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Top Brass
A delicious looking ice-cream, as might be enjoyed in Question 10.

Top Brass

Apart (perhaps) from some of the percussion instruments, the Brass section of the orchestra is often the loudest and most ear-catching. How familiar are you with this family of instruments?

The 'natural' (valveless) Baroque trumpet could only play comfortably in one key: which key?
B♭ major
C major
D major
G major
The harmonic series of the instrument only allows next-door notes within this key, so it will probably be 'aurally familiar' to you from various marches, Old English Trumpet Tunes (still occasionally played as wedding processionals) and oratorio movements, perhaps most obviously The Trumpet Shall Sound from Handel's Messiah
Which composer, a giant of the 19th-century opera scene, required the design and building of special tubas to reach lower pitches than normal ones?
Giuseppe Verdi
Richard Wagner
Giacomo Puccini
Georges Bizet
The instrument is also known as a 'Wagner Horn' or 'Bayreuth Tuba', but in many respects ~ the mouthpiece shape, fingering and indeed the sound produced ~ it is more akin to the French Horn than to the tuba or euphonium
Mutes ~ for trumpets and other brass instruments ~ come in a variety of styles. Which of these is NOT a type of mute?
Many forms of mute (like the bore and flare of a trumpet) are conical, but there is no such thing as a 'cone mute'
Which brass instrument is shown, in replica, on public mailboxes and related livery in various European and other countries?
The trumpet
The tuba
The posthorn
The saxophone
The clue is in the name! One of the many songs by Franz Schubert is a rollicking setting of a poem which, in English, begins: 'From off the street the post-horn rings'. This sound signal alerted people to the arrival of the mail-coach (by road, of course, in an age before railways and motorised vehicles): very evocative if you were awaiting urgent news from someone such as a relative, lover or distant business colleague. The 'ping' of an arriving text message or e-mail nowadays seems very tame by comparison. Sadly, in the Wilhelm Mueller poem, there is no letter from his beloved by this particular delivery!
The wonderful film Brassed Off (its title coming from a slang phrase meaning 'fed up' or 'disgruntled') is set around the colliery community and its brass band at the time of the pit closures and miners' strike, with the late great Pete Postlethwaite in the bandmaster role and Tara Fitzgerald as a young Coal Board researcher who also plays the cornet.
In which year did the events on which the film is based take place?
The circumstances were bleak and ugly, but the film is somehow wonderfully heartening, with an obvious warm message about the power of fellowship through music. Perhaps the most evocative shot in the movie (at least for this reviewer) is when the band are back from winning a championship, the hired coach drops them off, and in foreshortened long-shot we see single musicians and small groups standing separately, with their instrument-cases, on the street, with the last of the camaraderie now fading, like so many stick-figures in a Lowry painting
Back in the Middle Ages, when what we now call a trumpet was known as a clarion, what was the name for the then-version of the trombone?
A splendidly evocative name! Apparently it derives from old European words for 'pull/push', or possibly 'pull-pipe'
The bugle is probably the simplest of brass instruments, definitely in terms of mechanical construction (in being small, for its high clear pitch and portability, and in having no valves nor slide), though it certainly requires skill to play with clarity.
How many pitches are there within its harmonic series, and which hence comprise the whole of the Bugle Scale?
This makes the playing of conventional 'tunes' almost impossible, since these require 'conjunct motion' (= notes right next door to one another in the diatonic scale), but it lends itself to a range of distinctive shaped fanfares and other military signals that cannot too easily be confused with one another. The sounding of the 'Last Post' at Remembrance and other occasions is usually deeply evocative, as is the bugle part in Capt. A C Green's arrangement of Sunset, where the mainly falling bugle line comes in over the top of the hymn-like chorus of the rest of the (military) band during the 'Beating Retreat' ceremony
The tuba may be characterised as the 'benevolent, chubby uncle' of the Brass Section, dependable for its sonority in the deepest registers in loud or more mellow music. It does not seem to lend itself to the virtuoso histrionics of higher-pitched, more nimble solo instruments such as the violin, or indeed the ringing tones of the trumpet. Yet which composer, in his 80s and with advancing deafness, nonetheless went ahead and wrote a 13-minute concerto for this instrument in the mid-20th century?
Ralph Vaughan Williams
William Walton
Edward Elgar
Benjamin Britten
This work is pretty much 'one of a kind' .
The ringing tone of brass instruments has been culturally familiar for many centuries in the form of military trumpets, posthorns etc.. But in the German-speaking world, 'the last trump' (i.e. the great fanfare at the Second Coming / Judgment Day) is known as die letzte Posaune: to which actual instrument does this name normally refer?
Posaune = trombone; a slightly odd thought, if we were expecting 'an almighty, crisp and penetrating fanfare' of some kind rather than the slapsticky glissando of a trombone slide!
Players of large German (or German-styled) pipe organs will know that a 'Posaune' stop is often to be found on the pedal division, to add growl, pungency and clarity to the bass line in contrapuntal music, or general gravitas in other pieces or passages such as the climax of big marches
I am sitting enjoying an ice-cream by the bandstand, in a park on a Bank Holiday afternoon; as such, I may be enjoying ~ which of the following ~ twice over?
There will probably be at least one cornet (instrument) in the band, and my ice-cream may also be in the form of a cornet (i.e. served in a conical, or 'horn-shaped' wafer)!


Author:  Ian Miles

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