RLPO – Dublin 17/09/2014

 Liverpool Philharmonic Hall has been closed for a major rebuild and refurbishment since May and, although the works are well underway, the building is barely recognisable; with hoarding, scaffolding and the back half of the building temporarily missing altogether, having been completely demolished!


 Meanwhile, the RLPO are working harder than ever and have begun an extensive period of touring. Today Dublin, London in a few days and then China for a couple of weeks. Busy, busy, busy!

The coach picked the RLPO up at 8.30am from Birkenhead Library and 9.00am from our state of the art refurbished rehearsal premises, The Friary. Apart from a five minute delay for one member having a last minute crisis, off we went.

I looked up about four miles (6km) down the M62 and disaster had struck. A massive, multi-vehicle pile up meant that we were stuck at the back of a massive traffic jam somewhere before St. Helens and an awful long way from our initial and rather important destination of Manchester Airport.


RLPO trombone section, Simon, Simon & Simon getting in the mood for Dublin…

Many members of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra do not live in Liverpool but in many other places. Unlike me, they prefer to commute. Personally, I have got too used to living just around the corner to go back to travelling a couple of hours a day or more. The trombone section, who are all called Simon by the way, all live in Warrington together and decided to head for the airport by themselves. They are pictured above, wondering why they are the only members of a whole symphony orchestra there and wondering whether the trip to Dublin was just a ‘wind-up’ all along. They checked in at 10.00am as planned and, indeed, were some of the very few to actually make the flight!

For the rest of us, well… we sat on the two coaches for about four hours before being able to get off the motorway and each bus appeared to go off on separate ways to attempt to get to the airport. We had missed the Ryanair flight by miles. What would happen? Would the trip be cancelled, letting down the audience, promoters etc? Would other flights be available? Never a dull moment on tour eh?!

The RLPO have been touring all over the world for years and during that time have got up from all kinds of disasters, including players being left behind in foreign climes, coaches not turning up and worse… Spirits on the buses remained high and our coach was enjoying the ridiculous route we were forced to take which included going all the way to Knowsley Safari Park!


Rhys Owens (Section leader trumpet) and Brendan Ball (Principal Trumpet) talking tactics at the airport!


RLPO sub Principal viola Rob Shepley looking chilled to finally be on the plane.

News filtered through to our bus that we were still going to Dublin and Ryanair had placed our bus on two flights to Dublin at 3.30 and the other bus had gone back to Liverpool Airport as Ryanair had managed to fit them onto the 4.00pm flight to Dublin. All for no extra cost apart from the eight of us re-routed onto Aer Lingus. Phew!

We finally all arrived at the Irish National Concert Hall at around 6pm. Taskmaster Vasily Petrenko wanted a brief sound check for those who were willing and tested out the balance and acoustics. Personally I was feeling a bit knackered and needed to do a little private warming up. Trumpeters are notoriously finicky about preparation. Touring can be awkward for many as preparation can be scant. My old teacher, John Wilbraham used to say about touring, “… If you go on tour take a large bag of top Cs and  a large pack of Immodium!” Of course, going straight into the gig with no rehearsal straight after the five week Summer holiday might look a a bit ‘pearly’ from the outside but the RLPO has been exceptionally well honed by Vasily. Even after weeks on tour with the same programme he tries to achieve a little more each day.  Here was a different scenario…

The repertoire on offer this evening was Tannhauser Overture and Venusberg music, the Glazounov Violin Concerto with Ning Feng as soloist (Ning Had missed half of his rehearsal the day before because of similar problems) – interval –  the concerto commissioned for our prestigious percussion section ‘Poltroons in Paradise’ by Stuart Copeland (formerly drummer with The Police), an unusual piece called Reverie by Scriabin and the concert ending with Capriccio Italien by Tchaikovsky.

Sometimes difficult circumstances make people really come together and I thought we played really well. The standing ovation was especially pleasing, as was Vasily standing up the trumpet/cornet section first of all at the end. I am the Principal Cornet by the way and I do use a cornet. An American Vincent Bach Stradivarius with British style shepherd’s crook and a Bach 1C mouthpiece (for the trumpeters out there). Nice one Vasily!

Wow! A success deserves to be celebrated in true Irish style with a couple of pints of Guiness. Houricans is a famous haunting place for musicians in Dublin. We all headed for there. A proper Irish traditional pub and worth a visit from anyone in town.


Contra bassoon Gareth Twigg and extra trumpeter Neil Fulton enjoying the ambience of Houricans


  The trumpet section for this tour was our regular team; Rhys Owens, Paul Marsden and myself: with the addition of regular freelance player Neil Fulton. Dublin is a fond place for me to visit. In a previous incarnation I used to visit the Emerald Isle on a regular basis as a freelancer to work with a very fine orchestra, The National Symphony of Ireland. This is the symphony orchestra of RTE, the radio and television company of Ireland. The RTE also has a very fine ‘Concert Orchestra’ for the lighter programmes.

It makes for a very special evening when worlds collide and trumpet sections manage to converge and have a couple of pints. From the National Symphony Orchestra we had Principal Trumpet Graham Hastings (one of my favourite players) and Killian Bannister, Graham’s longstanding second trumpet. From the RTE Concert Orchestra we had Eoin Daly, the co-Principal trumpet of many years. All in all, a fantastic night. Especially considering the day we had endured…


Left to right – Brendan, Graham Hastings, Killian Bannister, Paul Marsden and Rhys Owens. Fixers could do worse than have a look in this pub!

Well, keep your eyes peeled because we go to London and then a big tour to six cities in China. Champion!

| Leave a comment

The Hammer Blow Of Fate!

The final movement of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony is punctuated by three hammer blows. Alma Mahler quotes her husband as saying that these were three mighty blows of fate befallen by the hero, “the third of which fells him like a tree”. She identified these blows with three later events in Gustav Mahler’s own life: the death of his eldest daughter Maria Anna Mahler, the diagnosis of an eventually fatal heart condition, and his forced resignation from the Vienna Opera and departure from Vienna. When he revised the work, Mahler removed the last of these three hammer strokes so that the music built to a sudden moment of still, mute pain as its third blow. Some modern performances restore the third strike of the hammer.

Anyway, Graham Johns is the Principal Percussion of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra but in the Summer he flies off to join the World Orchestra For Peace which is made up of leaders and principal players from the world’s greatest orchestras. This year, the WOP has been touring with the ‘tragic’ Sixth Symphony by Gustav Mahler, culminating in a performance at the packed Royal Albert Hall for a televised broadcast.

Here is Graham about to strike the Hammer Blow Of Fate, having borrowed a box of talcum powder from Tuba player, Gene Porkony of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra…

1 2 3 4 5 imageI don’t know if conductor Valery Gergiev found it as funny as me? Only time will tell!

By the way, Graham is the managing director of JAM PERCUSSION , the world’s leading importer and exporter of percussion instruments and the choice of professionals the world over for their instruments.

Posted in About Brendan Ball | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tuba Humour!


Image | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Lovely Solo Trumpet Playing By Mark O’Keeffe…

BBC Proms 2014 from the Royal Albert Hall, London.

A trumpeter evokes a World War I bugler in Vaughan Williams’ Pastoral Symphony No. 3

Andrew Manze conducts the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in an excerpt from the second movement of Vaughan Williams’ Pastoral Symphony.

Posted in The Trumpet o-iii<O | Leave a comment

Some Ideas For Honing Your Multiple Tonguing…

The Nightingale is brass band cornet solo composed by the legendary trombonist, Harold Moss. Moss was famous as a trombone soloist before the war and famous as a conductor of brass bands too. He was the conductor of the famous Leyland Motors Band which belonged to the car factory in Leyland, Lancashire.

One of my first trumpet/cornet teachers was Harry Bentham. Harry had been the Principal Cornet of Leyland Motors Band under Harold Moss during his tenure in charge of the band. Harry made a speciality of playing The Nightingale and another famous solo, Cleopatra, in the band’s concert programmes. By the way, I used to play for Leyland Motors myself as a kid and my father was a member on the E flat bass.

As soon as I learned to double and triple tongue, aged about nine or ten, Harry began to teach me The Nightingale. This Grand Concert Polka is still popular in British Brass Bands to this day. As you can see from the photo below the piece already contains a fair amount of triple tonguing but I have decided to take this a stage or two further.


I tend to play through this piece quite a lot during any holiday I manage to get from my day job with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. I prefer to practice music rather than books of unmusical technical exercises (lip slurs etc).

During the opening cadenza I double tongue the tongued semiquavers and use back tongue on the single semiquavers paired with the dotted quavers. I am not satisfied if I think my back tongue doesn’t sound as good as my single tongue  (or better!) and I’ll do a little work here if necessary.

In the following Andante, I try to play as musically, expressively and wring as much emotion and music out of it as possible. It is this musical approach which I think pays me much more benefit than pages of lip slurs etc.

At the Tempo di Polka I triple tongue and during the two quaver rests I play a middle C followed by a high C (fortissimo) as Harry Bentham told me Harold Moss wanted. I don’t know if this is common practice in bands but it is not printed for some reason.

In the Polka itself I immediately use double tonguing on all the tongued quavers. For example, the first B natural is played with the back tongue, as is the E in the fifth full bar and the D at the end of the sixth bar. The next section is the same, so I do it the same way.

In the Trio I continue in the same way, so the C in the third bar is back tongue, as is the F at the end of the fourth bar.

Following the rests I employ the same tactics, so the top G in the first bar is back tongued and the third, fourth fifth and eighth bars. The tenth and eleventh bars have both got a nice little manoeuvre whereby triple and double tonguing are employed on the first beat of each bar and the A in the penultimate bar is also back tongued.

The next segment, prior to the CODA, is played the same way as previously. The CODA is fairly obvious with more examples of mixing up double and triple tonguing in the tenth, eleventh, fourteenth and fifteenth bars. I actually get better results playing the piece this way and this is also how I choose to perform the piece, so it is not just an interesting exercise. By the way, I always try to play these pieces musically. I don’t like to sound like a snare drum or machine gun, so I try to play with style, in a melodious way.

Another good cornet solo which can be used for similar training purposes is Fantasie – Polka ‘Pandora’ by E. Damare. The first half of the second page is  a particularly good study…

unnamed-3 unnamed-4 unnamed-5This approach works for me. I find it also helps with orchestra pieces such as Sheherazade by Rimsky Korsakov and Cappriccio Italien by Tchaikovsky. Give it a try. Good luck!



Posted in The Trumpet o-iii<O | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Musical Humour!


Image | Posted on by | 2 Comments

Maurice Andre Plays The Jolivet Trumpet Concerto – 1969

Posted in The Trumpet o-iii<O | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rare Footage Of Shostakovich As Soloist In His Concerto For Piano, Trumpet And Strings


Here is some extremely rare film footage of Dmitri Shostakovich as the piano soloist in his own Concerto Opus 35 for Piano, Trumpet and Strings.

Can anyone name the trumpet soloist?

Yes they can! Eminent composer Anthony G. Morris has named the trumpet soloist as the legendary Leonid Yuriev (1913-1971). Mravinsky said of Yuriev, ‘He was the pride of the orchestra. If he were a singer, pianist or violinist he would have been given the highest titles.”


Posted in About Brendan Ball, The Trumpet o-iii<O | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Timofei Dokshizer Plays Andriasov Trumpet Concerto. Fantastic!

One of the first vinyl LPs I came into possession of was an old recording of the great trumpeter Timofei Dokshizer playing concertos written in the Soviet Era. Everyone knows the Arutunian Concerto but there was also this absolute gem on the album by Iosif Andriasov. I must have worn that record out because I no longer have it in my possession. My old school mate Richard Whilds, who now works at the Bavarian State Opera, bought it for me from a sale old stock at his local library.

Very recently, I was contacted by Arshak, Andriasov’s son and Marta, Andriasov’s widow about the trumpet concerto (a copy of which was sent to me by Arshak) and a book by Marta “Essays on the Music of Iosif Andriasov.”
This book (hardcover copy $30 and PDF version $8.99) is being sold on Amazon.com,

 Dmitry Shostakovich said of Andriasov, “… When the entire world lost a sense of harmony, composer Iosif Andriasov has not only not lost this sense, but added to harmony a new quality.”

Arshak Andriasov, himself a composer of repute, is organising an international competition to help young artists starting out on their careers and also offering recording deals as prizes. Here’s what he wrote to me about it…

Dear Brendan,

I created The 1st International IMMA Records Classical Music Competition.

The Application Deadline is 2015, August 1st.

The purpose of this competition is to not only give cash prizes for extraordinary performances, but also to help advance their careers through means of recording.

The Awards: First Prize $1250 + IMMA Records CD release (30-40 Min). Second Prize $1000 + IMMA Records CD release (20-30 Min). Third Prize $750 + IMMA Records CD release (10-20 Min). Each Accompanist receives $250. There are more rewards on the website.

Entry fee is $60.

15 years and older may apply

This Competition is for Best CD or MP3. The recording that wins the three prizes will be released by IMMA Records.

I have created a flyer for this competition. Would it be possible to post somewhere the flyer and to let people know who would be interested, perhaps yourself included.


The information and application can be read in detail here,


Thank you so much,
Arshak Andriasov

Here is another performance of a solo work for trumpet by Iosif Andriasov. This time with Arshak Andriasov at the piano and Scott Macomber as soloist. The Concertino For Trumpet…

Posted in The Trumpet o-iii<O | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Sad Loss…


| Leave a comment