Blowing My Own Trumpet

I have written about the People’s Orchestra before. I was persuaded, against my better judgement, to put my name down for an audition as a trumpet player. The problem is that I haven’t played for so long that my lip is completely out of condition. For those who haven’t played a brass instrument I should explain that you don’t blow into it as you would, say, a clarinet. You blow a raspberry into it or, as Mr. Whittaker the peripatetic brass teacher at Catshill Middle School memorably put it forty years ago, ‘imagine you’re spitting out the bits of coconut after eating a Bounty bar’. The tension of the lip lays a major role in determining the pitch of the note. If your lip is out of condition you can forget about the top octave. Given that the bulk of the classical repertoire is written there this can be a problem. I soon decided that borrowing the score of Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto from the library had been somewhat ambitious and stuck to the scale of C Major. I will get there (eventually!) and apologise to the neighbours in advance.

At least I know how to hold a trumpet. A donated French horn was brought to the office on Thursday and I quickly discovered I didn’t know how to hold it, let alone which keys produced which notes.  My admiration for the playing of the late Dennis Brain is undimmed. If you haven’t heard it get hold of his recording with the Philharmonia Orchestra and Herbert von Karajan of the four Mozart Horn Concertos. Recorded nearly sixty years ago and, in my view, unsurpassed.


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