We continue on our theme of discovering what life has been like in lockdown for horn players and are delighted to reveal what horn player and Wagner tuba enthusiast Denny McGinn has to say.
In the fall of 2018, Denny was the featured soloist in the US Premiere of Stephen Caudel’s “Edel Rhapsody” for Wagner tuba and chamber orchestra. Denny was accompanied by the St Croix Valley Symphony Orchestra (SCVSO).
“As a retired introvert, the shut-downs and shut-ins have not had a huge impact on my daily life. Musically however, there has been a void with all of the groups that I play with not meeting.
I play every day. I play for a couple reasons, I want to stay in shape, and it is an important part of who I am. If I miss a day playing I feel a loss.
Since I am primarily a horn player, horn is my main I focus. I have a start-up routine that begins my playing sessions, but the rest of the time is spent on “playing” rather than “practicing”. I will admit that I sometimes pick a piece to play because it covers parts of my playing that I need to work on.
There are days when I pull out the Wagner tuba just for the fun of doing something different. It is like getting together with an old friend.
Quartet Recordings Featuring Wagner Tuba
I have recorded some tunes to share with family and friends including multi-track recordings of quartets, some of them including the Wagner tuba. On one of the recordings I multi-tracked myself playing trumpet, flugelhorn, horn and Wagner Tuba. The piece was “The Bare Necessities” from The Jungle Book. I chose that tune just for the fun of it! I did the recording in my basement “studio” using a Tascam recorder and a pair of AT2020 mics.
As for other recordings, I have a notion to try an octet with 4 horns and 4 Wagner tubas. Recording projects helps to put me into “performance mode” and I have found that it’s been really good for providing focus and goals. It is also a great way to hear what is coming out of the horn, so I can work on improving those things that sound like they need work.
Driveway Jam Session As A Horn Player
I have recently played in a jam session on a friend’s driveway. The host of the jam session was on piano and we had a drummer and an electric bass player complete the rhythm section.
On brass we had two trumpet players, an alto sax player (the daughter of one of the trumpet players) and myself on horn. Improvising on Wagner tuba with others around is not something I’m comfortable with just yet!
As for what we played, it was mainly pieces from the Real Book. The problem for me was that I was reading from a book in concert pitch and having to transpose and improvise at the same time! I also played a couple of tunes that I have arranged for piano and horn “It’s Only a Paper Moon” and “Blackbird”.
It was great to get out and play with others in a live session, even though we were a ways apart. One of the joys of playing in an ensemble is being really immersed in the sound but that, of course, is impossible when we have to spread out like we do for now. Even so, the jam session was so much fun that another one is in the works!