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MICHAEL MCDONOUGH

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October 4, 2015 12:36 PM


Michael McDonoughMail to > McDonough, Michael

Review ITF 2003 - Helsinki - Finland

Contrasts That Work

One of the largest department stores in the nation of Finland is Stockmann's. They have a motto that says, "If you can't find it at Stockmann's then you don't need it". Much the same can be said for the 32nd International Trombone Festival that was recently held in Helsinki, Finland. This festival included non-stop learning and listening from 8:00 AM until the wee hours of the morning from August 5th through the 9th, 2003.

This review will include just a few selections from the magnificent buffet that was this festival attracting over 500 trombone players to as the sign in the airport read "the other side of the world".

There are many-strengths to the International Trombone Association (ITA) but one of its greatest is the solo and ensemble competitions. Belonging to an organization that promotes the future of its profession is unique. The ITA does just that with the nine competitions. The only drawback was deciding which venue to attend. Even that problem was avoided when the winners put on their own concert later in the week.

I attended the Quartet and the Frank Rosolino competitions. The Group from Budapest, Hungary were the winners of the quartet competition. They were energetic; each member did some fine solo work but their greatest strength was the blended sound they produced when they worked as a unit. In the Frank Rosolino competition Johan Lauer, the winner from Germany, stood out for several reasons. First was his programming. In a competition where louder, higher and faster seemed the norm this young man played a ballad and demonstrated his mastery of the plunger mute.

When the winners concert took place later in the week it was clear to see the players in all categories were equally as talented. The future of trombone playing in the world looks bright in deed if these young people are any indication.

One of the main themes of this festival was the celebration of the Nordic style of trombone playing. This theme was well represented at the 4:00 PM concert on Wednesday. Pieces covering the entire range of classical and modern trombone playing made up this program. One of the most interesting was "The Blackhawk for Bass Trombone and Tape" In this piece Jorgen van Rijen played various motifs which were instantly repeated a number of times on tape. He then introduced a new motif on top of the repeating ones. A very effective piece indeed

The New Trombone Collective on Thursday was, as the program predicted, an almost non-stop concert featuring mostly Dutch music. Bart van Lier's beautiful tone just seems to improve with age. The Thursday concerts had a few surprises but expecting the unexpected is the norm in any programs involving Nils Landgren. The man with "the red trombone" can excite an audience in many ways. His solo piece involving the complete disassembling of his trombone was no exception.

As any hold over from days gone by can tell you there is a sound produced by a big band including five saxes, four trombones, and four trumpets and a full rhythm section that is truly unique. The UMO Jazz Orchestra lived up to the finest of Big Jazz Band traditions but at this festival there was a bit of a twist. This group backed up and enhanced the performance of one fine trombone player after another. Jiggs Whigham, Conrad Herwig, Nils Landgren and Tony Baker were just a few of the people who were featured in this concert. All the soloists were exciting to watch and hear.

All the above events were witnessed in the main hall of the Conservatory of Helsinki. This hall was just the right size for such events. It was large enough not to feel cramped but small enough so that each concert had an intimate feel.

Friday included different venues. The Temppeliaukio Church in Helsinki was a truly unique concert setting. Named the "rock church" Temppeliaukio is constructed into solid rock and has unfinished granite walls and a rolled copper roof. The acoustics were splendid. At this venue performed the Young Trombone Ensemble conducted by Tom Bildo. The ages of this group ranged from primary school through high school. What an opportunity for young people to get exposure before an international audience. They also played a wide variety of music very well.

Also at Temppeliaukio performed the "Weekend Warriors" conducted by non other than Denis Wick. Jorgen van Rijen was featured performing the solo on Leonard Bernstein's "Simple Song from "Mass". This group also provided stirring renditions of Jean Sibelius' "Andantino" and two movements from the Gordon Jacob "Trombone Octet" which was written for the ITF in 1981.

The concert concluded with the Cramer Choir conducted by Heinz Fadle. This group's major intent was to include college professors from around the world who play well. The group plays only original works written for them. At this performance, they played several pieces including Ian Mac Dougall's "Nostalgia I dedicated to J.J. Johnson and played passionately by Bart van Lier.

The evening's musical events concluded with a short walk to Finlandia Hall. The Helsinki Philharmonic was lead by Mikko Frank and featured traditional works by Rossini, Sebelius and the Jukka Linkola Trombone Concerto. The second half was anything but traditional with the word premiere of Christian Lindberg's "Helikon Wasp" trombone concerto. One knew things were going to be different in this work when the orchestra came on stage and the strings sat with their backs to the audience.

Remember the above events and concerts represent only a small slice of what took place in Helsinki: a clean, safe city where, at this time of year, daylight lasted until well after 10:00 PM.

In other gatherings involving large groups of professionals, the divisions within the groups were obvious. No such divisions appeared during this festival. The classical trombone players were visible at the jazz events and the reverse was true as well.

This writer highly recommends this event to trombone players of all abilities the world over. If it is anything like this festival in Helsinki the 33rd festival in Ithaca, New York from June 15th through the 19th, 2004 should not be missed.

Respectively submitted,

Michael C. McDonough, Ed.D.



Review of Trombone Day III helad at Banrty House in County Cork, Ireland. - Trombone Day III

Most reviews contain detailed descriptions of the event and a list of the music performed and by whom. There are also some reviewers able to describe politely even mediocre performances so as not to offend. The first draft or two of this review of Trombone Day III at Bantry House in County Cork, Ireland on February 21, 2003 did some of that. This revised edition attempts a different twist.

This review will attempt to capture the feelings of inspiration, hope and excitement of Trombone Day III. Ireland boasts one of the youngest populations in the European Union and that claim was evident on many of the faces participating in this event. Of course, there were the well-traveled veterans of “Big Bands” and the music from “Back in the Day” was well represented. Alan Raph, of Candlewood Isle, Connecticut, USA along with Anthony Neal of Cork, and Bob Quick of Derry were the major presenters. Each brought their own personality to bear on topics such as warming up, practicing and the history of the jazz trombone.

The group divided into two ensembles and worked up some selections to perform for the evening concert. Along with Irish favorites such as “Danny Boy” and “Brian Baru”, a stirring six-eight march tune with a driving rhythm “Panis Angelicas” and a tune called Bantry Bay were performed. What was most evident in watching and listening to these ensembles perform was inspiration and excitement of so many young players as they “raised the level” of their playing to match the demands of this exciting local music.

There were many soloists accompanied by Alan Raph and Ciara Moroney of Cork on the piano. Local bass player Humphrey Murphy and percussionist Fionn O’Ceallachain completed the rhythm section. Even Ari Perelman 3rd year music major from New York accompanied Alan Raph admirably on the standard “Body and Soul”.

These soloists ranged in age from Cillian O’Ceallachain, accompanied a fine young trombone student accompanied by his father to adult college teachers and music professionals.

An event such as this requires a lot of behind the scenes work. In addition, Trombone Day III enjoyed the sponsorship of Mr. Egerton Shelswell-White, a fine Bass Trombone player in his own right, Conn-Selmer Inc., Carl Fischer Music Publishers, and Joe Lynch Music of Dublin. Special thanks went to the Family and staff of Bantry House, the West Cork Concert Association and the Connecticut Brass Society.

Such a mixture of backgrounds able to discuss, perform and find common ground created in this writer a sense of hope that the future of trombone playing in Southeast Ireland is bright. Trombone Day IV should prove a very inspiring event not to be missed.

Respectfully submitted, Michael C. McDonough, Ed.D.



Michael McDonough's review of the Trombones de Costa Rica

Michael spent 3 1/2 weeks on tour with the Danbury Brass Band in Australia and New Zealand.
Danbury is conducted by Alan Raph.

He wrote a small article about the adventure:

From Waitakere to Warringah

Three Weeks Down Under

One might think taking an American version of a brass band to the countries ofNew Zealand and Australia might be like introducing a better brand of ice to the Eskimos but that was exactly what Alan Raph and his Danbury Brass Band did for most of August 2002. This edition of the 19-year old Danbury ensemble included many of the regular band members plus certain key editions from various New England states and the country of Bermuda.

The Trombone Page of the World membership was well represented by Alan Raph, Ed Chansky and Michael McDonough.

The band’s itinerary included Auckland, Perth, Brisbane, Sydney and a stop in the town of Karratha. Karratha is a mining town of about 8,000 in the northwest corner of the state of Western Australia on the Indian Ocean.

The Danbury group is unique on several counts in the world of Brass Bands. The most noticeable the substitution of French horns for Tenor Horns, being half the size of most of the host bands of this part of the world and the fact that Danbury only plays music composed or arranged specifically for the band. Arrangers and composers heard on this trip included Ron Levitt, Arnie Gross, Peter Younghusband and several by the founder, leader, conductor and soloist with the group Alan Raph.

The local host bands included Waitakere City Brass Band (Auckland), Midland Brick Brass Band (Perth), Brisbane Brass Band (Brisbane), and Warringah Brass Band (Sydney). These bands frequently supplied superb Euphonium soloists including Riki McDonald, Dr. Alan Lourens, and John Saunders.

Alan realized that soon after forming this particular band that he had the makings of Dixieland band. This band within the band included Dan Patrylak on trumpet, Alan on trombone, Joe Choomack on tuba, Mark Balling on drums and Arnie Gross on piano. This small group captured the crowds at each stop with their unique renditions of standards such as “Aint Misbehaven” and Indiana.

This tour “down under” not only included concerts at some prestigious venues such as Town Hall in Auckland and a 19th century Anglican cathedral (St. Andrew’s) in Sydney but also entailed open rehearsals with the various host bands, Master Classes and clinics by Alan Raph and local trombone players including; Andrew Snell, David Chalk, and Peter Younghusband. Several days were spent with local grade school and high school students that included play-along sessions, concerts for children, lectures about brass instruments and performances at local band festivals.

There was also some time for a bit of sightseeing, guided tours, fishing and snorkeling and chances to sample local cuisine and those famous Australian Barbecues.

The cultural exchanges, both musical and personal were truly unique in this meeting of the Kiwis, Aussies, Yanks and Bermudians.

Respectfully Submitted, Michael C.McDonough


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