IHS 45 Memphis


Sunday evening, the eve of IHS 45 Memphis, Tennessee.  Took a walk around today to reconnoiter.  Everything looks great.  I have forgotten how amazing most college campuses in the US are.  One of the benefits of having so much space.  Something most European campuses can only dream about.

It has been 12 years since my last Symposium.  Timing and location have been the bane of my existence over that time.  A big thank you for whomever is responsible for this years Symposium being so late in the summer.  It actually falls in the middle of my vacation.  Fantastic. (although my family might disagree)

Tomorrow begins the grand experiment.  I get an unknown Wagner Tuba, from Dieter-Otto, and an unknown Wagner Tuba mute (Ion Balu).  4 days to adjust to the new instrument and perform.  The good news is that I can practice twice as long on the Wagner Tuba.  It might be necessary.  I just hope that I won't have to change too many fingerings.

I will post photos separately in a Facebook album, and will add them to the blog later.  I am doing all of this on my iPad Mini and a Belkin bluetooth keyboard which makes editing and adding photos complicated.  Possible, but I want to be able to get these posts up as soon as possible.


Monday, Day 1

An amazing day. A great opening concert with a moving tribute to Ethel Merker by Thomas Bacon.  This included a video of an interview that she did a few years ago.  The IHS needs to investigate doing video interviews of horn players from around the world to create an archive.  Horn and Song (the theme of the symposium) is off to a fantastic start.  Jeff Nelson, Luiz Garcia and Frank Lloyd what an opening day.  I got a little nostaligic listening to the Cooke "Nocturnes".  It reminded me of playing them with my mother (mezzo-soprano).  We did a lot of that repertoire.  Britten's Canticle III is still one of the most moving pieces in the literature.  Something about writing for horn brings out the best in composer poetic choices.  I was so moved today that I forgot to take pictures.  Sorry!


Tuesday, Day 2

IHS 45 Memphis Day 2.  Cantata No. 4:  Canticum Sacrum, "Canticle of Zechariah" by Robert Bradshaw.  Now just saying that is a mouthful, but 50 minutes later I imagine that the dream team performing;  William VerMeulen, Rachel Schulz and Jeb Wallace, Alex Shuhan, Matthre Eckenhoff, and Josh Phillips (thanks for adding his name Jeb) must have been completely wiped out.  What a performance, and those who know me will not be surprised that what stood out for me was the horn quartet.  Glorious, high risk, taking no prisoners playing.  William VerMeulen negociated a treacherous solo part with great aplomb, as you would expect, and the brave string quintet withstood the onslaught with great style.  What a night!


Wednesday, Day 3

IHS 45 Memphis Day 3.  Nostalgia was the byword for Day 3.  Connections with days gone by, emotions and memories.  All of these things were linked by 2 things, Western Michigan University and Neill Sanders.  Meeting 3 ex-students of Neill, and graduates from WMU, and all overlapping with connections leading to today.  I met the mother (Lori Clifton) of one of the solo competition finalists (from WMU) who just happened to have been studying at Western at the same time that I was , and now her son is competing at an IHS Competition.  Being invited by Lin Foulk to play with the WMU horn ensemble's lunch time concert was fun, but even better was hearing all the great young horn players that she is guiding so skillfully.

And then....the National Anthem played at the Memphis Redbirds baseball game.  I wanted to film it so I stood in the stands, and I am glad that I did.  It was a Wednesdy evening so the crowd was sparse (AAA ball), but I am certain that they all went home remembering that Anthem.  If the symposium ended today it would have been worth the money, but no.  We have 3 more days.


Thursday, Day 4

IHS 45 Memphis Day 4.  It might have been a bit hopeful that I could keep Days 4 & 5 together in one post.  Too much great stuff happening, so Day 4 now and Day 5 later today.

With often 6 things happening at once I took the cowards way out and  listened to the Farkas video presentation by John Ericson.  It is so fun to go back and listen to what was, then, the latest pedagogy/interpretation choices.  Nice playing for a 75 year old.

With rehearsals that I had to do in the afternoon I missed the afternoon concert, but I have heard Jaspar de Waal play Brahms at the British Horn Society three years ago in Edinburgh.  He has a new Single Bb horn made by Klaus Fehr near Maastricht.  Lovely horn.  If Klaus can come to London next year you can try his horns for yourself.  I have wanted to hear Crumb's "Idyll of the Misbegotten" for a long time.  Especially in this horn version.  It is a piece of "experimental" music which seems to be timeless, and is more accessible  today than when it was written.  Bravo to Robert Patterson.

Thursday evenings performances were fabulous.  The Four Hornsmen of the Apocalypse (stunning name by the way) gave a prelude performance and played with great passion, precision and originality.  This brings me to a point about this IHS Symposium.  The horn quartet playing has been truly, truly magnificent.  From the Four Hornsmen, Quadre, Ad hoc Quartet, the various "ringer" groups thrown together for special pieces, etc, etc....  This leads me to the full evening concert.  Angela Barnes, and this might be an obscure reference, carries on one of the few remaining truly national horn sounds, the UK.  I remember my teacher Neill Sanders, Alan Civil, Ifor James, Frank Lloyd, Anthony Halstead, Stephen Stirling, etc.  and Angela Barnes.  Smooth, lyrical sound  simple yet carries powerful emotion.  Just pure horn playing which is truly British.  It is hard to pin down other countries horn playing in the same way.  Great that we still have that.

Horn Quartets.  Great hunting songs with Men's chorus, and then Pam Marshall's "Walden at Evening". Imaginative, evocative, spiritual.  Beautifully performed by Jonathan Boen, the chorus and percussionists. 


Friday, Day 5

IHS 45 Memphis, Day 5.  I missed the morning sessions and concert.  A long slow warm up was required today so I had to miss some things.  Performing at the end of the week means not having as much fun as you might otherwise be able to, or maybe I'm too serious.  It won't be the first time that I have been accused of that. I have to thank the string quartet with which I had the pleasure of playing the Koetsier Wagner Tuba piece.  They were great and fun to perform with. Also the composers from the Liège Conservatory:  Guillaume Auvray and Eric Bettens.  There compositions made it all possible.

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Two more quartets to mention.  The "Ad Hoc Quartet" performed the wonderful "Beale Street" written by James Naigus.  A wonderful addition to the repertoire. The.....WOW.  Three Hunting Songs by Brian Holmes.  What a performance filled with power and passion. For not the first time Nina Yoshida Nelson shone on the stage this week. Skillfully accompanied by QUADRE.  Great music gloriously performed.

I got to hear Andrew Pelletier perform the fiendishly delicate Five Love Songs by Alec Wilder.  Great playing.  At this point I started to fall asleep, so a nap meant that I missed the rest of the afternoon concert.  

The evening concert was a wonderful experience. Great discoveries have been a highlight of this symposium and the Horn Concerto by Luís Tinoco was no exception. Very atmospheric music beautifully performed.  The haunting ending of Britten's "In memoriam" is so moving, abruptly ending just like Dennis Brain's life. speaking of Dennis Brian, British horn playing, and it's traditions this brings us to Frank Lloyd.  Britten's Serenade is as iconic a work as there is in our repertoire.  That must bring a lot of pressure when performing in front of a specialised audience.  I didn't sense this in the hall, all I felt was an assuredness which made me feel content throughout.  Beautifully played by all concerned.  Great playing by the Eroica Ensemble.  It is always hard to perform for these events because of the restricted rehearsal time, but they performed well and all the supplemental musicians really added to what was already a great week.

Lastly, there was a composers forum with questions and answers about how to commission, costs, philosophy, etc...  Very interesting and informative.  10 or eleven of the composers represented at the symposium were present chaired by Eric Ewazen.  A great ending to an amazing day.

IHS 45 Memphis, the final update.  As I wait for my flight back to Belgium I have been contemplating the experiences of the last week in Memphis.  It has been 12 years since I last had been to an IHS Symposium.  (in the interim I have been to 3 British Horn Society events)  What I love about the IHS is the open support that horn players share which is sometimes lacking amongst other groups.

Apart from the catered food everything was great.  The variety, which is only possible during this kind of event, was out of this world.  Over 25 world premieres, of which I only heard about 12, and some were absolutely stunning.  Performances which took your breath away, and not only by horn players.  Non-horn players which amazed where the singers/choirs.  There are so many, but suffice it to say they all did an amazing job.  The president of the society, Frank Lloyd, played quite a few things, but the performances which I will always remember are of the Canticle III and Serenade by Benjamin Britten.


Other favorite moments were, and sorry for listing them like this:

Basically everything that included Nina Yoshida Nelsen singing.  With or without her husband Jeff (who popped up all over the place all week)

Compositions by Otto Fisch which kept us sane during all the intensity.

The fact that Eric Ruske and Angela Barnes performed the entirety of their programs from memory, and that Frank Lloyd did the same with the Britten Serenade.

The horn quartet playing in the Cantata No. 4

The National Anthem and the baseball game with BBQ instead of a traditional symposium banquet.  Inspired idea by Dan Phillips, our host.

Pamela Marshall's "Walden at Evening"

I know this one may not have been to everyone's taste, but I was really looking forward to this one, and liked it a lot:  Idyll of the Misbegotten by George Crumb in the version with horn.

The Four Hornsmen of the Apocalypse


The elegance of Angela Barnes sound, and the "Lone Call and Charge" by Richard Bissill

BBQ at Corky's

The men's chorus pieces with yet another great horn quartet

Beale Suite by James Naigus  (not the only piece by him that interested me this week)

Three Hunting Songs by Brian Holmes (also a new composer, to me) performed by Nina Nelson and Quadre

The second movement of the Ewazen Horn Concerto performed by Jeffrey Fordden.  I enjoyed meeting Jeffrey and talking at the composer's forum.  I have never met a slow movement by Eric Ewazen that I didn't like.

The Friday evening concert was the best concert from beginning to end:

Rossini, Tinoco "Horn Concerto", Britten "In Memoriam:  Dennis Brain", Fidelio excerpt, Mozart 3 by Jasper de Waal, and of course Britten's Serenade.

Composer's Forum (very interesting)

Max Friedman's "Mnemiopsis" (great bass clarinet playing by Nobuko Igarashi)

All the horn ensembles which performed at lunchtime.  BRAVO !!!  It's not easy to perform under those conditions, but everyone did a great job.

Lastly,  playing with the WMU horn ensemble brought back so many memories.  It was actually hard to play, I was running my life through my mind remembering Neill Sanders and Johnny Pherigo and multiple generations of horn players from Western that I met during the week.  Thanks to Lin Foulk for the opportunity.  It is great to see WMU in such safe hands.

Spending some time chatting with a friend that I haven't seen in 30 years.  (John Ericson) and bumping into David Griffin (Chicago Symphony) and his gracious acceptance to have dinner with me.  Meeting such "real" people, unpretentious, open, approachable, warm, etc...  It was a wonderful chance and I am glad that I took it.

Finally, a special thank you to 5 people.  Dan Phillips for an outstanding job.  Truly epic.  And finally to my string quartet:  Will Haapaniemi, Heidi Han, Anthony Gilbert and Griffin Browne.  Thank  you for making the Koetsier a real highlight of my career.  It was a pleasure to perform with you, and I am only sorry that it was a single concert.  I wish you all the best.

© Bruce Richards 2012-2019