Concert Announcement: Celebration Brass Band

Poster April 4 2013 Concert


Celebration Brass Band will perform on Thursday, April 4th, at La Hacienda Recreation Center in The Villages, Florida.  The band will be performing  English Folk Song Suite, American Overture For Band,  Disney Fantasy, Intrada on Monkland, Slavonic Dance No. 8, Hail to the Spirit of Liberty, Colonial Song, Slipstream and Under The Double Eagle.

Championships Test Pieces: First Section

photo by Laurel Daunis Allen

photo by Laurel Daunis Allen

Editor’s Note: I asked NABBA President Dr. Stephen Allen to provide some background for each of the 2013 NABBA Set Test Pieces.  This is the third installment.  The final post will include a description of Ellerby’s Elgar Variations.  

Click here to read about Saint-Saëns Variations by Philip Sparke.

Click here to read about Percy Fletcher’s Labour and Love.



Sir Arthur Bliss’s Checkmate, based on the idea of a chess game, is one of the greatest ballet scores of the last century. Legendary brass band composer Eric Ball—who counted Sir Edward Elgar as a fan—was in such awe of it that he made arrangements of four of its movements, premiered in the National Championship Concert of 1976 at the Royal Albert Hall by the GUS Band under Geoffrey Brand two years before it was published. Traditionally played in competition in just three movements (1, 3 and 4, as at the 1978 UK Championships), we have restored all four movements in Eric Ball’s original symphonic design for our terrific First Section bands on Saturday: let the games begin!

To appreciate this music one must recognize Bliss wrote his score in 1936 in the heat of the Spanish Civil War—the war that proved the testing ground for the Fascism that would break out in World War II. (Bliss had fought in World War I, in which his brother was killed.) English poet W. H. Auden described the 1930s as “that low, dishonest decade” and Bliss’s musical vision depicts the most pessimistic possible prognosis: the triumph of Darkness over Light as the Black Queen stabs the Red King to death. Not so much Checkmate as CheckOUT.

Fortunately history did not end up that way—at least as far as the Nazis were concerned—and we can now see that Bliss’ work was a musical warning, a great example of how music and history interact.

In the first movement, ‘Dance of the Four Knights’, the Knights dance onto the chess board for skirmishes and Bliss (and Ball) employ a range of colors to depict the tossing and neighing of the horses as they bear their charges into battle. Just close your eyes and you can hear the stomping and snorting. The second movement, ‘The Red Knight’s Mazurka,’ is a pop song that turns dark: no good deed will go unpunished, and these good Sir Knights are marked for the grave.

The third movement, ‘Ceremony of the Red Bishops’ is a beautiful and satisfying chanting lament for what could have been, complete with bell. But now the religion of the godly—the final bastion against the Dark Side of the Force—will be swept away.

Perhaps, in this respect, Europe has not been so quick to escape! For whom the bell tolls?

“Bang!” and we are propelled into the unrelenting violence of ‘Finale—Checkmate.’ As the old, good, Red King staggers around the chess board completely unprotected, the evil Black Queen, with her dark retinue, stalks gleefully around the chess board flashing her two knives at her powerless prey. The music builds and builds until, in a miraculously horrifying moment, we hear a great paean in the cornets as the Darkness mounts the Throne of Power. A colossal boom on the gong (tam-tam) and the Black Queen leaps forward to repeatedly stab the Red King to death. (If you think you recognize these crashing and crushing final chords, Peter Graham refers to them in the closing bars of his On The Shoulders of Giants, heard as the Championship set-test at NABBA a few years ago.) A classic transcription of a master by a master, a great performance of this work will bring the audience to their feet.

Again, I’d like to remind and strongly urge bands and band members participating in the NABBA XXXI Championship to refrain from posting any information about their Own Choice piece on any websites or social media. This includes concert advertising and online programs. Our adjudicators take all pains to avoid deliberately seeing any such information on the internet, but please assist them as much as you can in these respects. Many thanks indeed for your collaboration in this matter. Very much looking forward to seeing and hearing you in Cincinnati. Very best wishes with all your preparations.

Dr. Stephen A. Allen, NABBA President

Marty Erickson Performs Carnegie Hall Recital

Legendary tuba artist and former NABBA adjudicator Marty Erickson, of Appleton, WI, will take center stage at Carnegie Hall to exhibit the expressive power of the classical tuba and the creative possibilities of tuba as a jazz instrument. The recital will be held Tuesday, March 26 at 7:30 p.m. in Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall. For tickets and more information, visit this site.

Erickson is in his eleventh year as Instructor of Tuba, Euphonium and Chamber Music at the Conservatory of Music at Lawrence University and performs with the Lawrence Brass faculty brass quintet.

This recital celebrates Erickson’s remarkable and illustrious 45-year career as a soloist and tireless promoter of the tuba. Equally adept at performing jazz, pops and the classics, and at home in any venue from symphony orchestra to Dixieland band, Erickson has established himself as one of the most versatile tubists in the world.

New York Philharmonic Principal Tubist Alan Baer said “as a young tubist taking lessons, I was told I needed to be able to play any style at any given time. Marty’s recital will be a true testament to his abilities to do it all! Marty certainly is one of the most gifted cross over players and educators of our time.” The first half of this recital will feature works of wide-ranging styles from the classical tuba repertoire with pianist Eli Kalman. New York’s own Marvin Stamm Quartet will join Erickson for a jazz spectacular during the second half.

Many of Erickson’s colleagues, students and fans from across the country and around the world will be attendance for this one-night only performance.

“Marty is an amazing performer and a delight to watch and experience on-stage. He is truly a leader in the music world and has worked tirelessly to educate people about the capabilities of the tuba as a solo instrument,” said Yale University Trombone Instructor Scott Hartman, and founding member of the Empire Brass Quintet. “This is a fantastic opportunity for music lovers to get a glimpse of the power and beauty of a lesser-known instrument, by someone who has mastered its full capabilities and potential.”

Erickson established himself as a master in his field early in his career while serving as an active duty musician as principal/solo tubist in the U.S. Navy Band in Washington, D.C. He has performed as a soloist and clinician throughout Europe, Japan, China and South America, and in 48 of 50 of the United States. He has performed with the Boston Pops Orchestra, the National Symphony, the Baltimore Opera Orchestra, the Maryland Symphony and the Smithsonian Masterworks Jazz Orchestra under the direction of Gunther Schuller, and as extra tuba with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Erickson is currently serving in his tenth year as a Lecturer in Tuba and Euphonium at Lawrence University. He has performed as the principal Eb Tubist with the Brass Band of Battle Creek for the past twenty years and is a founding member of Millennium Brass Quintet, and the Tuba-Percussion duo Balance with percussionist Alison Shaw. After retiring with 26 years in the U.S. Navy Band, he was on the faculty at Penn State University as tuba and low brass instructor for nine years.

In addition to his solo jazz CDs “ You and I,” “My Very Good Friend” and “Smile,” Erickson may be heard on over forty recordings of orchestra, concert band, brass band, Dixieland, jazz, folk, and children’s music. He is a Past-President of the International Tuba and Euphonium Association (ITEA), and is a founding member and Adjudication Chairman for the Leonard Falcone International Euphonium and Tuba Festival.

Erickson is a clinician and design consultant for The Getzen Company /Willson Band Instruments-Switzerland and performs on the Willson E-flat tuba that he helped to design.