I have performed and recorded with the Cincinnati Symphony, Cincinnati POPS and the Cincinnati Opera on numerous occasions. In 1995 the CSO wanted to kick off their May Festival with Herald Trumpets and asked me to help them. I organized a trumpet quartet and arranged fanfares from popular operas. I figured that since this was a vocal music loving audience that would be the ticket. Most of the May Festival audience would be familiar with the grand operas which feature trumpets so predominately.
This began a tradition that lasts until this day. One of my fanfares based on a trumpet solo from Pagliacci has been used by the Metropolitan Opera to kick off special events. Mel Broiles, my good friend and teacher who was the former principal trumpet of the Met for 44 years, used this quartet on several occasions with the trumpet section of the Met. It is fitting as the fanfare is dedicated to him. He performed the original solo fanfare at the Met while riding on a horse, holding the reins in one hand and his trumpet in the other.
Folks always want to know what kind of trumpets we play. They are standard Bb trumpets but instead of having the bells wrapped around the bells are extended. They are mainly used for ceremonial purposes. In Verdi’s Aida and Wagner’s Tannhauser they are used in the opera when royalty enters.
To this day Herald Trumpets are used in courts all over the western world, as well as by the US military whenever pomp and pageantry are needed.
We perform these fanfares from the front and back balconies of Cincinnati’s Music Hall, and also from the 2nd level foyer. From time to time some trumpeters have experienced vertigo, especially when we are up on the balcony facing Washington Park.
One year we decided it would be nice to get a little video of our quartet. When you are doing this kind of performance the last thing you have time to do is worry about setting up a camera, etc.
To make things simple I put my Flip video on a 6″ tripod resting on the rail you see us leaning against, turned it on and let it rip. I had Sam from the CSO staff make sure no one knocked the camera off onto an unsuspecting bystander’s head.
Wagner’s Lohengrin and Tannhauser and Lohengrin, Verdi’s Aida, and Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci are featured in the live video below.Read More »
Trumpeter Christopher Swainhart founded the Queen City Brass and built the quintet’s success upon the innovative and versatile arrangements he has written in many styles. Popular in the Midwest, the quintet has performed as far east as Rappahannock, Virginia, as far north Duluth Minnesota and as far west as Gifu, Japan.
The nationally renowned group has been featured several times Garrison Keillor’s program, A Prairie Home Companion, broadcast live on Public Radio from St. Paul, Minnesota. They have also appeared on Charles Kuralt’s television series The History of Cincinnati, and were featured by the Cincinnati Historical Society on a concert celebrating the Cincinnati Sesquicentennial.
Listen to the QCB and Garrison Keillor performing Swainhart’s arrangement of the Powder Milk Biscuit Theme:
You can learn more about the Queen City Brass at their web site QueenCityBrass.com
As life goes by you start to recognize things that are of real importance. If a thing cannot be replaced or repeated, it has more importance. If you don’t make the best of each day, and as a musician, each performance, you are missing out. As Sister Marshall put it, “To miss the joy is to miss it all.” In memoriam to my good friend Michael Thornton who founded the Queen City Brass with me. I remember fondly our many performances. I miss you good friend.
Mike Thornton has been Tubist with the Cincinnati Symphony since 1976. In 1982 and again in 1988 he performed the Vaughan Williams Concerto for Tuba with the CSO on tour. In 1982 he recorded a solo tuba album which included the world premiere of The Seasons by Frank Proto. In 1992 Mr. Thornton premiered yet another tuba concerto by Frank Proto with the CSO under the direction of Maestro Jesus Lopez Cobos. While at Yale Mr. Thornton was the assistant conductor of the Yale Wind Ensemble and conducted works by Charles Ives in Finland the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. He has taught tuba ant the University of Kentucky, Xavier University, Northern Kentucky University and the College of William and Mary and is currently on the faculty of Miami University. He has performed tuba recitals all across the US. For the summer of 1998 he has been invited to perform ant the Flathead Music Festival in Montana and the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado.Read More »