Archive for July, 2004

Here We Go Again

Sunday, July 11th, 2004

Almost 40 years to the day after setting the cornet world a buzz with the introduction of the first 800 Eterna cornets and just a few years after unveiling the 3850 Custom cornet, Getzen is proud to announce that “We’re doing it again.” This time, however, it’s not a new Bb cornet that’s being released. Instead, we are introducing the new 3810 Custom Series C and the 3892 Custom Series Eb cornets.

The 3810 and 3892 Custom Series cornets have many of the great features found on all Getzen Custom Series cornets and trumpets. Both feature hand spun bells, nickel silver balusters, world famous Getzen pistons, and both are covered by the Getzen Lifetime Platinum Warranty. The 3892 comes standard with a seamless copper bell similar to the standard bell found on the 3850 Bb. As with the 3850 Bb, the 3810 C and 3892 Eb cornets are built around the concept of being free blowing instruments with excellent intonation while maintaining the traditional “cornet” sound.

With the wide spread acceptance and popularity of the 3850 Custom Bb cornet, players began approaching us to fill a void in the industry. That void was the absence of a high quality, orchestral grade C cornet and a fine Eb suited for British style brass band players. Now, after months of design work and consultation with professional musicians and music professors, we are confident in saying that the void is no more.

The 1893 Chicago World’s Fair – A Shining Time For Cornet Soloists

Friday, July 2nd, 2004

by Patricia Backhaus

In 1893 the world came to Chicago to party. Why? It was time for the World’s Fair, or more correctly, the World Columbian Exposition to celebrate Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas. The people of Chicago did everything possible to get the fair in their city. The bragged so much that the selection committee started to refer to the board members as coming from “the windy city” and that nickname has stuck to Chicago to this day. By all accounts, it was an incredible fair that included extraordinary architecture and a railway system that dropped people right at the front gates. Chicago proved to all of those in attendance that the bragging of the city was more than justified.

Now, if you were going to throw a party for the world, you would need to have the very best of entertainment and in 1893 that meant brass bands. It was a much simpler time then. After all, this World’s Fair gave many people their first look at things like electric lights. There was new technology on display everywhere including wireless telegraphy, kinetiscopes, telephones, new fangled phonographs, cameras and (could it be true?) flying machines! Even with all of these new and exciting items there was yet to be developed what we would call today a sound system. Musicians needed to be heard outside over all the commotion and, naturally, brass band music was perfect for the job.

Hundreds of bands performed at the fair. Leading the list was John Philip Sousa and his band. At the time, Sousa’s band was still a young group having only been organized about one year earlier, but they were an extraordinary musical ensemble and were fast becoming favorites of the crowds wherever they traveled. Of course at the fair though, they were just one of many.

All of the bands played for huge crowds and featured superstar soloists. There were trombone and euphonium soloists and the occasional piccolo player could be found, but it was the cornet soloists that captured the crowd. Why only these instruments? Why were the cornet soloists such a big deal? Since there were no microphones, the cornet was a natural leader. It could be heard above everything else going on during normal fair business. With their frequent performances, cornet soloists captured the hearts of the people. There is no single reason for this. Perhaps it was just because they were being featured so much or because their sound could cut through everything else. What ever it was, the cornet was the hit of the fair. And what about the trumpet players? Well, at this time in band history, the cornet was considered to be the artist’s instrument. Trumpet parts tended to be used for filling out harmonies or for playing fanfare figure. They weren’t seen as suitable for solo work.

We know many of the great soloists who appeared at the Chicago World’s Fair from newspaper accounts, concert bills, and programs. T.H. Rollinson will be remembered for Columbian Fantasia, a solo he wrote and played at the fair. The fair was centered around a huge fountain surrounded on all sides by the great, white exhibition buildings. This area was known as the Peristyle. Soloist W. Paris Chambers celebrated this central area with his Peristyle Polka. “The World’s Greatest Cornetist” Jules Levy appeared at the fair, as did P.G. Lowery, better known as “The Black Herbert L. Clarke”. The list of great players in attendance is endless and includes literally every great American cornet soloist of the day as well as quite a few outstanding European soloists.

Since buildings in 1893 didn’t have air conditioning, a good part of the performing sessions were spent outdoors in bandstands or park pavilions. That was just part of the life of a professional musician so they felt right at home during the fair. They appeared on bandstands and stages throughout the grounds. Hype was the watchword of the day and each small stage created glittering promotional prose to lure crowds in to hear and see the great soloists. The organizers of the events became very aware of the crowds coming to hear the musicians. Sometimes they would arrange to have two ‘rival’ performers appear at opposite ends of the exhibition buildings. Performances were scheduled in such a way that audiences would gather at one end of the hall to hear the first performer play after which the audience would have ample time to walk to the other end of the hall before the next performance began. This way, the people not only attended the concerts and had a chance to compare each band against the others, but they also had time to visit the exhibits throughout the hall.

Crowds loved this atmosphere of comparison. It was also an outstanding venue for the musicians giving them steady employment for weeks and a feeling of an “almost home” because they could stay in one hotel room or boarding house without having to pack up and move on every day. The fair also provided them with great exposure thanks to the huge crowds attending their concerts everyday. This was very important for their futures as professional musicians guaranteeing them more business after the fair ended. As I interviewed old timers who knew some of these great players, they were quick to point out that all of them were making their living performing. They performed for people anywhere and everywhere and did not have a “concert hall” mentality. If there was work somewhere, they would play. This is not to suggest that they were not great artists, but they were working artists in the truest sense.

Through their performances these musicians inspired many youngsters, and some adults, to practice hard in the hopes of becoming a celebrated cornet soloist themselves. Dreams to one day attain a high level of artistry associated with cornet playing at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair were a common phenomenon among cornet players of the era. After all, the cornet soloists were the rock band guitar players of their day. As time went on though, the shine of the cornet player or brass band player in general, began to fade. Unfortunately, popular musical trends change quicker than the weather. However, we are in the midst of a renaissance of sorts today with the popularity of brass bands again beginning to climb. As this happens, the cornet soloist will undoubtedly be the leader of the pack once again.

A Little Piece About Little Mouthpieces

Friday, July 2nd, 2004

by Patricia Backhaus

The cornet – just a little trumpet? No, not at all. A real cornet is a conical bore instrument that is most similar to the F horn. Early versions of the instrument used a mouthpiece that was funnel shaped, like a horn mouthpiece. This helped to create the distinctive warm and throaty sound of the cornet. When you’re learning to play the cornet, it is important to remember this information. Many trumpet players try to make a cornet sound like a trumpet. However, it is a totally different instrument and worth of its own tone and color.

In my years as a cornet player, I have tried many different mouthpieces including the British Brass Band style. This was an interesting experiment for me and I still use that design for some solos. It does have a decidedly British coloring and sound. It is the mouthpiece I would choose for British or Australian style solos such as Percy Code repertoire or the solos of Harry Mortimer. Once at a conference I was playing a British style mouthpiece and a friend who was listening asked if I were trying to sound like a Salvation Army musician. Unfortunately, at the time I was not. This helped me realize just how much the sound depended on my mouthpiece and just how distinctive a sound that particular style had. I also showed me how important it is to focus on the “voice” I wanted out of my cornet at any particular time.

Since then, I have experimented with different ideas to find different sounds. I have experimented with turning down flugelhorn mouthpieces on a lathe to bring the shank down to a proper cornet size. The sound they produce is great, but forget any thoughts of performing solos requiring any kind of range. This mouthpiece just doesn’t provide it. However, this style of mouthpiece could be utilized on some of the very oldest of repertories where range is seldom an issue. Again, this is an issue of the desired “voice”.

For many, chances are pretty good that if you own a cornet mouthpiece, it is really a trumpet mouthpiece on a cornet shank. I believe that sometime in the 1920’s mouthpiece manufacturers were going toward this combination. Many cornet soloists were also playing trumpets and it was common to see ads for dual cases that allowed performers to carry both their trumpets and cornets. Switching back and forth between instruments was made much easier if both had similar mouthpieces. Because of this, by the 1930’s the true cornet mouthpiece was out of fashion in the United States. That meant that the traditional sounding cornet was also disappearing. However, the present day trend is to return to the old style of cornet mouthpieces and to return the cornet to the roots where it began.

There are many manufacturers that offer traditional cornet mouthpieces as either an aftermarket product or right along with a new cornet. Recently when I opened a new cornet from Getzen there was, or course, a mouthpiece in the case. Out of respect and curiosity, I tried the mouthpiece and it absolutely blew me away. It was exactly what I had been searching for for nearly 15 years. For me, it was the perfect combination of a funnel shaped cup and rounded rim. Finally, a mouthpiece that gave me the voice I had been searching. Granted, it may or may not be perfect for every situation, but it is the closest I have come to an “overall” cornet mouthpiece. This is just one example of a modern manufacturer realizing that the cornet is much more than just a little trumpet, so much more.

Mail Bag

Friday, July 2nd, 2004

Gentlemen,

Please find attached a photo of the trombonists of the 76th Army Band (V Corps) holding the Getzen poster of Mr. Jeff Reynolds. The photo was taken last May at LSA Anaconda near Ballad, Iraq just outside “the wire” of our camp. I thought it would make for an interesting photo, so I had my wife send the poster down to us in Iraq.

Though pictured with other manufacturers’ horns, the unit owns several Edwards and Getzen trombones. One of my personal horns is also an Edwards. The environment in Iraq was harsh, so we took the oldest horns the unit had for the year we spent in Iraq. No sense in ruining the good ones in the desert.

Tom Bauer

Mail Bag - Trombones in Iraq
Taking a much needed break — Members of the 76th Army Band take a few minutes to offer a little thanks to Getzen and Edwards while stationed in Iraq. No, gentlemen, thank you.
Pictured from left to right: SSG Chris Eschenfelder, Syracuse, NY (kneeling); SSG Tom Bauer, Clemson, SC (standing); SSG Eric Burger, Davis, CA (standing); SGT David Bretz, Mineral Springs, AR (kneeling)