Saturday, December 18, 2010

Day 13 - Lucky for some!

The usual pre warm up continued for myself. Arriving early to get a park, get the mouthpiece out and do some buzzing exercises, make a coffee, then onto the tuba doing scales and other warm up exercises, then relax and wait for the begining of rehearsal after making another coffee.

Then rehearsal started, just like yesterday, with chorus problems. Same stuff but different day. But there was a difference, it took a lot less time to "get in the groove" today. Some of the orchestra was also behind the 8 ball today also. My own performance was much better today, so I'm a happy camper writing this right now. Later this evening I'll be back in the practice room with Harvergal Brian's tuba part infront of me, becoming better acquainted with it.

The orchestra now has 10 basses. I hope this timber forest will continue to grow and add even more colour and depth to this section. There are now 3 in the harp section. This maybe even more rare than 2 contra bassoons in an orchestral setting. Let me know please.

Brass was short of its third bass/contra bass trombone for some reason. We are still waiting on trumpet maestro Geoff Payne to arrive and cap off a very highly skilled trumpet section. Horns were a bit short today.

Woodwinds? I'm pretty sure just by looking at the section, that they are full (so to speak). They are sounding great!

I'm sure there is still space for some violins and violas but from chatting during breaks, I know that their numbers are growing.

Oooooh, I just realised something, they seemingly have sorted their parts out! No "using up orchestra time" during rehearsal for 2 days now. Congratulations and well done! Ignoring my mild sarcasm just now, the strings are showing the results of their sectionals/tutorials and home practice. Very assuring knowing and hearing this.

Disappointing was the "brass band" contingent. While not official, I think we're down to 2 brass bands, due to lack of performers probably. But the disappointing part is that the first time we saw them, we only had half a band. Today we merged 2 half bands into one. On the bright side, we have a brass band and they sounded great today. Especially the instruments that pointed forward! Some very strong and confident playing indeed.

It's not like that this massive undertaking happened yesterday, it has been planned for a couple of years now. So much work has been done in the past 6 months to make this happen. The brass band people who said that they would commit to the Gothic, just like orchestra, chorus and volunteer members, should honour their commitment. It's not like they were called at the last minute, interfering with their holiday plans.

Yes, this is disappointing to me.

The children's choirs were boosted in numbers today and rehearsed exceptionally well.

In places I could sit back and absorb this Gothic symphony as we rehearsed. More and more marvelous writing is coming alive as we become better friends with this work. Some magnificent chorus work along with the children's chorus complimented the orchestral parts perfectly. The chorus gain a huge "thumbs up" from Alison Rogers as a result. Yes, there will always be Havergal Brian's unusual and quirky writing but this is a magnificent work to be performing. I'm wondering what it is like to sit back and listen to it? I'll definately buy a CD of this work, if we do not receive any sort of complimentary recording (CD and or DVD) for our efforts.

Kicking off rehearsal this morning were 2 members of the Havergal Brian Society of Britain thanking us for making this "the 5th performance of this monstrosity". They flew in from the old country arriving yesterday and were on the radio this morning previewing our concert and educating listeners about Havergal Brian.

While looking around the orchestra and chorus, as I do every day, I noticed a common factor between two of our orchestra memebers. Elise on tuba 2 and our second contra bassoon player. Their instruments are actually bigger than they are!! True story

Stay tuned for more with the Gothic Tuba Experience

John Szkutko


  1. Two contrabassoons is actually rarer than massed harps (oh I like the sound of massed harps. Not the actual sound- just the words "massed" and "harps" side by side. Lol!)

    I can only think a few works that are well known that require two contrabassoons: Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring", the revised orchestration of Schoenberg's "Five pieces for orchestra" (which replaces the contrabass clarinet that he called for in the original scoring of the work), and his massive but highly Wagnerian (and accessible) "Gurrelieder" (in my opinion, a potential candidate for the Gothic Symphony experience part 2- if ever a thing were to happen at the end of next year).

    Massed harps are much more common, and very often in a work, such as Berlioz's "Symphonie Fantastique", were only two harp parts are visible, the composer very often wanted to double up the parts (thus giving four for the Berlioz). Here's some other ones that I've knew about, and a several more that I discovered through the following site (

    1. Berlioz, Hector - Symphonie fantastique, op.14 (Fantastic Symphony) 4 harps [2 real parts]
    2. Berlioz, Hector - Te Deum, op.22: Marche pour la présentation des drapeaux (March for the Presentation of the Colors) 12hp[1 real part]
    3. Gounod, Charles - Messe solennelle (St. Cecilia) 6hp[1 real part] —
    4. Mahler, Gustav - Das klagende Lied (original version in 3 mvts) 6hp[2real parts]
    5. Saint-Saëns, Camille - Requiem, op.54 4hp[2 real parts]
    6. Saint-Saëns, Camille - Symphony No.1, op.2, E-flat major
    4hp[1 real part]
    7. Schoenberg, Arnold - Gurre-Lieder 4hp
    8. Wagner, Richard - Götterdämmerung: Brünnhilde’s Immolation 6hp[2parts]
    9. Wagner, Richard - Götterdämmerung: Siegfried's Funeral Music (Trauermarsch; Siegfried's Tod) 6hp[2parts]

    10. Stravinsky Scherzo Fantastique 3 harps [3 real parts]
    11. Stravinsky Firebird Ballet 3 harps [3 real parts]

    There are many more apparently.

    Maybe we should follow this up with some ramblings a bit later on about the oboe d'amore, bass oboe, contrabass clarinet, basset horn, etc? You and I will probably get to see the bass oboe again next year, John, when we do that very well known work that requires one (there- that should keep him thinking for a while).

    I should probably rant about the bass trumpet, too, since I've a bit of a bias towards it.


  2. To be honest, I thought that everything you wrote you just poured out from your brain in an instant. Then I read your article and realised you actually did some research.

    Wow, who would have thought so many harps were ever needed.

  3. Some of the harp stuff i knew already(like the ring cycle), but the contrabassoon stuff was just off the top of my head.

    I knew there was another one- and it's taken me half the night to remember: the last movement of Mahler's tenth symphony (the Derryk Crooke version) calls for two as well.

  4. Contrabassoons, that is.
    Have you worked out what the work is that requires a bass oboe?

  5. Are you talking about the Planets there Adrian?

  6. No idea about the bass oboe mate, but i'd hazzard a guess with Alpine Symphony