious enjoyment and the level of achievement reached after only a few months of tuition were indicative of the success of the Endangered Species scheme ??? an encouraging sign for the trombonists of the future. After a brief session in two separate groups (advanced and not-so-advanced) to play through more trombone choir music, we reconvened to hear Chris Houlding give a brief recital in which he aptly represented the diversity of solo trombone repertoire. John Kenny???s Fanfare provided a declamatory and concise opening, and was followed by a Sarabande from one of Bach???s Cello Suites in Lafosse???s transcription, a masterclass in controlled and sensitive playing. For a ferocious and explosive finish, Chris played Hauptposaune by Anders Hilborg ??? exhausting to witness, never mind playing it! With lunchtime rapidly approaching, Chris gave a brief masterclass with the keenest volunteer, 12-year-old Graham Thorpe, who performed Cavatine by Saint-Sa?ns.  The afternoon session consisted of a performance, masterclass and improvisation workshop presented by Jiggs Whigham, backed by local rhythm section the Paul Donnelly Trio. Having flown in from the States that day, Jiggs came straight from the airport and, playing a brand new Conn-Selmer King ???Jiggs Whigham??? model (unwrapping it from the plastic and greasing the slide as he talked), launched straight into a recital without a warm-up. The whole room was wowed by Jiggs??? simply stunning playing, and his explanation of modes used in jazz improvisation was truly enlightening. He got everyone involved ??? singing, dancing and playing ??? and eagerly encouraged questions from his attentive audience. Jiggs explained that this was an historic moment ??? his contribution to the day???s events marked the inauguration of TAPAS, Trombone Artists Playing for Amateurs and Students. This recently-conceived initiative aims to encourage more student and amateur players to join the ITA and BTS through performances given by leading well-established trombonists who donate their time to the cause once a year. I don???t suppose many people often have the opportunity to hear a performer of such stature in such an exclusive setting, and the two young masterclass participants, David Gerrard and Sam Sankey, both 15 years old, were clearly inspired by their chance to play for and jam with Jiggs, as were those of us watching the proceedings. Any scheme that brings world-class artists closer to audiences ??? particularly small events outside of big cities, where access to high-quality live music can sometimes be difficult to come by ??? is an extremely positive step towards widening the appeal of the instrument and securing the future of trombone playing. Long may it continue ??? more TAPAS please! Claire McIntyre

Share this article