Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tuba-Euphonium Chorale Book

Before I begin, this is NOT a shameless plug-in for my own work! I recently completed a collection of fifteen chorales for tuba-euphonium ensemble. The chorales come from a Lutheran hymnal and Bach chorales. My goal was to create a book of four-part chorales that would help a tuba-euphonium ensemble with intonation, balance, and blend, to name a few. The melody is usually in the first euphonium part, just as most chorale melodies are in the soprano voice, but then the roles of the remaining three parts change. I revoiced chords and cadences to place the third of major and minor chords in different parts to ensure that each player got the chance to adjust intonation of those important chord members. At the time I began this project, I was unaware of any such book. If there are some out there, then this is just another contribution. Without studying ensemble blend and intonation, tuba-euphonium quartets and ensembles frequently begin rehearsals by tuning and then jumping into the literature. Spending a few minutes in each rehearsal on these chorales could really benefit the group's sound. The rich, sonorous timbre of the tuba-euphonium ensemble can really be explored through the careful attention to intonation, balance, and blend that the study of chorales so often gives to groups like wind bands and brass choirs. I think my collection will be available within the next few weeks from Brassworks4.

The University of Kentucky

The University of Kentucky tuba-euphonium studio is led by Dr. Skip Grey. They have a strong tuba-euphonium ensemble tradition at their school. Within the large ensemble, a group of eight students breaks away and forms the Conner Tuba-Euphonium Ensemble. This group performed at the United States Army Band Tuba-Euphonium Conference in Washington, DC. The live performed was recorded and is available on CD!

I really like Dr. Grey's information about the tuba-euphonium ensemble. It's very true! He says that many people think of a massive group of pachyderms. He aims to have new works written for tuba-euphonium ensemble as well as artistic transcriptions. Kudos to Kentucky!


The University of Northern Iowa tuba-euphonium studio is under the direction of Dr. Jeff Funderburk, affectionately called "Dr. Fun" by his students. At UNI, the studio regularly performs tuba-euphonium ensemble music in what they call UNITUBA. UNITUBA is among the oldest tuba and euphonium ensembles in the world. Comprised entirely of tuba and euphonium students at the University of Northern Iowa, the ensemble rehearses weekly and is a credit ensemble in the school of music. UNITUBA was formed in 1974 by former UNI faculty member Donald Little and is currently under the direction of Dr. Jeffrey Funderburk. Previous directors have included Fritz Kaenzig and Brian Book. UNITUBA performs regularly on campus at UNI as well as around the state. The ensemble has been featured in performances at the International Tuba and Euphonium Conference in Lexington, Kentucky, ITEC Regional Conferences at Illinois State University and Gustavus Adolfus College as well as on tour with the UNI Wind Symphony in Hungary and Italy. With a repertoire ranging from transcribed works of the Baroque and Classical era to original compositions, performances are an eclectic mix of musical styles.

Check it out!

Alabama Tuba-Euphonium Quartet Part 2

I warned that I would be coming back to the Alabama quartet. Let me begin by saying all the players in that group were FANTASTIC and their playing was very inspiring! The competition guidelines for the final round said something like the following: choose your own literature, totaling about fifteen minutes, and be entertaining. Quartets were encouraged to memorize music, perform skits, and even add choreography. My quartet chose a traditional program of standard transcriptions and original compositions for tuba-euphonium quartet. The Alabama Quartet did the Forbes Consequences, the theme from The Green Hornet, and a skit they called "It's a Small World." The members were of different ethnic backgrounds, labeled Mexican, Asian, German, and just American.

The Mexican aspect of their skit involved the use of sombreros and playing the Mexican Hat Dance. The Asian music involved a charming rendition of John Barnes Chance's Variations on a Korean Folk Song and "Kung Fu Fighting." They were headbands with red dots in the middle and performed karate chops. The German music required the first tuba to wear a blond wig with pig tails and a beer stein. I believe they played a polka. Finally, the American music was Michael Jackson's "Billy Jean," including a sequined glove and a wig.

While the group played extremely well, the whole idea of being cutesy was a little unsettling for some. It seemed to make tuba-euphonium quartet a lighthearted, background music type of genre. After all the leaps and bounds the tuba-euphonium ensemble has made since its inception, I can understand the concern. Just observations, people!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Alabama Tuba-Euphonium Quartet

It's now time to listen to a tuba-euphonium quartet! This YouTube video shows the 2008 ITEC Tuba-Euphonium Quartet Competition winners from the University of Alabama. It is their final round performance of the Forbes Consequences. I will discuss the other part of their final round performance in another blog. I have much to say. These people are great players!