On Thursday, February 6, I presented my second full solo recital since joining the faculty of the University of Mississippi, though it was the ninth time I have appeared in some capacity as a soloist with university faculty or performing ensembles since arriving in Oxford in August 2012. That has made for a heavy practicing and performing schedule for the past eighteen months that is only now beginning to slow just a bit. Nevertheless, I still have a number of engagements for the spring, most importantly an appearance on a Guest Artist Recital on the opening day of the Eastern Trombone Workshop next month. “No rest for the weary,” as they say, but this is exciting and gratifying work.
This particular recital required me to play five different instruments in the following order: alto trombone, euphonium, large-bore tenor trombone, bass trombone, and small-bore tenor trombone. I can’t say that I envisioned such an “über-doubler” type of program from the outset of planning this recital, but as the program evolved that is the ultimate shape it took. I set out mainly to construct a program of exciting, entertaining, and gratifying music, and while I made no effort to limit myself to one instrument, that I ended up playing five was a little surprising.
While I perform on all of these instruments regularly, playing each one as a soloist over the course of about 90 minutes (including an intermission and time spent talking between pieces) presents a special challenge. As I listen to these recordings and reflect upon the evening’s experience, it becomes evident that I am not quite as secure on the alto and small-bore tenor trombones as on the larger instruments. That is not surprising, since I do 95% or more of my performing and teaching on the larger instruments. Still, I can always work to improve. Also, the switch from alto trombone to euphonium presented a bit of difficulty; we were into the third movement of the Cimarosa piece before I felt as if I had truly settled into the euphonium well. Besides those broader issues, there were the occasional minor errors that are always present in live performance despite our best efforts, but on the whole I was quite pleased with last Thursday’s recital. My collaborators, pianist Stacy Rodgers, bassist Michael Worthy, and percussionist Ricky Burkhead, all University of Mississippi faculty members, played brilliantly, as usual.
Perhaps more importantly, for the first time in a long while I truly enjoyed playing this recital. I have always been honest about my preference for ensemble playing over appearances as a soloist; I am much more comfortable in the back row of the orchestra than up front. Moreover, beginning with my development of back, neck, and jaw problems seven years ago I developed quite a bad case of performance anxiety, particularly in solo playing. After years of physical therapy, trying various exercises, and retooling my playing to become more efficient, I am in less pain now than I have been in several years, and am playing better, as well. As I sometimes tell my students, my own physical problems forced me to play more efficiently and more correctly; to do otherwise could lead not only to poor performance, but to physical pain. Having become more comfortable with these adjustments, I have reached the point that I am once again confident that when I step on stage as a soloist things will “work” correctly, and that is a good feeling. That’s not to say that there are no “nerves” at all, but it is manageable, and I am thankful that this is so, as well as for an enjoyable and well-received performance.
While I will likely select only the best of these to include on the recordings page of my faculty website at Ole Miss, which is largely devoted to new student recruitment, here is the entirety of the program, “warts and all.” I should note also that if the audio and video on any of these appears to be slightly “out of sync,” they probably are. There was a problem with the audio feed to my camera Thursday night and so I had to create these videos by combining separate video and audio files, with all of the attendant difficulties. In any case, I hope you enjoy these!
arr. Christian Lindberg: Three Medieval Dances
Domenico Cimarosa/Pat Stuckemeyer: Oboe Concerto
Amy Riebs Mills: Red Dragonfly
Johan de Meij: Canticles
arr. Bill Pearce and Larry Mayfield: Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho