Monday, June 16, 2008

An Outside Job

There is something about your trumpet and the outdoors. Our practice is usually cranked out throughout the year in the same room with the same acoustics and the same scenery. Much of our music-making is an inside job played next to walls and under ceilings - with the exception of marching band which doesn't count. Now that summer is here, we have the chance to change the scenery. As soon as the cicadas terminate themselves, it will be safe again to go outdoors and inhale.

It was 1957, my second year of playing the trumpet back in New Jersey in the fourth grade. I remember stepping out in the back yard that spring, and blasting some jazz licks at the nearby track team as loud as I could. I stopped a few runners at first, but since I didn't know when enough was enough, they soon ignored me. It didn't matter. I was having great fun. Playing outside was cool.

My teacher might have planted that thought when he casually suggested I should get out in a boat, try all the mouthpieces I had, and finally decide on just one. I think he was impatient with my indecision and hoped I would be less distracted out on some lake. I took it to mean, "get away from everything and make some music on that thing!" It is interesting, the comments and suggestions that can stick even at an early age.

In the summer after sixth grade it was 1961 and I was a camper at Brevard. It was called the Transylvania Music Camp in those days. The Blue Ridge mountains, dozens of streams and trees provided ideal surroundings for making music. I still remember all the lessons and repertoire we did on those benches next to the stream.

Interlochen in 1965 also was perfect for a boy and his trumpet. The lake and the pine trees were always agreeable listeners. Those trees heard us playing our hearts out every day. What a great place to perform Pines of Rome for the first time. Mysterious Mountain, Mahler 1st, Salome's Dance, Franck's d minor, and Firebird were all brand new to us. The beautiful outdoor scenery was an enormous aid in learning. What a scenario for introducing great music!

The 1968 summer was Tanglewood. It doesn't get much better. A lot of practice happened on that folding chair in the midst of a huge field. Working on a tan while practicing and hearing great concerts every week! Life was more than good! Ghitalla and Voisin gave us enough ammo to keep us fired up for all of those long dreary months in cold indoor Rochester. I knew that my memory would be my teacher for many months.

For the summer of 1970 the venue was Blossom. We endured Kent to get to Blossom on the weekends. It was worth the wait. There is nothing like the sound of the Cleveland brass ringing into the pavilion. You could almost see the sounds penetrating out to reach the huge audience. Woods, and wood was everywhere, inside and out. (Somebody had those acoustics figured out.) Bernstein conducted Mahler's 2nd that summer. Mahler is always Mahler, but he can be even better outside. The Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini somehow isn't quite as effective unless performed under the stars.

Summer festivals are getting started even now, but all too soon they will come to a close. It will be fall, football, politics and then back indoors for a long winter's nap. In the meantime, enjoy your summer. Don't leave your trumpet at home.


Anonymous said...

I heard a rumor that Tanglewood had been missing their welcome sign for many years... is this true?

Phil Collins said...

Sad, but true. . . .

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