Thursday, June 26, 2008

Barry Tuckwell in Grand Junction

Which instrument would our Lord have chosen, assuming He played an instrument? Probably not the French Horn. It takes too much of a person's life. French Horn players hardly have time to marry and have children. The French Horn is practically a religious belief all by itself. In some orchestras, the horn players are required to be celibate--sometimes by their wives. Because they think about the horn all the time anyway.

I played the French Horn from 2nd grade into college. I went to a private school that had no band or orchestra from 8th grade to 10th grade, then hit the public high school as a Junior ready to prove my mettle as a musician. In my Senior year I was first chair, district and region honors band, and then toured Europe for three weeks with a youth symphony. I was very into the horn, and very into myself.

I vaguely knew of one of the horn players in the Pittsburgh Symphony, who lived in the town that I did. My memory of him is wearing all black, brooding, chain smoking. I also met some other "professionals" whose demeanor kind of soured me on music as a potential career path.
As much as I may have been already, I didn't want to end up like them.

After high school I got interested in other things, and put the horn down. I sold it to a deserving middle school age girl just after Evan was born. I still listened to my favorite classical pieces where horns played a prominent role; Mozart's Horn Concertos, Brahms' Variations on a theme by Haydn, Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony, and Bernstein's Candide Overture are some of my favorites.

When I was in my 20's I got tickets to the Pittsburgh Symphony when they played probably my favorite classical piece for the horn, the Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings by Benjamin Britten. It's basically several English poems set to music, including Blake's The Sick Rose, which I have referenced here previously.

Barry Tuckwell was the horn soloist, with Robert Tear singing tenor. Tuckwell is widely regarded as the world's foremost horn virtuoso, and the performance verified to me what his recordings and reputation had already led me to believe. I taped the performance the following week on WQED, but it got lost over the years. There is a Chicago Symphony recording with Tear as tenor and Dale Clevenger on the horn, but it's not Tuckwell and you can tell the difference.

In a relatively obscure entertainment listing earlier this week I saw the Barry Tuckwell Institute listed as having concert events at Mesa State all week. Investigating further, I found that Tuckwell himself is lecturing and teaching horn players from all over the country here in Grand Junction, with the assistance of a few other professional horn players. The "horn camp" includes concert performances all during the week.

It's a shame that I may have missed the initial publicity, but I really couldn't find any. The Sentinel's website listed a performance at 8:00 PM tonight at the Moss Performing Arts Center. Turns out the group performed at the Farmer's Market and at Sherwood Park. Oh, well. There's another concert slated for Friday night, but I have plans and may not make that one either.

In any event, the presence of a virtuoso performer in our area should probably have been more than just a blip on an entertainment calendar, but maybe Tuckwell didn't want it that way.
I hope he brings his camp back next year. Who knows? I may decide to dive into it again.

Then again, maybe not.


LizHaren said...

I don't know what brought me to surf on in to your little blog here but it was an interesting little read this morning as I start my work day here in NJ. You seem like a nice man with a good soul. Be happy.


Ray McGuinness said...

Hello John:

There is an ongoing series of music at noon called "A Little Noon Music" I think this was the last concert of the season. Its really good stuff. The concert on Wed had Mary Bisson of the Tuckwell institure playing Shubert Auf der Strom. There was a young fellow(15) from gj playing Bachs prelude and Fuge on the church organ. The church is the first Methodist church on White avenue. The musical programs are organized by Philip Wyse. And the turnouts are really good, it looks like around 100 people.

John Linko said...

Thanks, Liz and Ray. I knew about the Noon music series but have not walked down to the church to check it out. Sounds like something to do the next time it starts. I appreciate the kind words and the heads up.


Philip Wyse said...

I was checking out the web to see if I could find anybody who is selling a CD of Barry Tuckwell playing some of the works of Charles Koechlin, and I came across your blog. What a pleasant surprise!

I know that the Barry Tuckwell Institute sent stories to the Sentinel and to the Free Press, but the stories could not compete with other, more popular musical events in the area. I hope Mesa State College will be able to host a bigger and better Barry Tuckwell Institute next summer.

Mary Bisson, Third Horn of the Baltimore Symphony, was a 15-year-old when I first played Auf dem Strom with her and a soprano from the Kentucky Opera Association. It was with a neat sense of symmetry that Mary, tenor Jack Delmore and I shared a program with another gifted 15-year-old –– organist John Ahern –– at last week's special presentation of A Little Noon Music.

Thank you for your blog. I hope to see you at the next season of A Little Noon Music.

Philip Wyse

John Linko said...


I'm glad you found the blog and enjoyed the post.

I hope to be able to advantage of the Noon music program as soon as it starts up again. Live music like that is good therapy.

Take care, and thanks again.