I got the idea for this program a few years ago when I realized that if I wanted a piano part for Ray Steadman-Allen’s piece “Immortal Theme – Suite for Trombone” I had to write it myself. The only available version was for trombone and brass band. I had first heard this piece as a teen-ager in Sweden, performed by the American trombonist Charlie Baker. At that time I played in a Salvation Army band in my hometown of Katrineholm, and Charlie, principal trombone with the New Jersey Symphony, came to Sweden with the Salvation Army New York Staff Band to perform in Stockholm. I was greatly impressed not only by Charlie’s playing, but also with the piece itself.
Fast-forward to 2012. The thought of performing “Immortal Theme” was still on my mind, but the music had never been published, and even though I had heard of a piano part, I had never seen it. Through my friend Stephen Bulla, staff arranger with the US Marine Band in Washington DC and fellow trombonist and Salvation Army member, I was able to get in contact with Ray Steadman-Allen, now in his mid-90s, in England. He assured me that there was no piano part ever written, and also gave me the permission to write one. I was able to get a photo-copy of the original hand-written score from Dorothy Gates of the New York Staff Band, and got to work, Now you can hear the finished product. It’s a three-movement work that incorporates several hymn tunes throughout the piece, and in my mind it is a wonderful piece of music. Very challenging to play, but also very rewarding to both perform and listen to.
I wanted to create a program that had a sacred theme, but also lots of variation. It opens with “Ev’ry Valley”, the first solo aria (originally for a tenor singer) from “The Messiah” by G F Händel. Jim Curnow has written a beautiful arrangement of the gospel classic “He Touched Me” by Bill Gaither. Swedish-American composer Erik Leidzén wrote “A Never-Failing Friend” in the mid-30s, it is a theme-and-variations solo typical of that era. The first part of the program will close with Sonata Vox Gabrieli (The voice of Gabriel) by Croatian composer Stjepan Sulek.
Since I’m really a jazz musician deep down the second part of the program will be all jazz. My interest in music really took off when I discovered jazz and big band music as a kid, and I’m still a complete jazz nerd. I will be joined by some of my friends to form a quartet, and we’ll mix standards such as If I Had You, Basin Street Blues and Stardust with some of my own compositions.
Hope you enjoy the program!
– Thomas Hultén is a Grammy-nominated performer and ROCO’s principal trombone. Read more about Thomas.