Aardy R. DeVarque (aardy) wrote,
Aardy R. DeVarque

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Nothing ventured, nothing gained--right?

As some of you may remember, back in January I resolved to re-learn to play the trumpet, with the goal of maybe being "good enough" to perform in church by Christmas, or if not that, by the following Easter. (I switched from trumpet to baritone/euphonium when I got braces in eighth grade--twenty years ago--and until this year have only picked up a trumpet once since then, at the wedding of a friend fifteen years ago.)

Well, opportunity knocked, and my deadline just became a lot more concrete--and moved up by a month.

At church choir rehearsal on Thursday, the director handed out a piece we'll be singing for the Thanksgiving Day service. It's "Now Thank We All Our God," as arranged by Johann Sebastian Bach. (For any classical music fans out there, that's "Nun danket alle Gott", from the cantata "Gott, der Herr, ist Sonn und Schild", BWV 79.) This happens to be among my favorite Bach pieces, and while it's excellent just on the organ, my favorite arrangement of it is for choir (or organ) with two trumpets, trombone, and tympani (kettle drums). [Snippets from Amazon: Windows Media Player | RealPlayer | Snippets from AllMusic: link 1 | link 2]

After we'd run through it once, the director was thinking out loud how the choir might be accompanied (organ vs. piano), and I saw an opening and bravely asked (in front of everyone) if she'd be interested in adding in a trumpet--namely, myself. I'd have to provide my own sheet music, but given that, she was most definitely interested.

Getting the music is easy for me; the lead trumpet part is the same as the top line of the piano/organ accompaniment in our choir music, just transposted up a whole step, so I just had to make that change and write it out. (Though I first called my sister--she of the degree in Music Ed. and jealousy-inducing heaps of musical talent--to make sure I moved notes in the correct direction and by the correct amount, and to find out how to calculate what the new key signature would be.) I finished that this morning, using Paint Shop Pro, and the "Sonata" font of musical dingbats. It would've taken a fraction of the time to hand-write it all, but this way it looks nearly professional and is easy to read.

Now for the tough part--I have six weeks to get good enough and learn the music well enough to publicly play on the trumpet a piece that would likely be a little challenging for me even if I played it on the baritone instead, and spends about a third of its two and a half minute duration dancing around the highest notes I can currently play (and very near the highest I could reliably play even back when I was taking trumpet lessons). Did I mention that I've never played this piece before--on any instrument--I've only listened to recordings of it? And that my lips' endurance when playing in that range is still nearly nonexistent? (Right now, my endurance is about enough to make it through warm-ups...)

I played through it for the first time this morning. I got through it, but screwed up several times, had to stop and take a few seconds' rest several times, and generally got a feel for exactly how much improvement I'll need to make in order to be presentable. Let's just say that it'll likely be a close thing. I'm learning it two ways--as written (that's my true goal), and with the high parts taken down an octave, in case I can't raise my endurance enough to make it all the way through as written by then. It doesn't sound as good down an octave, but at least it'll sound basically right (as opposed to trying for a high note, having no lip left, and ending up sounding like a baby elephant with a head cold).

It would be better if we can find a trumpeter who can handle the high part (so that I can take the low part) or two trumpeters (so that I can drop down and play the trombone part on my baritone, which sounds about the same as a trombone), but that's almost certainly not going to happen--at least, not in this time frame.

So now I get to see how much drastic improvement I can make in six weeks. This is not going to be easy. It's outside my comfort zone. (Heck--just volunteering publicly, not knowing for certain that I'd be able to do it--was outside my comfort zone.) But if it works out, I think the end result--the listeners' enjoyment--will be worth it.

And who knows, maybe this will be the first step towards putting together an official brass quartet--or more--at church? I'd love to be a part of one of those again.

Feudalism: Serf & Turf
Tags: bach, choir, music, trumpet

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