- Resources

March 31, 1997 Recital Program and Notes

On March 31, 1997, I gave a recital in Jordan Hall at New England Conservatory in Boston. In response to many people who have requested copies of the 10 page program note booklet that I distributed at the concert, I have made this information available online. The evening was remarkable for the fact that three FEET of snow fell that night - a near record 24 hour snowfall in Boston, and the enthusiasm and stamina of the audience in coming to the program was remarkable.

Douglas Yeo, Bass Trombone and Serpent

March 31, 1997
Jordan Hall at New England Conservatory
Boston, Massachusetts
8:00 PM

Assisted by:

John Tanzer, snare drum
Philip Kiamie, finger cymbals
Norman Bolter, trombone
Darren Acosta, trombone
Deborah DeWolf Emery, piano
Symphony Orchestra, Norman Bolter, conductor
The New England Brass Band, William L. Rollins, conductor

Dances of Greeting (Norman Bolter)

Trio Sonata (Tomaso Giovanni Albinoni, arr. Douglas Yeo)

Concerto for Serpent (Simon Proctor)

Variations on "The Pesky Sarpent" * (Clifford Bevan)


Split Personality ** (David Fetter)

Of Mountains from Of Mountains, Lakes and Trees ** (Norman Bolter)

Proclamation * (Gordon Langford)

In The Hall of the Mountain King * (Edvard Grieg, arr. Bill Geldard)

Share My Yoke (Joy Webb, arr. Ivor Bosanko)

* = North American Premiere
** = World Premiere

Notes on the Program (by Douglas Yeo)

Dances of Greeting [for trombone, snare drum and finger cymbals] - Norman Bolter

One of the great pleasures I have as a member of the Boston Symphony is sitting in a trombone section with Norman Bolter. Since I joined the BSO in 1985, my playing has dramatically changed, in no small part due to the influence of Norman who just by playing his trombone, gives me a lesson every day. I've enjoyed his easy, fluid method of playing coupled with an intense and appropriate emotional expression in every note of music he produces.

In recent years, Norman has turned to composing and has written a huge variety of music including a significant body of music for solo trombone and trombone ensemble. His regular concerts with his performing ensemble, "The Frequency Band" are not just opportunities to hear his music expertly performed but are events in their own right. When looking for an opening work for this recital, I could think of nothing more appropriate than Norman's Dances of Greeting which, with his permission, I transposed to a suitable key for bass trombone from the original version for tenor trombone. The following note is by Carol Viera:

"Dances of Greeting, composed in 1995, was designed specifically to 'clear the air' in order to make room for a warm, happy greeting to be delivered and received. This 'clearing the air' technology was used in Ancient Egypt and Ancient China in order to disperse any 'atmosphere' that had been created beforehand by the activities of others, thereby providing a fresh, clean ecology in which the work at hand could be conducted - be it theatrical performance, study or rest.

"The percussion, as used in the very opening of this piece, are the 'clear the air' instruments that make way for the warm welcome and greeting of the trombone to follow."

Trio Sonata [for three trombone] - Tomaso Giovanni Albinoni, arr. Douglas Yeo

Albinoni wrote no music that included trombones but this transcription of a work for violins (?) and continuo makes us wish he had. I first heard this music about 15 years ago when I was playing in the Baltimore Symphony. Recently, Southern Music Company asked me if I would make a transcription of my own of this piece which has been arranged for many combinations of instruments. I have performed it several times (with Alain Trudel and Shin-ichi Go at a Festival in Hamamatsu, Japan, and with Ronald Barron and R. Douglas Wright at a private Symphony Hall function last year) and I am pleased to play it again with my friends Norman Bolter and Darren Acosta.

Concerto for Serpent [for serpent and orchestra/piano] - Simon Proctor

The serpent was invented in 1590 by the French clergyman Canon Edme Guillaume and has survived more than 400 years in its original form. When first used, it was the best bass wind instrument available and was used primarily to accompany chant in the Roman Catholic church. Its unique timbre is eloquently expressed by Paul Schmidt, editor of the Serpent Newsletter, when he says:

"Played softly, [the serpent] has a firm yet mellow tone color, or timbre. At medium volume, it produces a robust sound which seems to be a cross between the tuba, the bassoon, and the French horn. When played loudly it can produce unpleasant noises reminiscent of large animals in distress. It has a musical range from C below the bass clef to at least a half octave above middle C."

P.D.Q. Bach, in his ode O Serpent (discovered in 1989 by Peter Schikele), was a bit more pithy when he wrote:

"It looks like a snake and sounds like a cow."

Handel, upon hearing the serpent for the first time, commented:

"Aye, but not the Serpent that seduced Eve."

Later supplanted by the ophicleide (or "awful - clyde") and finally the tuba, the serpent has often been underappreciated, summarized by this comment by Berlioz (who used the serpent in several pieces including his "Messe solennelle" and the original version of "Symphonie Fantastique":

"The essentially barbaric timbre of this instrument would have been far more appropriate to the ceremonies of the bloody cult of the Druids than to those of the Catholic religion. There is only one exception to be made - the case where the Serpent is employed in the Masses for the Dead, to reinforce the terrible plainsong of the Dies Irae. Then, no doubt, its cold and abominable howling is in place."

Nevertheless, the serpent has had its supporters, among which I am one. Playing it gives me great pleasure and Ićhave played it with the Boston Symphony and now in concert. My fascination with the serpent brought me into a friendship with Craig Kridel, a serpentist and Curator of the Museum of Education at the University of South Carolina. It was he who brought to my attention the Concerto by Simon Proctor. Craig describes the genesis of the Concerto:

"The Proctor Concerto was written in the autumn of 1987 while Simon was spending a sabbatical at the University of South Carolina - actually, Simon wanted to "experience American culture," so he came over [from England] and lived with me for four months. The work was "commissioned by United Serpents" [the international Serpent "club" whos' mottos is "People Like US"] and it is dedicated to Alan Lumsden [a member of the London Serpent Trio]. The Concerto received its world premiere on Oct. 21, 1989 at the First International Serpent Festival (celebrating the 399th anniversary of the serpent). Alan Lumsden was the soloist with The University of South Carolina Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Donald Portnoy."

Tonight's performance is only the second outing for the Concerto which is in three connected movements. I am pleased to say that I will be performing the Concerto on May 29 and 30, 1997 with The Boston Pops Orchestra conducted by John Williams.

Interestingly enough, most people have seen a serpent in their lifetime (usually hanging in a museum where it remains mute) but few have actually heard one. It is my distinct pleasure to bring to your ears tonight the unique sound that is the serpent.

Variations on "The Pesky Sarpent" [for serpent and piano] - Clifford Bevan

Cliff Bevan is a member of the London Serpent trio and a former tubist with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.

The tune, "The Pesky Sarpent" or "On Springfield Mountain" is thought to have been composed around 1840. It tells of the death from a rattle snake bite on August 7, 1761 of 22 year old Lt. Thomas Myrick of Springfield (now Wilbraham), Massachusetts. The rattle snake is an important element in our American mythology, appearing on the first flag of the American Revolution with the warning DON'T TREAD ON ME. It is appropriate that tonight's performance, the North American premiere of what is likely the first piece ever composed for serpent and piano, take place here in Massachusetts. The first performance was given by the composer in June 1996 in Kent (England).

The words to The Pesky Sarpent tell the story and Cliff's music readily depicts the key events in the tale:

The Pesky Sarpent

On Springfield Mountain there did dwell
A lovely youth whom I knew well,

This lovely youth one day did go
Down to the meadow for to mow.

He mowed a while and then did feel
A pizenous sarpint bite his heel.

He turned around and with a blow
He laid that pesky sarpint low.

They carried him to his Sally dear,
Which made her feel so very queer.

'O Johnny dear, why did you go
Down in your father's field to mow?'

'Why, Sally dear, I suppose you knowed
When the grass gits ripe it must be mowed!'

Now Sally had two ruby lips,
With which the pizen she did sip.

Dear Sally had a hollow tooth,
And so the pizen killed them both.

So Johnny died, gave up the ghost,
And off to heaven he did post.

Come all young girls, and shed one tear
For this man that died right here.

Come all young men, and warning take,
and don't get bit by a rattle-snake.


Split Personality (Part I: Profile; Part II: Insomnia at Pops) [for unaccompanied bass trombone] - David Fetter

David Fetter is well known as a composer and arranger of music for trombone and trombone ensemble. Currently, he is a trombone faculty member and Associate Dean for Performance Activities and Placement at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, Maryland. His career as a trombonist included two years in the Cleveland Orchestra under George Szell and sixteen years, ten of them as Principal, in the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. He was also a member of the U.S. Army Band in Washington D.C. (where he served along with BSO tubist Chester Schmitz), the San Antonio Symphony, and the Radio/Telefis Eireann Symphony Orchestra in Dublin, Ireland. He received his Bachelor of Music degree from Eastman School of Music (where he studied with Emory Remington) and his Master's in musicology from the American University. On my new CD release, PROCLAMATION, I have recorded David's beautiful Variations on Palestrina's 'Dona Nobis Pacem' for unaccompanied bass trombone.

Several months ago I asked Dave if he would consider writing me a piece for this recital, and remembering his hilariously funny and excellent Piano Trio for violin, horn and piano based on the ubiquitous tune "Yes, We Have No Bananas," suggested something in a humorous vein. The story of what I got and why I got it is detailed below in the composer's own words.

"Note to audience members: Please wait and read this AFTER you hear the music, if you read it at all.

"When Doug Yeo first asked David Fetter to 'write something funny,' Fetter, knowing his own cynical and sometimes bitter brand of humor and Yeo's serious, irrepressibly positive nature, thought he just couldn't do it to the guy. Rather, Fetter side-stepped the request by writing a, for him, serious piece, Profile for unaccompanied bass trombone.

"Profile has three movements, two of which are intended to give abstract voice to Yeo's staunch religious convictions, if he chooses to interpret the music this way. Profile's second movement, Blues March (Jazz Credo), seeks to reflect the gospel/blues roots called up by Wynton Marsalis, when he played a New Orleans-style jazz march at the 1996 Peabody Conservatory Commencement. The third movement, Comforting, may be thought of as a psalm. Each of the second and third movements has a free sermon-like passage. All three movements are some form of theme and variations. Some day, Fetter may advance to a point where he can deal with two themes.

"In the summer of 1996, Fetter sent Profile to Yeo at Tanglewood and was satisfied that he had done something more positive than he would have writing "something funny." But one evening his local Baltimore top ten all hits-all day-all- night-they-just-keep-on-a-comin' classical music station was playing "Poet and Peasant Overture" for the 99th time, which created a dyspeptic gnawing for revenge in Fetter's gut - himself a veteran of years of pops concerts (Fetter closed a 26-year performance career in 1986 with 16 years in the trombone section of Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, some of this time spent in rehearsals yakking about politics with Yeo). "This stuff cries out for parody," he thought. Then the radio announcer repeated the station's call letters over and over for those who were not listening, and on came the Shostakovich Festival Overture for the 99th time. "Arggggh," said Fetter.

"Thus, as the summer went on, Fetter cut, stretched, twisted, pasted, disfigured, shredded, gutted various innocent themes, songs, tunes until Insomnia at Pops was born. 20-year pops veterans will understand it best."

Of Mountains [for bass trombone and orchestra] from Of Mountains, Lakes and Trees [for bass trombone, tenor trombone, alto trombone and orchestra] - Norman Bolter

Norman mentioned to me last fall that he had just completed the first movement of a new work for bass, tenor and alto trombone with orchestra. Without his saying another word, I immediately said that if he was able to put together an orchestra, Ićwould like to perform the piece on this concert. Demonstrating his considerable skill as a contractor (as well as composer, trombonist and conductor - hey, who's recital is this anyway!), Norman has assembled an orchestra of some of the best players in Boston including members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, free lance players and students. I am extremely grateful for their participation in this work. Carol Viera writes the following about this new piece which receives its world premiere performance tonight:

"Of Mountains, Lakes and Trees, a very large work in three movements, features a different solo trombone voice with orchestra in each of its movements. Of Mountains, the first movement of this work, was written in 1996. The bass trombone is the solo voice in Of Mountains.

"Of Mountains was inspired by the composer's own experience with mountains in the course of his life. As well, in creating this work, the composer drew inspiration from his research of experiences recorded by peoples in many different cultures and religions, especially those describing events which have occurred around or on top of mountains. The beauty, the majesty, the enormity, the haunting feelings...all have come into the writing of Of Mountains. Within this vision, the bass trombone enacts the character, 'the inner voice.'"

Proclamation [for bass trombone and brass band] - Gordon Langford

Last year, I realized a long held dream to record a solo album. PROCLAMATION contains music for bass trombone accompanied mostly by brass band, and Ićwas pleased to be able to have the world's most famous brass band, Britain's Black Dyke Mills Band, helping me out. Since the CD was released in December, I've been pleased that so many people have enjoyed the combination of bass trombone and brass band, and tonight, the New England Brass Band and William Rollins help me bring a little piece of the album to you.

One of the things that needed first to be done when planning the recording was to choose music for inclusion on the disc. Since there was virtually nothing written for bass trombone and band, my friend Roger Green (whos idea it was to produce the album in the first place) drew up a short list of composers he would consider approaching to write a new piece for bass trombone and brass band. The name Gordon Langford was prominent on the list as he is a prolific and well respected composer of music for brass band. His music is highly accessible and because he has such a good understanding of the brass band idiom, his music has immediate interest and authority.

In my correspondence with Gordon regarding the piece, I gave him complete freedom to either write an original composition or undertake an arrangement of a well known tune. I did ask him, however, if he would consider two things: I very much wanted a piece that was NOT written in B flat major and I wondered if he would be interested in writing a piece with a soft ending.

I received some sketches from Gordon over the course of several months and it became clear that his new work, provisionally titled Concert Piece, would be a great piece. After several months went by, I received the completed score with the final title, Proclamation. The title of the piece seemed to say so much that I decided to name the album after Gordon's new piece.

It was a thrill to meet Gordon during the rehearsals for the recording at the Black Dyke Mills Band band room in Queensbury. He was able to help correct some copyist errors in the parts and just having him there as the piece came to life was a real treat for me. At the end of the score, as the bass trombone dies away on a low D flat, Gordon penned, "Pax vobiscum" which means "Peace be with you." It is a fitting sentiment at the end of a beautiful piece.

Proclamation will be published by Chandos Music. The piece is scored for traditional brass band and there is no bass trombone part in the band score, in hopes that the bass trombonist of the band will be the soloist.

In The Hall of the Mountain King [for bass trombone and brass band] - Edvard Grieg, arr. Bill Geldard

George Roberts' nickname is "Mr. Bass Trombone" and so he is. George is perhaps the most famous bass trombonist who has ever lived, and he can take credit for shooting the bass trombone into orbit as a viable solo instrument. He made the first solo recordings with a bass trombone in the 1950's with such great arrangers as Nelson Riddle ("The Joy of Living"), Frank DeVol ("Meet Mr. Roberts") and John Williams ("Bottoms Up"). A member of the Stan Kenton band, he recorded the first solo on bass trombone with big band and has been heard on thousands of recordings, movie scores, commercials and television shows.

I had the pleasure of meeting George Roberts at the 1982 International Trombone Workshop in Nashville, Tennessee, and I was impressed that everything I had heard about him - that he was warm and gregarious, gentle and encouraging - and he still had a great sound - was more than true. I consider him to be one of my most significant role models, mentors and friends.

Roger Green has long admired George's playing, and we decided to include a tribute to George on the album. Roger chose three pieces that are so classic "George" and asked Bill Geldard, who's exploits as an arranger and performer (with the Ted Heath Big Band, among others) are well known. Roger gave Bill a tape of the three tunes we wanted arranged and he created a fabulous tribute to George. The first two selections in the Tribute are the classic Stan Kenton tune, Stella by Starlight and George's own Feelin' Low.

Bill really outdid himself in this arrangement of the classic tune by Edvard Grieg. George recorded this on his "Meet Mr. Roberts" album and it's easily the highlight of that disc. Bill captured all the excitement of the original arrangement and added an inspired idea - a take-off on the Gene Krupa/Benny Goodman "trading fours" duet in Sing, Sing, Sing from Goodman's historic Carnegie Hall concert. When we were recording this arrangement, I couldn't help that it was a little like "Ted Heath meets the Vikings."

Share My Yoke [for bass trombone and brass band] - Joy Webb, arr. Ivor Bosanko

Readers of Roger Green's book "In Pursuit of a Dream" will know the full story of how I first met the Black Dyke Mills Band during their Carnegie Hall Concert in 1994. I got to hear the band in rehearsal at the Salvation Army Headquarters in New York when Philip Smith, principal trumpet of the New York Philharmonic, was rehearsing several solos with them.

Among the works Phil played was a beautiful Salvation Army song called Share My Yoke. I was so taken with the expressive beauty of the band and of Phil's playing that I immediately decided that I must, some day, perform the piece. I asked Phil if there was a text to the song and he confirmed there was, and a few months later he faxed the lyrics to me. Having gone through many difficult times in my life, I found the words of Jesus' love and care to be extremely comforting when combined with the expressive beauty of the music in Ivor Bosanko's stunning arrangement. I can think of no more appropriate sentiments with which to close this concert. Thank you all for coming and sharing this evening with me.


Music and lyrics by Joy Webb
Arranged for brass band by Ivor Bosanko

When I'm tired and nothing's going right for me;
When things I've counted on just do not come my way;
When in my mind the thick grey folds of doubt arise,
It's then I seem to hear him say:


Share my yoke and find that I am joined with you.
Your slightest movement I shall feel and be there too!
Share my yoke and come the way that I must go!
In our "togetherness" my peace you'll know;
The world beholding us will see it so!

When I'm perplexed and no one's understanding me;
When even safest thoughts collapse in disarray;
When I've lost the things that always seemed so sure,
It's then I need to hear him say: (repeat chorus)

When I'm alone and nothing's getting through to me;
And isolation that increases day by day;
When closest friends can seem a thousand miles away,
It's then I long to hear him say: (repeat chorus)

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