Foto: Varvara Aleskeeva

All attention to the trombone

3 days – 3 concerts – 3 stars!

Text: Marie Sondergaard
Arctic Trombone Festival
30-40 trombone players from across Europe, and even the US, were scrambled together in Tromsø this weekend for the Arctic Trombone Festival. Why? To get together with other musicians, in this case trombone players, who share the same passion for the instrument and to simply learn from the best!
The participants have, from Friday to Sunday, been part of an intense program full of master-classes, solo-classes, social activities and concerts.

3 world famous soloists and teachers attracted the instrumentalists to come all the way up north to Tromsø. They were:

Carol Jarvis, a freelance trombonist, with a love and passion for the trombone which is impossible to miss. She even dedicated a song to the instrument!
She has had numerous trials for trombone positions in many of the leading orchestras in the UK, however she also appreciates the freelance musician style, which allows her to do session work. Carol features on a number of commercial soundtracks for films, advertisements and albums, with artists such as Sting and Seal.

Photo: Varvara Aleskeeva
Photo: Varvara Aleskeeva

Ian Bousfield has been at the top of the profession for over 25 years. He helps make good players even better and ‘teaches them to become some of the world’s best’! Not everyone has “educating the best of the best” written on their CV – but Ian does! His career has included playing in two of the top-four acknowledged orchestras in the world, playing theme tracks to Hollywood blockbusters, and teaching at the Royal Academy in London. What’s more, as a soloist Ian has performed with the Vienna Philharmonic, London Symphony and London Philharmonic, amongst others.

Christian Jones is Principal Bass Trombone of Opera North. Christian is also a soloist and chamber musician in great demand. In a solo/chamber setting, he appears regularly with the Symphonic Brass of London and premiered the Gareth Wood bass trombone concerto with the National Youth Brass Band of Wales. Christian recorded the Concerto for Bass trombone by Garreth Wood for the first time in 1982 and now, 36 years later, he played the Norwegian premiere, which made his presence even more spectacular! Having recently completed Wagner’s Ring Cycle at Opera North, he performs and freelances widely on both the bass and contrabass trombones.

The 3 concerts
There were several concerts during the Arctic Trombone Festival. All with different themes, orchestras and ensembles.

The calm before the storm
The first concert during the festival was held in the Cathedral of Tromsø. It was a strong symbol to have the first concert played at this very church, however the lineup was also very strong, since 2 of the 3 star soloists would be playing during the evening. “Force of Nature” was the opening piece with the NOSO chamber orchestra and Ian Bousfield as a soloist. The piece was commissioned by the ATF, dedicated to Ian Bousfield and composed by the Norwegian contemporary composer Svein H. Giske. Giske’s music is not based on rhythms and catchy melodies as we are used to, but he rather focuses on creating soundscapes and atmospheres, which he succeeded with in a brilliant manner. With “Force of Nature”, Giske managed to bring the audience on a journey through the diversity of nature – detailing everything from birds singing on a sunny day to rough storms, the piece created fantastic visualizations of the force of nature which the audience felt all the way through. The audience was drawn into a universe full of mystique and enchanted by Ian Bousfield’s lovely, smooth sound.

After a short change in the setup, Tromsø Brassband began the second half with a standard brassband piece – the “Jubilee Overture” by Philip Sparke. Compared to the first piece, the Overture was something entirely different. The change from quiet strings to loud brass changed the atmosphere in the church completely, which was a great build up to the last performance.

Christian Jones took to the stage as a soloist to finish the concert, playing the “Concerto for Bass Trombone” by Gareth Wood. Compared to Ian and his tenor-trombone, Christian is specialized in playing the bass trombone. He entered the stage very humbly and started playing the 16th-notes with such confidence that the whole performance was very convincing. It seemed like he never took a breath but just kept playing as it were a matter of life and death. It was impressive! He continued this style throughout all movements and played it simply brilliantly – a great end to the concert.

Without my trombone, it feels like I am missing my arm
Another concert at the festival was a cooperation between Tromsø Jazzclub and the Arctic Trombone festival, where Carol Jarvis played jazz with a string quartet and rhythm section; not a commonly known setup but nonetheless very thrilling!
There is no doubt about how much Carol Jarvis loves her trombone, and there is no doubt that the audience loves what she does. She connects with the audience through her personal anecdotes and funny humor, melting into the hearts of the audience with her soft, beautiful sound.This concert was divided into two parts. Firstly, Carol played as a soloist with strings and introduced the magic of the trombone through some of the biggest jazz-tracks from the 50’s through to the 70’s.
For some it might have been difficult to separate one performance from the other, however there is no doubt that she enchanted the audience with her timbre. The surroundings were perfect for this first half of the concert also, with the stage placed in the foyer of Hålogaland Theater, giving the audience the chance to enjoy the view of the city lights reflected in the water, while listening to Carol’s smooth sound. It was impossible not to dwell in the glorious atmosphere.
The second half was completely different! Five trombone players – whom Carol had been teaching at the festival – joined her on stage to play music from each popular genre, even acid jazz, and really showed what the trombone is capable of! They went from “Aint nobody” to “Isn’t she lovely” with a twist of Sir Duke to “Uptown funk”. Each of the performances involved at least one improvised solo. It was impressive and woke up the audience as well! The atmosphere at the concert had definitely changed from the chilled jazz vibe to more of a cozy dancing club. Carol Jarvis really managed to create a great atmosphere for both parts of the concerts and her standing applause was living proof of this. Her advice for the night? “Always smile – you never know what’s around the corner”. Could you give your audience any better advice?

Le Grande Finale!
3 teachers – 3 ensembles. All the participants were divided in to 3 ensembles at the start of the course. During the final concert they had the chance to play for each other. The finale was therefore not directed toward the audience exactly, but was more of a concert between the trombone players and a chance for them to show what they had been working on throughout the weekend. Each group had worked with a different genre and it was therefore natural that the pieces varied very much.
The trombone was really at the center of things in this case. It’s not often that you enter a concert hall only to listen to one instrument. Nonetheless this was the moment where you could really learn something about the instrument, even if you do not play it yourself. This was because it was possible to hear what the trombone is actually capable of: how low it can go, how high pitched, in which different formations it can be used, and the different genres it can play within. A versatile instrument! It was truly a showoff moment, with all the attention on the trombone!

Photo: Varvara Aleskeeva
Photo: Varvara Aleskeeva