Copyright © 2000, 2001 by Richard I. Schwartz
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Well-known Soloists from All Walks of Life
Robert N. Thompson
(b Nashville, TN 1861)
Known as "E-flat Bob" by his peers, he started his career at an early age as the conductor of the band for the Sells Brothers’ Circus (The Freeman, 24 September 1898). He conducted and played with many minstrel shows including that of Mahara’s Minstrels.
He was a very highly respected Eb cornetist and director of bands and orchestras on the minstrel circuit. While the Eb cornet was his specialty, he played the violin, as well. He directed Al. G. Fields Colored Minstrel Band [in 1897] and conducted the Big Military Band with Oliver Scott’s Refined Negro Minstrels between the years of 1898 and 1901. He was also a member of F. M. Hailstock’s Concert Orchestra for the same show.
In 1900, the Big Military Band had twenty-two members! This was an unusually large number of players for a traveling minstrel band. Most of them had between seven and twelve players, i.e., two or three cornets, two or three alto saxes, none to two trombones, sometimes piano, usually tuba, and one or two drummers. The instrumentation for his Big Military Band was not specified in the resource found (The Freeman, 3 February 1900). In 1900, he also was hired to direct an orchestra of fourteen members, a drum corps of six, eight mounted buglers, and a Mirambo Band of six young Hawaiian men (The Freeman, 24 September 1898). Information for this entry appears in the two issues of The Freeman listed above.
Alfred F. Weldon
(b Hartford, CT 14 June 1862; d Chicago 5 May 1914)
His family had emigrated to America in the 1850’s. When he was twelve years old, Weldon’s family moved to Chicago. He reportedly studied the cornet from Matthew Arbuckle and D. W. Reeves. One of his first major responsibilities was when he joined the Columbia Theatre in Chicago. He then directed the Chicago Commandery Band, a Masonic Band, and took it to St. Louis in 1888, when he was twenty-one years of age. He was bandmaster of the Second Regiment Band of Chicago (also known as Weldon’s Band) in the 1890’s and conducted the First Brigade Band of Chicago, as well. It is for this band that he wrote the First Brigade March. He took the Second Regiment Band to state fairs in the mid-west, to New Orleans in 1900, and continued to play in theater orchestras in Chicago.
He taught at the Chicago Music College and later, Weldon taught cornet at the Siegel-Meyers School of Music in Chicago. Here he offered correspondence lessons (with weekly examinations) through the school and developed his own "Scientific Method" of cornet playing. His method involved the use of very little lip pressure. Among his most famous students were Bohumir Kryl (cornet), Gardell Simons (trombone), Frank Martin (cornet), John Hughes (cornet), Albert Cook (bandmaster of the Kilties), Charles Randall (trombone), Hale A. VanderCook (conductor of his own band), Jerry Chimera (trombone), and C. Oliver Riggs (cornet). At his funeral, a band of 100 musicians performed His Last Word dirge. Weldon wrote for cornet and band. Two of his most famous marches are The Gate City and The First Brigade. Information for this entry appears in Pioneers in Brass (Bridges , 83-85), March Music Notes (Smith 1991, 443), and The Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music (Rehrig 1991, 811).
Arthur S. Whitcomb
( b Birmingham, England ; d 18 June 1950)
At the age of twenty, Arthur played with the Coldstream Guards Band under the leadership of John McKenzie Rogan. He played cornet for the wedding of the Duke of Marlborough and Consuelo Vanderbilt in an orchestra directed by Herr Suck, and also played first trumpet at His Majesty’s Theater for a production of Julius Caesar with Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree.
On 22 January 1901 he performed in an orchestra for the Coronation of King Edward VII and first trumpet in an orchestra under the baton of Sir Edward Elgar. In 1904, he played cornet with the Coldstream Guards Band at the St. Louis World’s Fair.
After the three week engagement, he went to Canada to conduct and perform cornet solos with the Kilties Band in Belleville, Ontario. He came back to the United States and between the years of 1905 and 1911 played first chair and cornet soloist with the United States Marine Band in Washington, D. C. He returned to the Marine Band in 1913 after two years conducting the Fifteenth U. S. Cavalry Band, and remained with the Marine Band until his retirement in 1935.
After his retirement from the Marine Band, he continued to play and teach both the cornet and trumpet. His tone was such that it added that special something to his renditions of songs. He recorded solos with the Marine Band, including the Creanonian Polka by Weldon, the Premiere Polka by Llewellyn, My Heart at thy Sweet Voice by Saint-Saëns, and Endearing Young Charms by Moore. The entire Marine Band attended his funeral at Arlington Cemetery on 21 June 1950. Information for this entry appears in Pioneers in Brass (Bridges , 85-86).
Ernest S. Williams
(b New Richmond, IN 27 Sept 1881; d Saugerites, NY 10 Feb 1947)
Williams was on solo cornet with the 158th Regiment Band with the Indiana Volunteer Infantry in 1898. In the same year, he served four months in the Spanish American War, stationed in Cuba as conductor of the 161st Regiment Band. He was soloist with the Second U.S. Artillery Band, the Seventh Cavalry Band, and the Tenth Infantry Band. In 1899 he studied with Henry C Brown and Gustave Strube in Boston. The years of 1900, 1901, and 1902 were very busy for Ernest, for during this period he played with the Innes’ Band, Conterno’s Thirteenth Regiment Band, Fanciulla’s Seventy-first Regiment Band, Liberati’s Band, Bayne’s Sixty-ninth Regiment Band, and Sousa’s Band. This hectic pace slowed down temporarily, for he only played solo cornet with Mace Gay’s Martland Band of Boston from 1903 to 1906, and conducted the Boston Cadet Band from 1907 to 1910.
He was solo cornet with the Boston Municipal Band and Stewart’s Band in 1910, and in 1911, he conducted Bellstedt’s Band in Colorado Springs. In 1912, he formed his own band in Lakeside Park, Denver, Colorado. He and his wife Miss Kitty Rankin (see her entry in this chapter), also a cornet virtuoso, made a World Tour in 1913 and 1914. In 1915 and 1916, he was solo cornet with N. Franko’s Band and Conway’s Band. In 1916 and 1917, he played first trumpet with Victor Herbert’s Orchestra and with Monteux’ Ballet Orchestra for the Metropolitan Opera. Between 1917 and 1923, he played first trumpet with the Philadelphia Orchestra (Leopold Stokowski conducting) during the symphony season and solo cornet with Goldman’s Band (Goldman conducting) during the rest of the year. During this busy period, he also played first trumpet with the New York State Symphony Orchestra and conducted the Kismet Temple Band.
Finally in 1922, he formed the Earnest Williams School of Music in Brooklyn, New York (primarily with private students) and between 1929 and 1931, he was head of the Ithaca Band School (after Conway left) and conducted the Ithaca College Symphony Orchestra and Band for the 1930 school year. In 1931, he opened a summer camp in the Catskills in Saugerites, New York.
Between 1936 and 1943, he conducted the New York University Symphonic Band and between 1937 and 1946 was appointed teacher of Trumpet at the Julliard School of Music. In 1937, he was honored by Capitol College with a Honorary Doctorate. A famous teacher and composer for the instrument, his publications include the Secret of Technique Preservation, the Method for Transposition, Supplementary Studies, High Tones, and his famous Modern Method for Cornet. Although Williams did not record solos for major record companies, he can be heard on Philadelphia Orchestra recordings between the years of 1917 and 1923. Information for this entry appears in The Psychology of Cornet and Trumpet Playing (Noble 1964, 25) Pioneers in Brass (Bridges , 86-87), The Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music (Rehrig 1991, 824), and the ITG Journal (Winking 2000, 34-47, 53).
Henry F. Williams
(b Boston 13 Aug 1813; d Boston July 1903)
He began his studies as a young man and was one of three young men bound out to Herr von Hagen, a music teacher, until he was twenty-one. Von Hagen was "a German musician of great celebrity"(The Freeman, 18 May 1889). The names of the other two men were Alfred Howard and Henry Thacker. Williams became an excellent performer on violin, double bass, and cornet. His secondary instruments were viola, cello, baritone, trombone, tuba and piano. He was an extremely versatile musician, proficient in many styles from dance music to the classics. He was hired frequently to write arrangements for Patrick S. Gilmore’s Band, for Frank Johnson’s Band in Philadelphia under Joseph Anderson Sr.’s tenure with the group, and at least one quickstep for the Boston Cadet Band. He toured with Johnson’s Band and then settled in Boston. He was selected to play double bass for Gilmore’s Orchestra for the 1872 World’s Peace Jubilee Concert in Boston. He, as well as Lewis, went through an intensive audition so that there could be a "sufficient answer to the foolish clamors of all those afflicted with ‘coloritis’" (Trotter 1968, 108). There were many African Americans chosen for the choir, but only two for the orchestra, i.e., Frederick Lewis on violin and Henry F. Williams on double bass.
He wrote many compositions, among them being Lauriette (New York: Firth and Pond, 1840), Come, Love and List Awhile (New York: Firth and Pond, 1842), It was by chance we met (Boston: Oliver Ditson & Co.,1866), I would I’d never met Thee (Boston: Oliver Ditson & Co., 1878), and Parisien Waltzes (Boston: Oliver Ditson & Co., 1854) (The Freeman, 18 May 1889). He wrote also many Overtures, Polkas, Mazurkas, Schottisches, Marches, and Quadrilles. Lowell Mason had asked Williams to travel to Liberia to receive more credit for his work, after realizing that Williams was an awesome musician. Trotter in Music and Some Highly Musical People stated that it would have been better for Mason to have fought for Williams in America so that he could have received the rewards that he so richly deserved here in his own country. Trotter hoped that his opinion was "not too harsh". He certainly loved music and all those who made it, but he loved "even more ardently reform and its promoters"(Trotter 1968, 111). A powerful statement for any time period! Information for this entry appears in the above cited issues of The Freeman, Music and Some Highly Musical People (Trotter 1968, 106-113), and Eileen Southern’s biographical entry entitled, "Williams, Henry F." in BDAAM (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1983).
(b Braunschweig, Germany 1826; d St. Petersburg, Russia 1904)
In 1847, he was asked to be cornet soloist with the ballet and opera orchestra at the St. Petersburg Maryinsky Theater and accepted the offer, staying there until 1878. He was Inspector of Bands for the St. Petersburg Imperial Guard from 1869 to 1889 and was asked to teach cornet at the St. Petersburg Conservatory of Music in 1868. He was appointed Professor of the instrument in 1879 and continued to teach at the Conservatory until his death. He served also as musical advisor to Czar Alexander II and Alexander III and was a composer of a significant amount of brass chamber music. He wrote the first Russian method for the cornet, as well. In 1873, Wurm met Arban at one of Arban’s concerts in St. Petersburg, where Arban apparently had spent some time.
Wurm taught the cornet to many students, among them being August Johanson and Alexander Gordon.
Wurm’s performances on the cornet were characterized by breadth of phrasing and warm sound. Wurm was not fond of intense displays of technique, but rather displays of warmth and depth. His playing set the standard in Russia for more than forty years. His successor in this capacity, upon his death, was bestowed upon Michael Adamov. Information for this entry appears in the ITG Journal (Selianin 1983, 40-45, 58) and in Edward H. Tarr’s notes to Victor Ewald Brass Quintet in Eb (Ewald 1995, notes).
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