67 years ago (and a week) the Vaughan Williams Tuba concerto had its premiere. It was written for Philip Catelinet, the principal tubist of the London Symphony Orchestra and he was the soloist in the premiere on 13 June 1954, with Sir John Barbirolli conducting.
On hearing the news Catelinet said “I was quite terror stricken! As a musician, I really couldn’t appreciate the the idea of the tuba being the centre attraction as soloist on a concerto at an orchestral concert. The tuba was too often connected by the public with what was humorous and ludicrous to be considered seriously a possibility on a concert platform.”
Following on the actual performance, the caption over his picture in the paper read, “Wife Was ‘Banned’ From His Night of Triumph.” Catelinet explained that the reason was because of the belittling image invariably linked to both the tuba and tuba players. Even a press announcement of the concert referred to it as being: “…the novelty of the evening…” He said to a reporter who questioned his wife’s absence: “In the past, the tuba has been treated as a rather comic instrument, and I did not know how the public would react. If I had to suffer, I would rather suffer alone.” After all, musicians are sensitive to the feelings of others, particularly those of their wives. If she had been present and the reception other than it was, I would have been that much more embarrassed for her sake.”
To find out more about this piece – decidedly not a novelty but one of Vaughan Williams’ most popular works – check out our soloist Grady Hassan’s helpful programme notes: Vaughan Williams Tuba Concerto
It’s hard to believe that it is exactly a year our last big event which was the Final Workshop for our ERSO Emerging Composers’ competiton. We had an amazing afternoon workshop with the fabulous five finalists and their amazing pieces and had a really tough choice to make in selecting a winner. Our fab five finalists were selected from a really impressive set of candidates and the workshop showed why these five earned their places in the final. Each composer had a totally unique approach to creating a Birthday Fanfare for Ernest Read – but the thing that united them was talent!
After much deliberation, we were delighted to announce that talented young composition student Alexander Papp was the winner. Alex is creating an amazing new piece for Grady Hassan who is our 2020 winner of the ERSO Soloist of the Year competition.
Looking back at 2020, one of our biggest highlights was our smallest ever concert. Why? Because our October Illuminating Classics concert at St Andrew Holborn was our first concert in the world of Covid-19. Even though we were playing 2m apart it was amazing to be back playing together for our small, socially distanced but incredibly warm and appreciative audience.
When the first lockdown hit we all missed playing together and we wanted to find a way to get ERSO players making music together again and so #ERSOOline was born. We’re all slightly obsessed with the piece we picked – “D’un matin de printemps” by the female composer Lili Boulanger, who deserved to be far better known.
We were so proud when it made it into print in the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) magazine in an interview where conductor Christopher Stark and his brother David talked to Clare Stevens: “Unable to rehearse in person during lockdown, members of the orchestra learned and recorded their individual parts in isolation for its first #ERSOOnline project, an introduction to D’un matin de printemps by Lili Boulanger. The structure of the piece is explained and some context provided by Stark, with musical illustrations by the players followed by a complete performance. The result is one of the best distanced performances I’ve seen.”
So even though Covid stopped some of our concerts, we did manage to hold our composers competition – see A tale of two competitions – part 1 – and our soloist competition in 2020. This is a big part of our ERSO year and we love giving talented young musicians the chance to perform with the orchestra.
Covid meant we had to hold auditions online and we received 23 really fabulous entries. Choosing just four players to move onto the Final was incredibly tough. Meet the Fab Four Finalists
We selected ace tuba player Grady Hassan as our winner and he will perform the Vaughan Williams Tuba Concerto with ERSO in our June concert and perform a solo piece created by the winner of our composer’s competition Alex Papp at ERSO’s 90th Birthday Concert in November 2021.
So we might have missed out on 2 of our 2020 concerts due to Covid. But we did manage to hold 2 really special competitions. Our emerging composers competition was the very last thing we did before lockdown no.1! We had a full orchestra and massive percussion section and spent the afternoon workshopping our fab five finalist’s pieces. Getting a chance to talk to them about their work and how they saw their pieces was a a great experience and the young composers had the chance to learn from each other and acclaimed composer Emma-Ruth Richards. A magical afternoon!
We selected 19-year old Alex Papp as our winner and, because the standard of the fanfares was so high, we also selected Jared Destro as a runner-up and both of their fanfares will feature in ERSO’s 90th birthday concert. Alex has also been commissioned to create a new piece for soloist and orchestra in partnership with tuba player Grady Hassan, the winner of the 2020 ERSO Soloist of the Year. This new solo piece will also be performed in our Birthday Gala concert.
We are very grateful to the RVW Trust for their generous support for this competition.
But despite it all, there have been some magical musical moments and we’ll be taking a look back at them over the next few days. Meanwhile, we wish our audiences, friends, families and our wonderful players a very happy Christmas.
Last night’s Illuminating Classics concert at St Andrew Holborn was our first concert in the world of Covid-19 – and it was amazing to be back playing together for our small, socially distanced but incredibly warm and appreciative audience.
Despite the social distancing and mask wearing for all players apart from wind and brass, it really felt very special to be able to perform the Ballet Music from Idomeneo by Mozart and Haydn’s 99th Symphony, complete with musical examples and commentary to illuminate the music for our audience.
We are SO excited at the Ernest Read Symphony Orchestra to be working with Grady Hassan, the winner of our 2020 ERSO Soloist of the Year competition.
First we’ll have the chance to perform the Vaughan Williams Tuba concerto with Grady as our soloist in next summer’s Waterloo Festival Concert.
And in November 2021 we’ll premiere an exciting new piece for tuba created by ERSO’s winning composer Alex Papp
Growing up surrounded by musicians, learning a musical instrument was almost an inevitability for Grady. Upon taking up the tuba, with support from his brass teaching father, Grady was soon playing with the National Youth Brass Band of Wales, the National Youth Orchestra of Wales and the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain.
He is a recent graduate of the Royal College of Music, having completed a Masters in Performance, where he studied under Lee Tsarmaklis and Peter Smith. Whilst at RCM, Grady was a recipient of the Michael Quinn Award, the Parnassus Award and Study Award as well as winner of the 2019 tuba prize. Prior to pursuing a career in music, Grady studied a Bachelors in Biological Sciences at Imperial College London.
From 2019 to 2020, Grady participated in the LPO Foyle Future Firsts professional development scheme. During this time, Grady regularly performed as an extra with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
In addition to his performing career, Grady is a peripatetic brass teacher for Lambeth Music Service.
“I am so excited to be performing the Vaughan Williams Tuba Concerto with the Ernest Read Symphony Orchestra. I chose this piece as it beautifully showcases some of the lesser heard qualities that the tuba has to offer. With its virtuosic cadezas, lyrical passages and playful gestures, Vaughan William’s tuba concerto is really something special. I can’t wait!”