Vienna-Style New Year’s Day Concerts

It’s January 1st, and that means it’s time for a Vienna-style New Year’s Day concert. I played my annual today, which is a certain package that runs these across Canada and the States, which I’m sure many of you have played for yourselves. These concerts, without consideration for their place in the calendar or any other outside matters, pose a few unique challenges and opportunities. 

First of all, it’s a lot of music, and for the trumpets, a great deal of playing. After trumpet vacation, it’s a challenge to have the stamina to sound good all the way to the end. This also means it’s a great opportunity to get in a good block of face time to rebuild the strength that went away over the holiday, and hopefully more efficiently. 

This much playing on rotary trumpet is also a really great opportunity to get more comfortable on the instrument, which in North America often doesn’t get its due in the practice room. Even finding a functional and comfortable grip can be a challenge, especially in long waltzes where it feels like there’s not even enough rest to empty the instrument.

Since we’re playing a great deal of background material, it means it’s also a good opportunity to dial in reading and transposition skills again after the break. A huge challenge is dealing with the roadmaps of waltz cycles and polkas, which can be extremely convoluted and fast-paced. Getting good at reading these charts make pops arrangements a breeze!

When all is said and done, the first trumpet folder for a show like this is quite well-rounded: loud, soft, lyrical, articulate, high, low, really a bit of almost everything. It can be a great deal of fun, when things are working well. The Blue Danube is a perfect example, if cliché. Passages with the woodwinds, soft and loud solos, and throughout the piece great opportunities for very stylish playing. 

Any programme can be an opportunity to work on at least some parts of your playing. A show like this that we play every year can become monotonous, but by reminding yourself what you can contribute and what you can gain it can become a useful building opportunity, plus a much more righteous day at the office than it otherwise would be.