The Lone Arranger

With this month being the announcement of the release of a number of my hitherto unpublished trombone choir arrangements, I want to give a background on the why and how these came into existence. In the 1960’s I produced a couple of arrangements for trombone quartet, namely an excerpt from the Bruckner 7th Symphony and the prelude to the 3rd act of Die Meistersinger, as well as a canzona by Andrea Gabrieli. These were published by Ensemble Publications, and are still in print today as far as I know. Then came a span of about 20 years when I didn’t do any arranging to speak of.

Then in the 1980’s I arranged a style study of some non-trombone passages from a Wagner opera for my players in the Civic Orchestra, the training orchestra of the CSO. I kept adding segments to this study, such as flowing cello lines, and other material suited for the development of melodic style. This eventually evolved into the “Symphonic Synthesis from Die Walkure,” for 8 trombones, an extended suite of themes and passages from that opera, lasting about 20-25 minutes.

In 1986 Charles Vernon joined the CSO as bass trombonist, and started encouraging me to arrange more literature for him, especially things that would challenge him and the rest of the trombone world to extend the range of the trombone from low to high. This led to the creation of the Chicago Trombone Choir, which was made up of some of the best players in the Chicago area. I started to arrange more and more music from the symphonic literature for this group. Over a period of about 6 years I produced approximately 30-40 works for this ensemble, almost all of them for 12 trombones. Why 12? Because that number allows for a technique of orchestration where various colors of the trombone can be used in different combinations to produce a wide spectrum of sound. My goal was not to transcribe, but to make it seem like the composer had originally written the work for an ensemble of trombones, from contrabass to alto, and this required a larger number of players than the usual compliment. With the arrival of Michael Mulcahy to the CSO in 1989, the choir really got going and it culminated in a concert at the ITA festival in Kalamazoo Michigan, where 2 concerts of my arrangements were performed, one by the Chicago Trombone Choir and the other by a special Symphony Players Choir, featuring some of the players from top U.S. orchestras.

I want to make special note of the Trombone Choir Study collection that will be available in one complete volume. It is a collection of study/training material for a 12 part choir, featuring studies in different styles, from unison studies to tone studies, articulation studies, bass trombone studies etc, all excerpted from the standard symphonic literature. I can’t think of a more valuable training tool for a large trombone ensemble. It should be in every trombone ensemble’s library.

All of the arrangements will provide a 1st trombone part in both alto and tenor clef for ease of reading if alto trombone is used. Also, although some of the 1st parts are in the upper range of the tenor and alto register, any passage can be taken an octave lower to good effect, and in fact most are written out with an optional 8va lower. A limited number of arrangements have been previously published by KBE Editions, Denton, Texas, however with the availability of these additional works, the complete catalog of my contributions to the literature can now be accessed.

BTW, one of Charlie Vernon’s and my favorite practice sessions is to take the 1st part as well as some of the other parts to these arrangements and work them up like etudes. It’s so rewarding to play great music while you practice.