Friday, February 21, 2014

Vuvuzela and the Berlin Philharmonic Brass

In 2010 South Africa hosted the FIFA World Cup, being the first African nation in the history to win the bid for this great event. Organized every 4 years, this tournament brings together the best national football (soccer) teams form around the world.
One of the most memorable aspects of this event, was the sound created during the games by local fans by using a horn, called Vuvuzela. Made from plastic and about 2 ft long, the Vuvuzela produces a loud monotone note. When used by thousands of fans simultaneously, it is easy to imagine the effect created.
 During the month long tournament the Vuvuzela gained worldwide popularity, reaching the peak of it's meteoric rise to stardom by making it into one of the top symphony orchestras in the world, the Berlin Philharmonic.
Watch the video below, and decide if the Vuvuzela ( even if it's plastic!) should be included as an equal member of the brass family.

Bach 2000

2000 was a Bach memorial year, so more than 70,000 visitors poured into the German town of Leipzig to celebrate and enjoy over over 90 concerts. A lot of renowned artists from all over the world performed there, each of them honouring Bach in their own personal way. Leipzig was the centre of the music world that year !

German Brass, the amazing brass ensemble from Germany, was among the many artists who were invited to perform in Leipzig that year. For this occasion the group, including members from top German orchestras,  prepared a whole program of Bach arrangements which they performed and recorded live in the St. Thomas church.
It turned out to be an absolutely amazing recording, a must have item in any musicians library :) Enjoy !

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Casbah of Tetouan

Tetouan is one of the two major port cities in Morocco, situated on the north side of the country, close to the strait of Gibraltar. Composer/horn player Kerry Turner visited the city in 1988 and during this visit he was inspired to compose this work. Later, the composer recalled his impressions upon entering the city :
 "As we crossed the Straits of Gibraltar and first laid eyes on the North African coast, I knew we were in store for an adventure! The city of Tetouan was our destination; we were soon standing before its main gates. As we entered the city, our senses were overrun by the many exotic new sights, complementing the wild sounds and smells of the bustling ancient city. After proceeding only a few feet past hobbled live chickens, we found ourselves immersed completely in the endless, tiny alleys of the Casbah. It was a labyrinth of tunnels and passageways, lined with vendors and shops the size of walk-in closets. Anything could be had, including copperware, sacks of spices and grains, and silk. Street butchers displayed slaughtered lambs, goats and pigs, and a snake charmer with his cobra unnerved the unwary passerby. Somewhere around the urine-treated leather goods things began to swim before my eyes. After I informed the guide that I was ill, a young boy was sent to escort me to a quiet place. The boy knew every secret passage and shortcut in the Casbah. He led me through even tinier streets and tunnels, across nomad camps, and even through a kitchen! We sailed through the back door of a mosque, and out the other side. Finally we entered a large, dark and cool house, which seemed to be some sort of palace. The boy led me to a back room and laid me down upon a bed of large pillows. I passed out. I awoke thoroughly disoriented. The first things I saw were six elaborately cloaked elderly men, wildly discussing in Arabic what could possibly be wrong with me, I heard exotic music and aromatic food assailed my senses. After closer observation I discovered I was in a fancy restaurant, being entertained by a belly dancer. Somehow my wife and brother found me and we resumed our inspection of Tetouan. I still felt lightheaded and rather doped by the "therapeutic" tea; my impressions of the city were somewhat hallucinogenic" (

Originally composed for 5 horns, this great piece of music filled with rich sonorities, challenging technical passages and unusual sound effects, was later rearranged for brass quintet in 1993 by Turner himself. Other arrangements such as a trombone quintet version and a tuba quartet version have found their way into the brass chamber repertoire. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Playing fast balkan style

Many of you may be familiar with eastern European brass bands playing Balkan gypsy music. It is quite a site listening and watching these musicians play, especially in live concert.
I had several opportunities to witness these groups performing, mostly on county fair like events around my hometown growing up. What's fascinating about these bands is the real fun these musicians are having while playing everything by memory, most of the time in warp speeds. It's unusual to see brass players perform without the slightest worry of equipment, embouchure, airflow, high-low register approach etc., and these guys are doing it just like that. 
Some of the representative bands for this style are Fanfara Ciocarlia, Goran Bregovic and his band, Fanfara 10 prajini and many others.