I got the Geyer back from Gale Lawson a couple of weeks ago. He had taken it completely to pieces, removed all the little dents and ripples, overhauled the valves, stripped off nearly all of the old patchy lacquer and then soldered it all back together again. He had also made a very nice new PipStick for it to float on and reshaped the pinky-hook and thumb lever to fit my left hand. So, it being perfectly playable, I took it along to the Festival Hall for its first outing: The complete and original film score of “Singin’ In The Rain”, brilliantly reconstructed and conducted by John Wilson, with the Philharmonia.
The film is from 1952, so my 1961 horn, made in Chicago, wasn’t far off the mark – only 9 years! It felt very good to have a period instrument for this concert (I think some of the violinists were overdoing it by a few hundred years…). The horn parts are extremely wonderful – perfect horn writing – effective without being too difficult. There are only three horn parts, but my old friend Jim Handy was bumping so that made four of us. Kira O’Doherty and Carsen Williams were the 2nd and 3rd, making a very comfortable, friendly and mutually supportive little group.
The Geyer felt very good and everyone liked the sound of it!
Encouraged by this I used the Geyer again last week when I was guesting with the LPO. We played Bruckner 9 in the Festival Hall and at the Dome in Brighton. That’s a piece I had never played before but always wanted to. Gunther Herbig conducted – a very experienced German gentleman who knew exactly how he wanted his Bruckner and seemed pretty efficient at getting us to do it his way. I thought it was very clever of him to bring a complete set of parts absolutely covered with pencil markings. It meant there was little room for manouver but I’m sure this cuts down a lot of tedious rehearsal time. I think he was pretty shocked, at first, with the lighthearted and casual manner of the LPO. The first rehearsal must have seemed to him like a chimp’s tea-party (after a lifetime of working with German orchestras) but his shock turned to delight when the concert started – at least he looked really delighted. The Wagner tubas and the horns got stood up at the end of both concerts. I felt like waving my new Geyer in the air!
So, I’m very happy with it. It’s not a perfect horn, by any means, there being a couple of dangerous notes on it – but nothing that can’t be worked around. I really like the sound and the feel of it for orchestral playing. Also, I’m definitely using it for my next Konzertstuck, if another one comes along, as it has the best top D and top E of any double horn I’ve ever known. I wish it had a stopping valve, and I wish it had a detachable bell, and water keys – but I’m not going to make any drastic changes like that. I want to preserve it as it is, to which end I’m going to have it lacquered – with a gold coloured lacquer. It’s going to look fabulous! Photographs to follow, as soon as the work is done…
So, Tony, thank you so much for letting me buy this horn from you! I know you had a queue of keen buyers – all willing to pay up without even trying it – so I’m grateful that you let me have the first crack at it.
I hope you are keeping well and keeping warm,
All the best,
Nov 29, 2010 | Categories: hornplaying | Tags: Brighton, Bruckner, dents, Gale Lawson, Geyer, Gunther Herbig, Horn, John Wilson, lacquer, Philharmonia Orchestra, PipStick, Royal Festival Hall, Singin' In The Rain, Tony Halstead, valves, Wagner Tuba | Leave A Comment »
Well, as I mentioned before this was simply one of the best gigs of all time!
It was the first EVER concert performance of the original film score of Singin’ in the Rain. The score was reconstructed by the brilliant John Wilson and conducted by the brilliant John Wilson. In one part it was also conducted by the brilliant Josh Prince, shown here in these three photos.
Congratulations to John Wilson for bringing this amazing music back to life! But how could it have got lost in the first place? Did people not realise at the time what absolutely fantastic music they had created? The score is clearly a work of absolute genius. I urge you to listen to it if you don’t already know it. Currently you can get a DVD of the film on Amazon for peanuts. It’s a great, great classic, believe me.
It wasn’t just the amazing music which made it such a great gig for me. I just love working for John Wilson as he makes everything fun, and he never takes himself too seriously. Somehow he makes everything sound superlatively good. He just KNOWS how to do it. He gets just the right syrupy sound from the violins, and he brings along his own rhythm section and lead trumpet player wherever he goes. Most notably the addition of Matt Skelton, drums, and Mike Lovatt, lead trumpet, to an orchestra instantly galvanises players used to Brahms and Mahler into a compelling, swinging ensemble. It’s quite fantastic. I feel so fortunate to have been involved in this unforgettable performance.
There’s a nice review in the Independent, by Edward Seckerson here:
To cap it all, this was the first time I played my new old horn, the Carl Geyer double horn made in Chicago in the summer of 1961. Having picked it up just the day before from the workshop of Gale Lawson, who had rejuvenated it, it felt so good to play that I decided to use it straight away. I took it with me to the Festival Hall to try it out there in the morning rehearsal and it convinced me I should use it for the show.
Having been taken completely apart and put back together again, it feels like a brand new horn and perhaps will benefit from a long period of “blowing-in”, but I love it. It’s very straightforward – no water keys, no detachable bell, no stopping valve. Just a basic, classic, uncomplicated double-horn. Lovely!
Some technical stuff about the photos:
I used a little Canon S90 and shot the photos in RAW, i.e. uncompressed. ISO was 640 and the shutter speeds were 1/100th second. Handheld, no problem – not too much coffee so no obvious camera shake.
I underexposed these by approximately 1.5 stops to avoid the stage lights burning out the highlights and to get a nice black i the background. Light balance was set to auto, which is excellent on Canon cameras.
Post-processing was done in Adobe Lightroom where I cropped a little, adjusted some of the luminance and saturation, particularly of the blues and was able to reduce the noise by a huge amount – one of the great features of Lightroom 3.
I added a little sharpening and took some bits of detail out of the black background (I even removed a music stand from one photo!).
Finally, I made the little row of house lights at the back of the hall glow and stand out a bit more.
I like the results – and I think the original sized versions (not the much reduced versions shown here) would make nice large, sharp prints…
Nov 11, 2010 | Categories: hornplaying, photos | Tags: Canon, Carl Geyer, Edward Seckerson, John Wilson, Josh Prince, Matt Skelton, Mike Lovatt, Philharmonia Orchestra, RAW, review, Royal Festival Hall, Singin' In The Rain, The Independent | 1 Comment »
It is my extreme good fortune to find myself playing principal horn with the Philharmonia Orchestra for what must be one of the best gigs of all time.
John Wilson (in the photo he’s the conductor on the left – the one on the right is a singer, not a conductor) has reconstructed the entire score of “Singin’ In The Rain”, a film which has been one of my favourites for a very long time. I never dreamed I would one day play all the wonderful music from it. The horn parts are a joy to play – just perfect writing – and the whole orchestra sounds incredible. Not only that, but John Wilson is a delight to work with. How many conductors can one say that about?
The biggest highlight, however, has got to be Mike Lovatt’s sensational trumpet playing.
The performance is on Sunday 7th November at 3:00pm in the Royal Festival Hall. I can’t wait!