June 23, 2006

My Horn

This is my french horn. Her name is Mara. I named her in a writhing fit of peer pressure when my friend and roommate Jeff informed me that he'd named his guitar "Suzanna," and then asked me, "so what's your horn's name?" Fortunately he never got around to further humiliation by asking me to name my saxophone.

I named her a girl's name because a) I like that name, it's cool, b) because I'm a guy and that's just what we do, and c) because I don't put my lips on things named after guys. I just don't swing that way.

I've played that french horn since I got it as a gift from my parents (thanks again guys) in 10th grade. My dad came to my lesson that day bearing my new horn in its new case. I remember being very angry at Holly - she was my teacher - because she'd been in on the buying process and never even hinted to me that it was in the works. But it was very shiny, so I forgave her. It's still pretty shiny, just with more scratches on it, and lately my dog has taken to licking the silver. But it plays better than it did when I got it. Or maybe I do, I don't know. I actually remember, as we arrived in the Eastman parking garage, wondering why I saw my dad's car pass us going around a curve, then dismissing it as my imagination.

I've actually been playing french horn since my piano teacher convinced me, in fourth grade, to choose something other than the trumpet for a second instrument. I said, how about saxophone? She said no, I should really ... really ... try the french horn. Since I can't usually withstand pressure from an authority figure (I'm seeking professional counselling), I consented, and it's one of the best decisions I've ever made.

I only mention this becasue of my latest attempt to get involved in our community. I'm a musician at heart - it's one of the things I'm almost good at - and so I thought, why not use that to meet people? So I began searching for orchestras.

I discovered that most orchestras are located about an hour from me by train. Most were farther. However, there is one orchestra located down the road in Preston, a mere half hour by two trams and a bus. And they're playing solo concertos at the next concert.

Which is perfect, because it means I'll get to know my fellow horn players well. See, they don't call them "solo concertos" for nothing; the soloist shines, as do the strings and sometimes the woodwinds, but the rest of the orchestra gets to sit around and count rests. And since, during rehearsals, we end up stopping all the time, nobody actually counts them. Which leaves us, as brass players, with nothing to do but - you guessed it - talk to each other (or, perhaps, twiddle our thumbs ... or when I was in college, sometimes I'd read homework ... but mostly we talk).

So this is good. I start rehearsals in July, but I have to practice. My embechure (the muscles in my lips that I use to play) has grown, or rather, not grown, shall we say ... weak. I'm out of shape. And it hurts to play like you wouldn't believe; the muscles in the lips are among the most sensitive and delicate in the human body, and to jump back into playing after a year and a half is hard. But worth it; I'm enjoying playing again. I'm even prepping a duet to play between horn and piano so I can play with my wife; it's good stuff.


Greg said...

That's great, Chris! That will be fun, I'd imagine. Funny that it's kinda far away, but I bet it will be worth it. Good on ya!

For those who have not heard Chris' embechure (wow... that's how you spell it, eh?) ...

click here...

Priscilla said...

That's awesome! What a great way to get to know people.

I went to SUNY Potsdam and my room mate was a Crane Student. She named her bassoon...but I can't remember what. I just remember it was after her grandpa.

Priscilla said...

Nice little music clip. Nice "embechure", Chris!

Chris said...

Thanks for the plug. It's funny, but I've never liked that recording ... not because of anybody but me, mind you (yes Greg, you were fine). I sound so ... stuffy. By the time I'd gotten around to recording that, I hadn't been practicing as much. Of course, maybe I just don't like to hear myself recorded.

I should also mention that I really didn't want to play in this orchestra for the very reason that I'm now doing it - I hate playing in the orchestra during solo concertos. They're really boring, and they're one of the reasons I stopped playing in my university orchestra (the other reason being that I was sick of not playing during the other pieces he'd give us ... just all-around boring). So yeah, it's taken some ... work for God to get me involved here, but I think I'll enjoy it all the same now that I'm ... up for it.

cruz-control said...

Nice. Very nice post.

I'm a brass and many other instrument player as well. What I didn't pick up in High School, I picked up in the Music School here at Baylor.

I remember we used to have a rivalry. It was heavy in High School, but even when I came to Baylor it's still big - a rivalry between the horns and the trombones.

Everything the horns did, we trombone players had to do better. Better marching, better intonation, better "your mom" jokes. Everything we just had to do better.

This made for some interesting times, especially when we sat right behind the horn players. They'd blast backward (of course) as loud as they could, and we'd put our bells up against their ears and blast our trombones. T'was fun.

In high school, I think this rivalry had to do with the fact that many of the horn players were hot cheerleaders, and we were the nerd-rejects. But in college, I can't think of a reason why... no wait a minute, it's exactly the same in college. I think I just answered my own question.

Any thoughts on this?

Chris said...

Well. See, trombone players do that because they feel inadequate to the majesty of the horns. Majesty!

However, I am not a hot cheerleader, so my experience has been different. I wish there had been hot cheerleaders in my section. I did date a hot horn player for a while, but she wasn't a cheerleader, she was an artist.

My best friend is a trombone player, so not too much for rivalry there. I think the difference is that in college, I was in an orchestra, and the rivalry was between the brass and the rest of the orchestra, especially woodwinds or violins. We always bragged that one brass player could out-play the entire string section.