More on Elgar’s Trombone…

On a topical note….. The trombone, which Sir Edward Elgar donated to the YMCA for its 1918 appeal to raise morale among
troops, is to be played for the first time since his death. The composer began learning the difficult instrument
in 1900 when he was 43. He was not sure whether he was worse on the typewriter or the trombone.
Daily Telegraph, Friday 20/11/09


This abbreviated memory of Elgar and a trombone is taken from
“My Three Revolutions” by M. Philips Price.

I had always been interested in amateur music and had never given up playing the trombone, which I had
learnt in the brass band at Harrow. I joined the Gloucestershire Orchestral Society and as the only one who
played the trombone was regarded as a rara avis.
In Gloucestershire, we had every three years the Three Choirs Festival. For years, it had been considered
improper to have other than sacred music there. Even Elgar was for a time not popular because, although
much of his music was sacred, he was a Roman Catholic and that did not harmonize with the spirit of

In 1913, the Three Choirs Festival was at Gloucester and one of the house parties that I got up for the
occasion was Sir Edward Elgar himself. My family had known Lady Elgar`s family for many years. She was
the daughter of a high officer in the Indian Army who on retirement had settled in Gloucestershire not far
from my home; my father and his sisters used to ride over to lunch with him regularly. One of the daughters
used to take music lessons from the son of a man who ran a music shop in a back street in Worcester. One
fine day she announced she was going to marry her teacher. Despite the rumpus caused, she stuck to her guns
and even become a Roman Catholic as the Elgar family were of that faith. After a hard life, success finally
came to him with his “Dream of Gerontius”. Objections to the marriage faded, especially when a knighthood
was conferred upon the composer.

“The Dream of Gerontius” was given at the 1913 festival and conducted
by Sir Edward. One afternoon, on our way back in two cars, I suggested
halfway home that those who liked might get out and walk through my
woods across the fields to Tibberton Court. Only Sir Edward and I
wanted to walk, so we went together. It was a lovely September day, the
corn was just off and the golden stubble contrasted with the deep green of
the Severn Vale pastures.

There were moments during that memorable house party during which
some of us conducted ourselves in a less serious fashion. For instance,
they teased me that I could not really play a trombone; so I got it out and
began to blow the bass solo in an Austrian military march called “Under
the Double Eagle”. While I was doing this, Sir Edward, to everyone’s
amusement, crept up, cupped his ear and pretended that it was difficult to
hear. Somebody had the sense to take a photograph, which I still treasure.

Published by Allen and Unwin (1969) the book may be borrowed
from Gloucestershire County Libraries or though the interlibrary loan system



About brendanball

Professional Trumpeter: Soloist, Orchestra Player, Chamber Music, Contemporary Music & Education.
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