February 4, 2012

Q & A with RPO Tubist W. Craig Sutherland

This Sunday's family concert celebrates the tuba's unique and indispensable contribution to the world of music, and just as no orchestra would be complete without the tuba, the RPO wouldn't be complete without its Principal Tubist, W. Craig Sutherland. This week, Craig joins us to share his thoughts on Tubby the Tuba, the Superbowl, and more.

Hometown: Clarence, NY

What music school did you attend, and who were your most inspirational teachers? Abe Torchinsky at the University of Michigan and Warren Deck at The Juilliard School.

What kinds of music do you enjoy listening to? Anything with an interesting bass line...

What can you tell us about Tubby the Tuba? Tubby the Tuba is a timeless classic, teaching children about music and life, and the important message of self-confidence. As any performing artist, you have to believe in yourself and your abilities. As Tubby's story demonstrates, the tuba can do a lot more than just play oom-pahs.

This is my second time playing Tubby the Tuba professionally. I played the piece when I was a member of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra (CSO) in SC (along with my RPO colleagues Lara Sipols and Heidi Brodwin, who at the time were also members of the CSO). In addition to Tubby, I will be playing, the Largo al factotum aria from Rossini's Barber of Seville.

Who would Tubby like to see win on Sunday? This Tubby is a lifelong Bills fan, who, unlike Tom Brady, loves Buffalo and its hotels! Given that Tubby's creators, composer George Kleinsinger and lyricist Paul Tripp, both spent their lives in New York City, Tubby would most likely be cheering for the Giants this Sunday though he's had good times in New England, too.

A current favorite children's CD in our house: My 8 ½ year old daughter Madison (pictured right) loves to listen to the RPO's newest recording, The Story Babar and A Family for Baby Grand narrated by John Lithgow. I really enjoyed participating in the creation of this CD and adding these musical stories to the repertoire along with Tubby the Tuba and Peter and the Wolf.

5 Fun Facts About the Tuba:

1. The tuba is youngest of all the brass instruments. 

2. If you were to stretch the metal tubing of a tuba, it would be 18 feet long, the same length as a French horn. 

3. Orchestras typically have one tuba, though some composers have written pieces that call for more, including Stravinsky's Rite of Spring and Berlioz' Symphonie fantastique.

4. Tubas are made of brass, a metal made of copper and zinc. Both of these metals are found in vitamins. This means that during your life you may eat an entire tuba - and it would be good for you! 

5. Tubas are not made in Tuba City, AZ

The tuba family: The brass tubing for the tuba begins at the mouthpiece, and bends and folds until it finally flairs, forming a large bell. Tubas are found in various pitches, most commonly in F, E, CC, or BB­ in "brass band" pitching. The main tube of a B tuba is approximately 18 feet long, while that of a CC tuba is 16 feet, of an E­ tuba 13 feet, and of an F tuba 12 feet (not including any valve branches). Tubas are considered to be conical in shape as the bore of their tubing steadily increases in diameter along its length, from the mouthpiece to the bell. 

History of the Tuba: The serpent was invented in France by Edme Guillaume c.1590. As its name suggests, the Serpent was coiled back and forth like a snake and was played by means of six holes. Later on, keys were added so that this instrument could play with greater facility. 

This instrument saw wide use in the church as a bass accompaniment for religious music that had evolved from Gregorian Chant. In Britain, in addition to its sacred role, the serpent was soon adopted as the bass member of military wind bands.

Modern Tuba: The modern tuba was invented in the middle of the nineteenth century. In the 1800s it joined the military band. About 100 years later the tuba was included as a regular member of the symphony orchestra. 

The Tuba is the largest and lowest sounding member of the brass family. It's sound is very round and mellow. The tuba, along with the string basses and bassoons, provide the lowest sounds for the orchestra. One tuba is used to complete the brass section. Some composers wrote for more than one, but that is the exception rather than the rule.

Symphonie fantastique by Hector Berlioz was the first major work orchestrated for tuba.

Sousaphone: Contrary to popular belief, J. W. Pepper suggested the design to John Philip Sousa. The Sousaphone, alleged to have been first made by C. G. Conn in 1898, was actually first manufactured by J. W. Pepper in 1893. In fact, the original J. W. Pepper Sousaphone is still in existence.

Hear Craig perform this Sunday at 2:00 pm in Performance Hall at Hochstein! Tickets start at $10 and can be purchsed online or by calling 454-2100.

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