I’m sure we’re all familiar with that line at the end of a job description, but if you’re part of the team in Westminster Music Library, you play a musical instrument and have often wondered what it would be like to perform in front of a live audience it can take on a whole new meaning.
Once I discovered that Jon – our Saturday Assistant – was an excellent French horn player, and not only that, had a group of friends who were similarly blessed, it was only a matter of time before he found himself “volunteering” to perform for the good folks of Westminster with his quartet. For anyone unfamiliar with the French horn, it’s a brass instrument with a mellow tone, consisting of a long, spiral tube ending in a flaring bell, three valves, and a funnel-shaped mouthpiece, and if you unwound it, that spiral tube would be more than 20 feet long.
Our four musicians clearly share a passion for this complicated and versatile instrument. It’s considered to be one of the most difficult instruments to play, and for good reason. It can play practically every note without pressing a single key, lends itself to many different styles of music and can fill so many parts. In an orchestra this beautiful instrument can be heard playing along with anything from a clarinet to a tuba.
Although the catalogue of original works for horn quartet is not extensive, there are a fair number of arrangements of well known works, and it was from a selection of this repertoire that Jon and his quartet performed for our audience in Westminster Music Library. And isn’t it great that each and every piece of music he chose for their recital came from our very own Music Library shelves?
The concert covered arrangements of Mozart’s overture to his opera The magic flute, selections from Bizet’s Carmen, and some lively jazz in the shape of two songs by Gershwin – s’Wonderful and I got Rhythm. As the concert drew to a close, it was clear that our quartet were not going to be allowed to leave with any haste. Our appreciative audience not only demanded an encore, but also held them captive while they fired questions at them about the French horn, its history, their favourite works for this illustrious instrument, and just how difficult it was to play.
All four musicians demonstrated so clearly the art of successful ensemble playing, this was a thoroughly enjoyable concert given by a group of versatile and committed musicians. Have a listen to their encore in this clip:
If you don’t know what this piece is, you’ll just have to visit The Music Library on Saturday and ask Jon….