Oh, brass players!
That’s the most appropriate way to begin this informal chat with River Oaks Chamber Orchestra principal trombonist Thomas Hultén, who’s in the midst of fine tuning his skills for the world premiere of Dorothy Gates‘ Trombone Concerto on April 9 as part of the “Sliding Into Home” program at the Church of St. John the Divine.
This ROCO commission continues a long tradition of highlighting musicians from within the ensemble, a departure from the typical orchestra arrangement in which traveling players are brought in to show what they an do.
Q: How do you begin preparing to learn a work you’ve never heard before?
Thomas Hultén: Very slowly! I try to work each phrase so I really know it and feel comfortable with it, then trying to get the musical message across.
Q: Tell me something about the trombone most people don’t know: Anything unique about your instrument we should know?
Thomas Hultén: Trombone means “big trumpet” in Italian. The trombone is exactly double the size of a trumpet and has been around since the 1400s. I wish they would have kept the name they had back then: Sackbut.
Q: Like a dog to its owner, most musicians resemble their instruments in one way or another. Curious: Why did you choose to play the trombone?
Thomas Hultén: Purely physical. We’re both tall, skinny and cheap. My wife can elaborate on that last bit.
Q: About Dorothy Gates’ work: Does the piece suit the instrument well? In what ways is it challenging you as a performer?
Thomas Hultén: Since Dorothy is herself a trombone player, she really knows how to write for the instrument well. That doesn’t mean it’s not challenging. She recently told me about a phrase, “I could never do that!” Well, I can’t either….but I’m working on it!
Q: Because of your friendship with Dorothy, I bet there are aspects of the concerto that are aligned with your personality and interests. Yes? No? Elaborate?
Thomas Hultén: Before she started writing, I gave her my CD “Slide Side,” so she knew my playing pretty well. The really cool thing is that she wrote the last movement as a jazz waltz with an improv section.
ROCO presents “Sliding Into Home” on April 9 at the Church of St. John the Divine. Tickets are $35 general admission, $25 seniors, $15 students, and can be purchased online.