Tornado season struck Cincinnati today! Bass trombonist Charlie Vernon of the Chicago Symphony picked up his alto, tenor, and bass trombone and just about blew everyone out of the room! For sure bass trombone players know very well how to put on their blasting helmets and do some serious damage. I say damage respectfully, as that is one of the necessary skills required of all brass players. He had it under complete control. In addition to shear power, we heard gorgeous quality of sound, awesome dynamic contrasts, nice intonation, and the prize of the day - beautiful music making! More impressive than his technical control is the obvious power source of his amazing accomplishments. It was "talent on loan from God", and he simply played as if to say, "I love this job!"
What a concerto he played! The terrain of the musical landscape is full of huge obstacles and monstrous range jumps with stop-on-a-dime demands. Close your eyes and you can imagine the largest ocean-liner clearing the harbor for entry. Next there followed soft choirboy soprano choral lines way up there. But I particularly enjoyed the energy and lighthearted humor that he showed in the rests. He seemed to be saying, "this piece is great fun to play!" His rhythm is machine-like but not at the expense of breath-taking expression. Far more than a music computer, we saw unabashed passion and relentless drive. No mountain is too high for this guy, and no valley too low! This unique composition might have been subtitled, "You will have to be able to do it all. Fasten your seat belt!"
The highlight of all the highlights, in my opinion, was his almost whispered comment on what was happening during some of the rests. "This is the most beautiful music I've ever heard!" He was setting the scene for us just like the announcer softly but excitedly describes the final winning putt in The Masters Golf Tournament. Most of us just count the rests, thinking only of our next entrance. No, Charlie gave the impression that he was on the most thrilling ride of his life. "All aboard. You're riding shotgun, guys. Everyone take a deep breath. We're flying right over Niagara Falls. Next movement, on your right, there's the Grand Canyon! You may now exhale. Now on to Yellowstone where we will observe the force of those geysers!"
Charlie Vernon finally landed us back in Cincinnati. Thanks to Mr. Vernon for a great trip!