Last fall, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra put on its first Happy Hour Concert at the Ohio Theatre downtown. Welcoming all with free admission and even free appetizers, the CSO offered up some wonderful, mid-week concerts with the goal of bringing in new concert-goers right after work or who might not otherwise be able to enjoy a concert over the weekend.
Kudos to CSO marketing because these concerts are a fantastic idea for which they deserve nothing but praise. Not only do they present it in a far more informal setting, but they also get to introduce amazing music to a whole new audience. It brings in all kind of people to those dressed up for a fancy night out to people with baggy pants and ball caps. Oh yeah – and everything in between as well!
I heard that they were expecting 3-400 people at the first concert and ended up welcoming nearly 1,200! WOW! I’m sure the second concert had just as many because the best seats filled up quickly! Putting on any concert – especially a free one – isn’t easy. And I’m sure it certainly doesn’t come cheap which is why it’s so important to get the community involved. Fortunately, the CSO is on top of that. And, though more are always welcome, there are people and businesses out there doing exactly that: getting involved.
Enter Watershed Distillery.
Watershed Distillery is a locally owned and operated distillery of world-class spirits right here in Columbus. Located in Grandview (Columbus’ best neighborhood), it was founded in 2010 by owners Greg Lehman and Dave Rigo who liked the concept of locally owned and produced spirits. With that in mind, they put their heads together to make that a reality. Seven years later, they have Watershed Distillery – home to Vodka, Bourbon and two kinds of Gin.
I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Dave Rigo between tours to talk about Watershed Distillery and its support of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. Here’s our conversation.
How did you end up supporting the Happy Hour Concerts? The CSO contacted us about happy hour concerts. It’s the right thing to do – to support the arts. We have an upscale brand and in our minds, we think that’s a good fit for the CSO.
Why support the Symphony? I personally think that with a 2 & 3-year old, there are so many things – whether its music or painting – that…it just is part of a cultural thing you have to have in order to balance out with everything else in the world. It makes you a better, well-rounded person. There’s so much that is a distraction (e.g. Smart phones) it’s nice to see someone more creative than me, to see what they’re able to produce. We can sit back and relax to forget about the world we live in sometimes.
Did you attend concerts prior to the Happy Hour Concerts? Oh yeah.
What are your thoughts on the success of these concerts? Wow! We’d like to take some of the credit, but we didn’t think we’d have so many people. We obviously love the exposure to a totally different customer base that we sometimes don’t get in front of, so it’s a win-win. In talking to the CSO, they said they’d like to start appealing to a younger demographic. We’re a younger brand and we already appeal to the young professional.
Is this something you’ll continue into next season? Yeah – I think so! We’ve got one more left this year. If they ask us to be a part of it again, we’ll definitely do it.
So who’s your favorite composer? No idea! I like going, but, by no means am I able to answer that question! I could listen to anything – such a wide range of music. Country, rap, rock and everything in between! With young kids, I’ve been listening to a lot of Frozen lately! Rock / Grunge in high school to Country in college because the truck I had for my landscaping job would only get one station and that was country!
Take a tour
Prior to the first Happy Hour concert, I’d never heard of Watershed before, despite the fact that I live walking distance from their distillery! That’s OK – I’m pretty much a teetotaler, so that’s not too surprising. That said, I was interested in learning more about them. Fortunately that was made easy because they offer tours! For $10, you can take a tour and learn all about the process as well as sample each of the four spirits they make. Either Greg or Dave will talk about the distilling process, show you around, answer any questions you may have and then treat you to a tasting at the end. While you’re there, pick up a bottle or two. I took my tour before Christmas, so I know they make great gifts!
The next Happy Hour concert is this Wednesday, March 26 at the Ohio theatre at 6:30 pm. (Bar opens at 5:30 pm!). Look for Greg and Dave while you’re there!
Watershed Distillery products can be found in 700 bars and restaurants all over Ohio as well as in six other states! To learn more about Watershed Distillery and their world-class spirits, please visit their website and like them on Facebook. To read the rest of my interview with Dave as well as a Cliff’s Notes version of distilling (and more pictures!), check out my post Grandview: Watershed Distillery on my blog, Itinerant Knitter.
Welcome to the second half of my interview with CSO Concertmaster, Jean-Sébastien Roy. Today I thought we’d start with a bit of Symphony 101: what’s a concertmaster?
According to Merriam-Webster,
con·cert·mas·ter noun \ˈkän(t)-sərt-ˌmas-tər\
: a musician who is the leading violin player and the assistant conductor of an orchestra
To gain a better appreciation of this position, know this: If you’re good enough to be in a Symphony orchestra – any instrument, any position – then you’re really good.
Growing up, one of my band directors told us this:
It’s really hard to get into a Symphony. You have to be incredibly talented but once you’re in, you’re in for life. So if you’re not already in an orchestra, someone has to either resign or die for there to be an opening.
Competition is fierce and raw talent alone won’t be enough when you’re auditioning with the other musicians at that level who want it just as badly as you do
WQXR radio out of New York posted an article about auditions which taught me this:
In the past several decades, orchestral auditions have only gotten more competitive. A section position for a major orchestra might have 200-300 applicants, and then 100 will be invited to actually audition,
said Jonathan Mednick, CEO of MyAuditions.com, an orchestra job posting website. Available jobs have decreased as well, he said.
“Three years ago, we were averaging 300 plus jobs per month, and recently we averaged about 120.”
So with that in mind, imagine how a musician feels when making it into a top-notch, professional orchestra. Now imagine being that top-notch professional orchestra’s 1st chair violin.
That’s your Concertmaster.
What additional responsibilities do you have with the CSO as our Concertmaster? The bowings for the music, though most music already have them marked, so I just make sure it all makes sense.
Simply put, a Concertmaster is the 2nd highest ranking member of the orchestra behind the conductor. The conductor always shakes the hand of the concertmaster. The soloist always shakes the hand of the conductor – and the concertmaster.
The concertmaster is the last one on stage before a performance and is responsible for making sure the musicians on stage are all in tune. Once the orchestra has a chance to tune to the concertmaster, he (or she!) then takes the first seat to the left of the conductor, who then joins the musicians on stage and begins the concert.
To give you an idea of how busy he is, last month Jean-Sébastien met with me for this interview on a Tuesday, worked as a coach to the youth orchestra during a rehearsal (Dvorak’s New World and Saint-Saëns) on Wednesday and then on Thursday attended a fundraising dinner. Jean-Sébastien has also played for the Columbus Symphony Orchestra women’s organization lunches and occasionally meets with various people (donors) after concerts.
Smiling, he told me that,
They want me to do some of everything!
He went on to say, that he’s “…here with a one-year contract, so it’s a bit different than a full-time concertmaster, but with a Music Director leaving, they don’t want to name a permanent concertmaster until the new guy is here.”
The CSO is currently conducting its search for a new music director to succeed our current Maestro Jean-Marie Zeitouni.
How soon before a performance do you get your music? 2-3 weeks in advance, but if you have another performance, you might not have a chance to look at it. It’s difficulty vs. how well I already know it. Rite of Spring (with the Montreal Symphony) – it was so well-written, so smart, that I sight read it and performed on only a couple rehearsals.
It’s so hard to find well-written music. Music can be complicated, but it’s so hard to perform. Stravinsky was complicated, but easier to perform.
What are your thoughts on leadership within an orchestra: (Leadership is) important, but (sometimes) extremely tricky. It’s a group of very talented and highly trained musicians. You must lead them in a very respectful way. It’s tough from the music director’s point of view. You need someone to make a decision (we’ll do it “this way” or “that way”) but you have to do it in a way to respect the quality of playing, backgrounds, etc.
Where do you see the CSO in 3-5 years? I see a lot of motivation in both the administration and the musicians. It’s had a rough patch – they’ve been recovering for 3-4 years. They’re back in good shape, so they can grow again and make it better than what it was before. A lot of it hinges on who is chosen as the music director – with good chemistry with the musicians, the administration and the community, you can just make miracles. I hope we’ll get lucky and get a great person and a great musician. I hope it will get attention again in the community.
For what do you think the CSO will be known? Any particular specialty? Hard to say. With Maestro Zeitouni, it would be vocals since he is amazing with singers. It all depends on the next Music Director.
Why aren’t more soloists pulled from the orchestra itself?
What sells is a soloist.
Jean-Sébastien explained to me how typically speaking, a concertmaster will play one solo per year but, in his case, with an already planned out schedule and a one-year contract put together only a couple months prior to the start of the season, it wasn’t possible to add a solo for him this year.
Speaking of solos, what happens if you break a string?
If something breaks, it’s usually the E-string. If the soloist breaks a string, he can take the Concertmaster’s violin who takes the associate concertmaster’s violin who, then doesn’t play. If I change a string, I need to play about 4-5 hours before it settles in tune. (Will keep going flat) The E-string takes far less time. For that reason, I usually keep an extra string in my pocket when I go on stage.
With what other ensembles have you played? Edmonton Symphony, Boston Symphony – they have an incredible hall – very old – no technology, they just made it right. It’s amazing. (There are) amazing acoustics in a new symphony hall in Montreal – they have to rely on the technology.
What do you say to people who don’t think they like classical music? What experience do they have that would make them think they don’t like it? Classical music has so much variety. You are bound to like at least something. I’m sure you can find something you like. There are a lot of preconceived notions. It’s challenging – depends on the community.
We come across as very serious so sometimes that doesn’t help.
It’s not easy, but classical music DOES sell.
Other than Mendelssohn’s violin concerto, what violin music should I have in my music library? Bach sonatas and partitas; Paganini Caprice; Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and Brahms violin concerti.
Here’s Jascha Heifetz playing Paganini Caprice
Thanks for reading! I hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know our new concertmaster, Jean-Sébastien Roy. If you’d like to learn more about Jean-Sébastien and his music, visit his website and his bio on the CSO website. If you’d really like to get to know him, I recommend doing so through music. Holiday pops concert is the first weekend in December and the next classical music concert is the 2nd weekend in January. If you are new to the symphony, try it out. It’s really good and well – you may just discover you like it!
Thanks very much to Jean-Sébastien for granting me permission to use some of the photos off his own website.
- The orchestra: An introduction (operaveritatis.wordpress.com)
Not long after he was named our new concertmaster, I reached out to Canadian violinist, Jean-Sébastien Roy, to see if he’d be interested in letting me interview him for my blog. Giocosity was barely two months old and I hadn’t even met with the French horn section yet, so I was coming to him out of nowhere with absolutely no interviews under my belt. Within a day he responded back with a yes and even offered to do it over the phone if I weren’t able to wait until October when he was planning to move to Columbus.
Wow. Talk about above and beyond!
Last month I had the pleasure of meeting him downtown where he was kind enough to meet with me for a couple of hours while I asked him a myriad questions – about him, his music and his time so far here in Columbus.
If you’re just getting to know him, Jean-Sébastien Roy played as guest concertmaster with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra on two different occasions last year: the waltzes concert at the new year and the Mahler concert in February. He has played as guest concertmaster with orchestras all over the world – including with the Strasbourg Philharmonic in Strasbourg, France, where I spent my senior year in college, so I definitely wanted to ask him about that.
Here’s my interview. Enjoy!
Originally from outside Montreal (Joliette), Quebec, Canada, Jean-Sébastien joins the Columbus Symphony Orchestra as our acting concertmaster for the 2013-2014 season. In talking with him, I learned that he already had connections to Ohio.
Here are some of the basics:
Education: Le Conservatoire de Montréal, Cleveland Institute of Music
Home Life: I have a younger sister (5 years) who is a pianist. Mom and Dad are musicians, too (Piano and guitar), but make their living at other jobs. I also have a dog back home in Canada.
Any fun hobbies? I’ve become a wine enthusiast. (And yes, I like the Alsatian Rieslings!)
Why the violin? It’s always been the violin – since I was two. I started lessons at age four.
How often do you practice? Every day, but I sometimes have to take a day off from time to time. It (orchestra playing) can get very tiring.
Do you ever practice as a section? Not usually. (Sectionals are) used more with youth orchestras. If you have time, it’s great, but it’s usually only used if there’s an occasional very difficult piece.
Instrument: 1745 Carlo Antonio Testore, Jacob Eury bow made in 1830 (From 2006-2009, Roy played a 1717 Windsor-Weinstein Stradivarius on loan to him after winning the 2006 Canada Council for the Arts Music Bank Competition)
What do you gain from performing? I gain a thrill of playing – you go for it. The public wants to hear this piece, they’re here for a good time. You get on stage, you play your piece, people clap for you. When you rehearse, you start and stop. The energy isn’t the same. If you screw up, nobody’s there to hear. At concert time, you have adrenaline in you – you just go for it. Sometimes it’s great, sometimes it’s not as perfect as in a rehearsal because you’re nervous, but it’s a better experience.
COLUMBUS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
What do you think of the CSO so far? I love it – it’s a great orchestra. They respond very well to the conductor. They really care and wish to make the concert very good. I’m still new, but I’m very happy with it.
Is it nice to be able to work with fellow Canadians Jean-Marie Zeitouni and librarian, Jean-Etienne Lederer? Yes, but also Alicia Hui (Principal 2nd Violin) is from Canada – from Edmonton.
What should people here know about the Columbus Symphony Orchestra? We’re just a bunch of people getting together and playing music. It’s all very interesting with fun people, passionate people. It’s very demanding to perform, so we might look a little still and focused on stage, but there’s a lot of passion with every performer.
Which concerts are you most looking forward to playing this year? Carmen in Concert, the Bruckner, Guy Braunstein (Former Concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic – will be playing Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto)
Are you looking forward to any particular, upcoming guest conductors? Michael Stern – and Jacques Lacombe (French-Canadian). Jacques Lacombe – he conducted when I was 10 at a festival put on by my teacher and I’ve seen him from time to time since then.
Ohio Theatre or Southern Theatre? Southern has better acoustics, but with a smaller place, it’s easier to fill. The Ohio – the most beautiful I’ve seen in my life.
Place to perform outside of Columbus: Europe in general – anywhere in Europe. This music was born there, there’s so much history. America has the incredible halls. When you set foot in Europe, there are great halls where great performers have been for centuries, it’s very special. You feel like you’re a part of its history.
Composers: Schubert, Richard Strauss, J.S. Bach, W. A. Mozart
Musical Era: End of the classical / beginning of romantic Mozart and Schubert were writing incredible music. Beethoven just opened the door to everything.
Show off pieces for the violin: Brahms Hungarian dances
Take a moment to listen to this video of Jean-Sébastien Roy’s playing Brahms Hungarian Dance No. 20.
Pieces for the Violin: Mendelssohn violin concerto is a beautiful piece. Brahms Violin Concerto in D Major Op us 77, Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 9 Opus 47 “Kreutzer Sonata.”
Violinists: Itzhak Perlman, Jascha Haifetz, Nathan Milstein, I love the old guys!
Conductors: Wilhelm Furtwängler (Berlin Phil 40’s), Sergiu Celibidache, Leonard Bernstein
Performances: Hard to tell – very different playing in a symphony, playing solo, or in a chamber setting – most are special for different reasons. The Mahler #2 was nice – especially being the concertmaster.
You just arrived last month, so what parts of the city have you explored? German Village, Short North, Campus Area (I think!)
Can you sing the OSU Fight Song or Alma Mater? Not yet, but I just arrived. (OK – I’ll grant him that, but I came prepared and brought the music for the fight song with me just in case. Unfortunately, we met in a fairly noisy place, so Jean-Sébastien wasn’t really able to pull out his violin to play it for me. Next time.)
Any plans to see the Blue Jackets? Not sure yet – I don’t go that often. Tickets in Montreal are really expensive. (For you hockey fans out there, Montreal took on Columbus this past Friday and unfortunately, the Habs beat our Blue Jackets by a score of 3-2. Sigh.)
Igor Stravinsky – Rite of spring: Genius? Or just plain weird? Genius – the rhythm was incredible.
Finally – and most important – what’s your favorite Jeni’s Ice Cream flavor? There was an almond one that was amazing. I also like the Poached Pear Riesling.
Again with the Riesling. I think he might just need to check out some of our local wineries!
Come back on Wednesday when we talk about Jean-Sébastien’s role as concertmaster, his thoughts on leadership within the orchestra as well as what violin music we should all have in our music libraries! In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about Jean-Sébastien and his music, visit his website and his bio on the CSO website.
Thanks very much to Jean-Sébastien for granting me permission to use some of the photos off his own website.
To quote Lisa Hirsch, author of the Iron Tongue of Midnight,
Make it as easy as possibly for people to give you their money.
KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID
The KISS principle states that most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complex; therefore simplicity should be a key goal in design and unnecessary complexity should be avoided.
Number of steps required to make an online donation to local arts organizations here in Columbus:
- Opera Columbus: 5
- ProMusica Chamber Orchestra: 5
- Columbus Symphony Orchestra: 20 (More if you have to set up an account and more if you change your mind about the amount halfway through the process.)
5 steps vs. 20-plus steps. Which seems simple to you?
Persistence, I hope, pays off
Every month I give $5 per month to the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. Is it a lot? Heck no. It doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what they need in order to keep up their operating budget – 70% of which relies on donations.
Yeah. 70% of their entire budget.
I did research for this blog and after half a dozen attempts, I LEARNED how to make an online donation to the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. It is unnecessarily cumbersome. Their online donation portal, simply put, is not efficient. It’s not user-friendly and puts an undo burden on the donor, who will most likely give up prior to completing the intended donation.
I’d love to see the conversion rates.
And to be quite honest – had it not been for this blog and a desire to have actually tried something I say I don’t like, I probably would not have donated. Like some CSO musicians, I gave up, too, the first few times, then the next couple of times as well because I just couldn’t figure it out. Sad thing is? I’m computer savvy – I’ve created blogs, websites, I work on computers all day long – PC at work, Mac at home…this should not be a challenge.
Why so many hoops?
Having a computer and knowing how to turn it on should be the only prerequisite to being able to make an online donation. I shouldn’t have to LEARN how to make a donation. I should only have to go to your website, click a button, fill in a few blanks and be done with it. Casual donors are going to send their money elsewhere once they discover how much is required of them up front.
As for my $5? I wish I did, but I just don’t have more to give, so I give that much. I give it because I love the music and for a non-profit organization constantly having to raise money, every little bit helps.
Imagine if the CSO/CAPA team would consider making a change from this cumbersome process to a legitimately good process?
My research on this comes from open source material. You can check it out yourself and see if you agree or disagree. Here – www.columbussymphony.com. Try to make a donation and let me know how far you get.
And how many tries it takes you to get there.
One thing I noticed during my tour last summer of the Ohio Theatre is now much stained class is in the building. It’s all over the place! It’s in some of the ceiling lights (backlit), many of the lamps and the exit signs. For some reason, I just love the exit signs. Take a look!
This is up in the rear balcony.
I don’t remember exactly where this one hangs, so you’ll have to look around for it!
Exit signs are all over of course, but these are by the front doors in the main lobby area.
And these exit signs – I’ll let you guess where they are, but the musicians should know!
I love how you can go someplace lots of times and not pick up on the beauty within – or even how much beauty there is. Can you imagine how much work went into the artistry shown on the walls and ceilings and the lights in this theatre?
Probably about as much as goes into the artistry shown via the music played on stage, don’t you think?
Erin Lano, is the Columbus Symphony Orchestra’s newest horn player. She joins the CSO this year as a full-time musician after having subbed for two years.
Originally from Richmond, VA and a veteran marathon runner, she’s currently in the process of moving from Chicago to Columbus in the next week or so. She was kind enough to talk to me via Skype, hence the reason behind her having lent me some pictures – which are a tad more formal than those I took of her fellow horn players!
So please let me take this opportunity to introduce you to her.
Everyone: Meet Erin!
Hometown: Richmond, VA
Alma Mater: B.M. New England conservatory of Music (studied under James Sommerville) and Master’s degree (M.M.) from Rice university.
Home Life: Husband Matt Lano, who plays the bassoon, and a pet snake named Chloe.
Any fun hobbies? I like to run and have run the Chicago marathon 6 times.
Why the French horn? My parents told me I had to be in band. Mom used to play the French horn. It sounded pretty and we had one sitting around the house, so I might as well have played that!
What kind of instrument do you play? Ricco Kühn
How often do you practice? About 2-4 hours per day
Who are some of your favorite French horn players? Radovan Vlatković – I love his sound, how smoothly he plays and how musical he is. James Sommerville, William VerMeulen (Rice University also 1st horn of Houston Symphony) The Chicago Symphony horn section! Sarah Willis, Low horn with the Berliner Philharmoniker – definitely a huge inspiration.
With what other ensembles have you played? I’m Principal Horn with the West Michigan Symphony, 3rd horn at the Britt Festival in Jacksonville, OR and I play with the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra. In Chicago, I sub with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Lyric Opera, Grant Park Orchestra and have also subbed with the Cincinnati and Milwaukee Symphonies.
What’s the best thing about performing in front of an audience? I want to play my best. Each time I perform a piece, I learn a little more about it. I hope to learn more about the other parts to see the big picture.
I hope the audience is moved in some way. I want the orchestra to get the emotional content of the music and for the audience to feel an emotional connection to the orchestra and to the music.
Being in an orchestra – being able to recreate these great masterpieces. It’s so rewarding!
Where are some great places to play outside of Columbus: Symphony Hall in Boston or Pritzker Pavillion in Millennium Park, Chicago
Any memorable performances? Playing principal on Mahler’s 9th with Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Orchestra Hall.
COLUMBUS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Year joined the CSO: 2013, Subbed for two years prior.
What brought you to Columbus? I’ve been Freelancing in Chicago for 6 years now. A couple of years ago, Adam (Koch) called me to play a gig in Cleveland, which was right before Columbus Symphony Orchestra Sub auditions. He told me I should take the audition, and I have been coming out a lot since then.
Ohio Theatre or Southern Theatre? Ohio Theatre
What should people in Columbus know about the Columbus Symphony Orchestra? We are really lucky to have such a great orchestra. Columbus does far more in terms of a meaty, classical repertoire during the year than some other orchestras of its size. Such a great variety and we have a huge hall, too, so there are plenty of seats!
What do you say to people who don’t think they like classical music? I’d offer up some suggestions or suggest they hear a live performance just to get a full sampling of it. If you find a piece or a composer who really resonates with you, then work your way out from there. There’s such a huge variety to the classical repertoire, I think everyone could find something to love about it.
Who are your favorite composers? Mozart, Brahms
What’s your favorite musical Era: Romantic
Favorite show off piece for the French horn: Mozart Horn concertos, Former professor James Sommerville plays so expressively, so musically – he taught me how to play the Mozart concertos. “No – you CAN’T do it that way. Do it THIS way…”
What French horn music should I have in my music library? Till Eulenspiegel, Don Juan by Strauss
OK – GOTTA ASK!
Igor Stravinsky – Rite of spring: Genius? Or just plain weird? Genius!
I don’t know, but I might end up being outnumbered on that last question!
Special thanks to Erin for the use of her pictures for this post.
Come back tomorrow to meet Adam Koch!
“You never eyeball a horn player. You just don’t. They’re stuntmen. You don’t eyeball stuntmen when they’re about to dice with death.”
- Sir Simon Rattle, Chief Conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker
WELCOME TO FRENCH HORN WEEK!
Welcome to my week dedicated to the brass instrument known as the French horn.
Having pretty much only ever played with mellophones in marching bands and not with actual French horns, I’ve learned quite a lot the last few weeks while talking to the talented horn players of my Columbus Symphony Orchestra (CSO). I hope you enjoy reading about this wonderful instrument and meeting the CSO horn players as much as I have.
Today you’ll be treated to a double dose of musical goodness as I introduce the French horn itself followed later this morning by the first of four horn players, Erin Lano. Tomorrow morning, you’ll get to meet Adam Koch. On Wednesday, Julia Rose and on Thursday, Principal horn player, Gene Standley. By Friday, when you’ve had a chance to meet everyone and soak in a bit of how the French horn fits into the world of music, I hope you’ll enjoy some more great samples of music as well as our thoughts on the future of the CSO.
Symphony seasons are just starting up and these musicians are people who do nothing but create beauty in the midst of chaos. If your life is as hectic and crazy as mine, you’ll want to support them because maybe, just maybe, you could use some of that beauty, too. If all goes well, maybe you’ll even be inspired by the end of this week to go hear your local symphony play. I promise you, it’ll be worth the trip!
But until you get there, I hope you’ll feel free in the meantime to join in the discussion every day, leaving your thoughts on the French horn and music as well as saying hello to each of these amazingly talented musicians.
So with that in mind, I bid you welcome!
“God made some people Horn players; others are not so fortunate.”
- Anton Horner, first horn professor at Curtis Institute of Music
THEY’VE COME A LONG WAY
French horns originally got their start as nothing more than carved out animal horns or even conch shells used primarily to send signals over long distances. Over the centuries, they eventually became a bit more formal in a way – made of metal with a single loop used most often in Renaissance Europe by men on horseback sounding the hunt. There were no valves, so the horn player had to use his breath and his embouchure in order to play different notes.
Playing the French horn is still a challenge today. According to Associate Conductor of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Maestro Peter Stafford Wilson,
The French horns are…the bridge between the woodwind and brass sections. They appear in both brass and woodwind chamber music settings, as their sound can have the warmth of woodwinds yet the power of the brass.
It probably is one of the most difficult instruments in the orchestra to learn as technical success relies not only on pressing the right buttons, but a keen sense of pitch and a strong control of embouchure.
During the 17th century, modifications were made to the Hunting Horn, or Cor De Chasse, to turn it into the French horn similar to what we know today. The rest, as they say, is history.
I WOULDN’T TOUCH THAT WITH A 12-FOOT HORN!
OK, so that might not catch on as well as not touching something with a 10-foot pole, but horn players everywhere are working to change that.
Here’s some of what I’ve learned about the French horn.
- When uncoiled, a French horn is 12′ long. (See?)
- Screw bell – ever see one of those big, clunky French horn cases? Being able to unscrew the bell makes it much easier to carry. You can see the joint in the picture above of Julia’s horn. It also makes it compact enough to fit inside the cabin of an airplane because no musician wants to check their instrument with an airline.
- Southpaws take note! It is the only brass instrument that is played left-handed.
- French horn players however, switch to the right-handed Mellophone when playing in marching band as it plays the same range, but is more easily portable.
- The French horn has the smallest mouthpiece of all the brass instruments.
- Handstopping – horn players can change the tone and essentially add more notes just by using the right hand which rests inside the bell while playing.
- Often thought of as one of the hardest instruments to play.
- Often seen in Christmas decorations. (Think we can change it from Three French Hens to Three French Horns?)
- Makes for a tasty pastry!
- French horns have their own cocktail! French Horn Cocktail Ingredients: 2.5 cl Vodka, 2 cl Chambord (Raspberry liqueur) and 1.25 cl Lemon Juice. Chill the cocktail glass while making the cocktail, and once chilled rim the glass with salt. Shake the ingredients together in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into the chilled rimmed cocktail glass. Cheers!
The French horn itself has definitely evolved over time with its popularity’s really coming into being during the romantic period.
Maestro Wilson has this to stay about that evolution:
You find the best writing for horn from the romantic era to the present time. The instrument in the classical (and baroque?) periods was just so difficult and unwieldy and even limited in the pitches it could deliver that composers like Mozart and Haydn used it primarily to reinforce the harmony and supply fanfare effects on occasion. Beethoven’s music is the earliest I can recall that uses it with any particular soloistic flair.
Later on today, you’re going to meet Erin Lano, the first of four CSO horn players. She, along with Adam Koch, studied at Rice University, home to Professor Bill VerMeulen, Principal horn player with the Houston Symphony and former Principal Horn player with the CSO. He had this to say about them.
I couldn’t be more proud of Erin and Adam. They are both terrific hornists and people. I have been so fortunate to both play in the Columbus Symphony and now help staff its horn section with wonderful students. I wish everyone the best.
To me the French horn is a beautiful instrument. I love the middle voices and, with apologies to trumpet players everywhere, the best part of Fanfare for Common Man by Copland is when the French horns come in. Mozart, Richard Strauss and Schumann have some beautiful pieces for the horn. But, because I cannot deny my love of science fiction, I have to say that I absolutely love the theme music to all of the Star Trek movies which strongly features the French horn. The theme to the Star Trek remakes (with J.J. Abrams at the helm) are especially nice.
Even if you’re not into SciFi movies, you can’t deny the beauty of this haunting melody.
Now if I’m really lucky, I’ll get one of the CSO horn players to play the theme to Star Trek for me. I don’t even care from which movie or show. I know for a fact that at least two of them played with the Cincinnati Pops in a concert that featured Star Trek theme music, so I know they know it. I’m optimistic! (scheming – scheming – scheming)
So glad you made it to French Horn Week! Come back starting at 10am today to meet Erin Lano!
- Star Trek and French Horns (giocosity.com)
French horn week starts on Monday, so I thought I’d get you ready for what’s to come! Let the sounding of the horns begin!
I couldn’t resist putting that in there, especially since the French horn originally got its start as a hunting horn!
Next week’s going to be a lot of fun because – thanks very much to the gracious help and hospitality of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra’s horn players – I’m going to share what I’ve learned about their wonderful instruments.
I’m also going to introduce you to the CSO’s French horn players themselves, so you can get to know the real people behind some of the beautiful music we all enjoy at concerts.
Or that you will soon enjoy if you’re working on becoming a CSO first timer!
Here’s the plan for next week:
We’re going to start by talking about the French horn itself – where it came from, what people think, some trivia and basics about this beautiful instrument. When I asked some friends to tell me what they thought when they heard someone say “French horn”, the first things I heard about were pastries and cocktails, so by all means – I’m including those, too, but the real focus is on the music.
Starting later on Monday morning, we’re going to meet our first – and newest – horn player, Erin Lano. Then on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we’re going to meet the rest of the section: Adam Koch, Julia Rose and Principal, Gene Standley. Finally on Friday, we’re going to get into the more serious side of things and learn their thoughts on leadership and where they hope to see the orchestra in the next few years. Naturally, I’ll include some great music for you to try!
Don’t Look ‘em in the Eyes!: Who said you should never eyeball a horn player? Find out on Monday!
Erin Lano: Ask her about Chloe!
Adam Koch: Invite him to dinner – as the chef!
Julia Rose: Has a new baby girl!
Gene Standley: Great vinyl collection!
Soul of the Orchestra: Bringing it all together – thoughts on and samples of great music, hopes for the future
Interspersed throughout the week will be comments from conductors, professors and even the next generation of horn players, so I hope you’ll join us next week. I especially hope you’ll let me know what you think by leaving comments and sharing this with your friends as well.
And on a side note, no pun intended…
I don’t work for the Columbus Symphony Orchestra nor do I work in any part of the music industry. I just love music and have been fortunate enough to have gotten a lot of cooperation needed to be able to put all this together. My hope is that you’ll want to get to know these amazing musicians as well as learn a bit more about the music that inspires them to dedicate their lives to creating and communicating to us via this art form. My other hope is that maybe this week’s worth of blog posts will entice some of you to join me for a night at the symphony! If an extra one or two of you decide to try out a concert, then it will have been worth it. If an extra 10-15 of you show up – that’ll be even better!
So in the meantime, have a great weekend! I’ll see you next week! :-)
I live in Columbus, Ohio. We’re a large city in a small state located on the edge of the midwest – in between my home state of Indiana and another adopted state of Pennsylvania. (Having lived in 7 states, I have a lot of “adopted” states.) We’re also next to Michigan.
These are great states. Why, you ask? They are all home to Big Ten Universities. Big Ten schools are big on academics, of course, but they’re also big on athletics. If you’re not aware, or you’re from out of the country, you should know this:
American football is kind of big over here.
All these Big Ten universities have football teams and in Ohio – especially in Columbus, Ohio, home of The Ohio State University and one of the most storied football programs in the country – football is pretty much everything. If you don’t like football, you might as well just move away now. Starting in late August / early September, you automatically have plans on all your Saturdays – unless your allegiance is only to one school at which point you have at least one bye week during the season.
Classical music fans in Columbus
As I say over and over again in this blog, Columbus is home to an awful lot of arts organizations including my personal favorite, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. It performs on an awful lot of Saturday nights, which during football season, might – to the outsider – appear to be no problem, especially for a 12 noon kick off.
But that’s where you’d be wrong. No. You see – that IS a problem to the 100,000 + fans who have tickets to the game and the thousands more who will tailgate despite not being able to set foot inside the actual stadium. Trust me. Buckeye fans take tailgating to a whole new level. It’s an art unto itself. And it sure as heck doesn’t end when the alma mater is sung at post-game!
You’d be amazed at the game watching set up people create out of the trunks of their cars. Can’t imagine what Buckeye fans can do? Well, I think it’s pretty safe to liken it to the Weasley family tent at the Quidditch World Cup.
But with all the people watching football – either inside the stadium or on their 52″ TVs that some have inside their trailers (yes, friends – I’ve seen them – with my own eyes) still in the stadium parking lots, or at the veritable plethora of game watching parties in sports bars or people’s homes, there are classical music fans among them.
Saturdays are taken up with college football. Home game? Away game? Doesn’t matter, it’s all about Buckeye football. So I ask you to please consider the difficulty classical music fans experience during the football season – the tugging at their heartstrings – Buckeyes? Or Beethoven? The CSO is performing Beethoven’s 5th on November 16th – the same day as the OSU game against the Illini. Sure, it’s an away game, but Buckeye fans will be glued to their TVs watching it anyway.
Now imagine this dilemma of having bought season tickets to the Symphony last year only to learn that my alma maters, Indiana University and The Ohio State University were playing each other the night I had tickets to hear Shubert’s Great Symphony. I was torn. Imagine how nerve wracking it was to not be able to check the score until intermission. Imagine as well that the Hoosiers went 1-11 in 2011, yet on that October night in 2012, we scored 49 (yes – forty-nine) points against the Buckeyes – THE OHIO STATE BUCKEYES – but – we – still – lost! GAHH! 49-52!
OH THE HUMANITY!
But man oh man – the Schubert piece was great. And the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto #1 was just beautiful.
So what’s a football fan to do?
Well fortunately, these Big Ten universities also have great music schools – especially my first alma mater of Indiana University, about which, of course, I have a slightly biased opinion!
But alas we’re talking about Columbus, Ohio now and the Ohio State University School of Music is also rather incredible. Not only is it home to The Best Damn Band in the Land, i.e. the Ohio State University Marching Band which does an amazing script Ohio in all their pre-games (the real reason people attend games), but it’s also home to Jazz ensembles, a Wind Symphony, a Percussion ensemble, Symphonic Band, the Men’s Glee Club and Symphonic Choir and a Symphony Orchestra. Shall I go on and list more ensembles? …because I can! The OSU School of Music has so much to offer and there’s almost always something going on.
And fortunately, there’s a lot going on, on days other than Saturday. The Ohio State University School of Music has over 300 events and performances throughout the year. Over 300! That’s pretty impressive!
While the Columbus Symphony Orchestra also performs on Fridays and occasional Sundays, the OSU School of Music has music ensembles performing nearly every day of the week. So you see, classical music-loving football fans? You DON’T have to miss out on good music!
Check out this schedule of upcoming events. There’s so much going on and tickets to most events are $10 to $20 – literally half that if you’re a member of the alumni association. Concerts are already happening and last Saturday was even the First Annual Viola Day. Coming up in November is a Clarinet Spectacular – Jazz Meets the Classics which includes performances, master classes, clinics, etc. You can attend the entire event or just the Saturday evening concert.
Even though events are already taking place, I encourage you to check out the schedule because there is an absolute ton of great concerts coming up in October and November.
Each of the main ensembles puts on about 2-3 concerts per semester and the majority of them start at 8pm, though there are Sunday concerts that begin at 3. Check out the schedule. Whether it be sports or music, you’re still supporting your Buckeyes.
So what do you say, sports fans?
Looks like you can have your football and music, too!
- Must See Classical Music in Columbus (giocosity.com)
Visit the OSU School of Music Facebook page for more info, too!
French Horn Week – coming up the week of September 23-27 here on Giocosity!
Last month, I wrote about a friend of mine, Daric Gill, who is a local artist who sometimes incorporates music into some of his art. The example I gave was of a line of illustrations he has called the ToeHeads in which he draws fun, toe-shaped characters in a variety of scenes, some of which are musically themed. I’m happy to say I have two of those on my walls and while one of mine has a musical theme, they both are tied to my love of knitting.
Yes, like many musicians, Daric obviously takes requests!
Daric is an interdisciplinary artist which explains why he does illustrations on reclaimed wood. He also does sculpting and painting. There are times however, he takes his skills from a couple of those to turn something that was thrown away (or about to be thrown away) into something beautiful.
My musician friends may cringe at the thought, but there was a time when a bunch of student violins were going to be tossed in the trash. They weren’t in very good shape as the elements had somehow gotten to them. If you’re curious as to what happens when a violin is exposed to the elements, Holly Mulcahy, Concertmaster of the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra, wrote about Wallace Hartley, Bandleader and violinist on the Titanic. In her blog, Neo Classical, she wrote about how his violin that was supposedly found floating in the Atlantic Ocean a couple of weeks after the ship sank. She wrote of an experiment conducted where a violin was essentially destroyed in just one night of sitting in saltwater.
It does not take long to ruin a beautiful violin – no matter how well it was made. String instruments are fragile.
The student violins weren’t nearly as damaged as the violin sacrificed in that experiment but they could no longer be played so Daric took them in and did some amazing things.
One thing he did was to combine one of his fun ToeHeads to decorate the backside of a violin. There looks to be a little bit of math thrown in for good measure, too! This next piece is something I really like. He’s taken the necks off two violins and turned them into the base of a decorative shelf. What do you think of this? I think it’s absolutely beautiful. This next piece is actually a Xylophone made with Maple and African Rosewood. The colors of the wood are gorgeous! This next shelf was originally a music rack on a piano that was marked damaged. Sure you can always use it to start a bonfire << group shudder! >> but why not put it to good use as a shelf in your home? Daric even kept the original manufacturer’s emblem on it after restoring it, which I think makes the whole piece that much more beautiful and interesting. And here’s the Victor Piano and Organ Co logo – a company with a rather strange website! I’m so glad it was kept on this shelf though. Definitely lends an air of history to it. The emblem itself states that “We hereby warrant this piano for five years against defective workmanship or material.” Hmm…I wonder - does Daric offers warranties as well? Music is not confined to great concert halls. It’s not set aside solely for those with unlimited incomes and it’s certainly not limited to what you can hear on an iPod. Music is an audio medium but it never has to be confined to only one of our senses. Music and certainly the love of music can both live on well beyond the use of an old student violin or a damaged piano.
Music is art. Art is music and together, they can combine to bring us joy in every aspect of our life – whether we’re at a concert, playing an instrument at home, hanging a new, 3-D picture on our walls or just placing a decorative item on a shelf.
The combination of art and music together is life. It is happiness. Look what my friend, Daric, has done. There really are no limits.
Special thanks again to Daric for graciously allowing me the use of all his pictures!
Click here to see some of Daric’s musically-themed ToeHeads.
Daric Gill has a new blog: The Arting Artist. Please check it out and leave comments showing your support.