Whoever Has Ears, Let Them Hear

V0034946 A man sows seeds; representing the parable of the sower. Etc

Novus needs your help to record its second album, Whoever Has Ears, Let Them Hear. We’re doing our first crowdsourcing campaign on IndieGoGo which has a range of rewards depending on your contribution level.

The album is to be recorded by Jesse Lewis, Grammy award-winning producer (Roomful of Teeth and the Boston Symphony Orchestra) and will consist of some incredibly powerful music by Jeff Cortazzo, Eric Guinivan, John Orfe, Robert Pound and Hilary Purrington.

Please take a second to support this project.


“Incantations” – Eric Guinivan

Eric Guinivan, wrote Incantations for Novus to perform at the 2014 International Trombone Festival in Rochester, NY. The piece is in three continuous movements and beautifully plays with rhythm and pitch. This excerpt includes the end of the first movement, the entirety of the second and the opening of the third.

International Trombone Festival 2014 (Clayville’s Thoughts)

[Mike Clayville wrote about the ITF in Rochester on his website. Here’s a crosspost of his thoughts.]

The International Trombone Festival was held at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY this year and I had the good fortune to be able to attend and perform. The festival was packed with events (literally; at times there were as many as five things happening at once) leaving an attendee with a dilemma regarding which to attend. I did my best to catch as much as possible but try as I might I eventually became overwhelmed and needed to catch a breather for a time. What I did see left me inspired, motivated and intrigued. I’ve compiled some of my notes from the event.

First let me thank Newell Sheridan, of Sheridan Brass, for helping make Novus’s appearance at the ITF possible. Check out his website to get a sense of the type of businessman he is, kind of refreshing to see. He stocks only Shires Trombones and his own creation the “Get-a-Grip” hand brace, a very useful tool.

Wednesday June 4

I arrived a bit on the late side and made a bee-line for Abbie Conant‘s performance. I’ve seen her perform once before (in 1998 at Mannes) and her control, endurance, musicianship and creativity made a lasting impression. I was excited to see her again. She performed Street Scene for the Last Mad Soprano, a theatrical work in which her trombone playing is minimalized (but astounding) and her singing and acting ability are brought to the fore.

You can get the concept of the work from the program above. The work is about fifty minutes long and without consistent meter and tonality. Ms. Conant picked pitches out of time and range with ease (check the score to see what she memorized). The musical effect is astounding. It’s a true testament to her musical ability on the trombone and off.

That evening I caught the first half of the Great Lakes Trombone Ensemble performance. Excellent playing, standard repertoire. Took my leave at intermission to work with Mike Selover on the music for our performance on Saturday.

Thursday June 5

Began the day with a warmup on my own and a conversation with Bruce Lee of Facet Mutes. Have to say, those mutes were great. Absolutely great. I’ve written about response problems on other mutes, The Facet Mutes had none of the normal issues. Low to high register they were extremely consistent. I’m confident in recommending them to anyone.

Facet Mute

Matt Guilford‘s presentation “Size Matters, but It’s the Little Things That Show How Big You Are!” was next. Matt began his talk with a dramatic reading from Berlioz’s orchestration book, naturally the section regarding the trombone. He then showed how he had notated the text like a musical score with articulations and dynamics.

Sorry for the poor quality.
Sorry for the poor quality.

He spoke about how in his (sizable) teaching and playing experience everyone is looking for a “bigger” sound… but these people generally find a good sound and need to start thinking about the “little” things… like articulations and dynamics. He mentioned the value of life experience and how there’s no substitute or way to gain it without living it. He played the opening of the Hindemith Sonata as an example of a piece without expression markings, the Grøndahl Concerto as an example of a piece with lots of markings and the Saint-Saëns Cavatine  as an example of a piece with some markings.

The next thing I caught was Ken Thompkins recital. Damn. Ken demonstrated some incredibly controlled, nuanced playing on some varied and difficult repertoire. His performance was in the gigantic Kodak Theater not the easiest space in which to play solo but he did so to great success.

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That was it for the day for me. I spent the rest of the evening rehearsing.

Friday June 6

Friday began with the Penn State Trombone Choir and Ken Thompkins’s masterclass on practice strategies. Penn State performed music from Shostakovich’s Festive Overture arrnaged by Mark Lusk and the Verdi Requiem arranged by Brad Snyder, a student in the choir. Mark Lusk, Penn State trombone professor, gave the ensemble empty folders at the beginning of the school year and informed the students that any music they would play that year would be written, arranged or transcribed by them. This piece was a result of that project.  Brad arranged the trombone choir in three groups, the largest served as the vocal choir, the orchestra was represented by six trombonists and the vocal solo parts were done by four trombone players.

Ken’s class was on practicing efficiently for success. He stressed organization: use a notebook (note “where you were” and “where you left things”), use a recording device, have all your tools ready to go (metronome, tuner, etc); consistency: practice several hours a day (4 hours plus) in forty-five to sixty minute chunks that include breaks; focus: put aside other things in your life (this can be difficult); slow and steady: approach the music realistically and slowly (look at it first, hear it in your head; going slowly will allow you to begin without bad habits); mental attitude: accept that everyone makes mistakes, that struggle is a sign of growth and development and be sure to acknowledge your successes; have fun: be sure to include something you enjoy in your practice; efficient: you can accomplish quite a bit in three twenty minute sessions (fundamentals, sections of an etude or solo)…

There was a wealth of great material but I ran out at the very end to catch some of John Kenny‘s masterclass.


I got there in time to hear John talk about multiphonics and split tones. He talked about the difference between vocal ranges for men and women and how composers should take that into account when writing multiphonics. As for split tones he talked about “finding the click between two harmonics.” He demonstrated by slurring from B flat down to F and stopping when he had both tones simultaneously. One thing he said resonated especially with me: in reference to split tones and strange things in general he said the twentieth century was about “observing things that are not desired and making them desirable.” Seemed pretty dead on to me.

I caught John Kenny’s recital after lunch.

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Followed by part of Jörgen van Rijen‘s.

Screen shot 2014-06-19 at 6.22.24 PMWhat I saw of Jörgen’s performance was fantastic. Like Abbie Conant I had heard him play years ago (at the ITF in Utrecht in 2000) and was floored. His performance here was just as impressive. It’s great to see and hear someone with fantastic musicality and an interest in doing things outside the traditional repertoire.

That evening I rehearsed with the Cramer Choir and got ready for the long day to come.

Saturday June 6

Saturday started with the Cramer Choir led by Jeannie Little. It was truly one of the highlights of my musical career. The group (which is always comprised of trombone professors) this year was made of students of John Marcellus who teach at colleges and universities. It was a stellar group that included:

Screen shot 2014-06-19 at 6.37.08 PMWe performed music by Franck and Vollrath and a new work by Kim Scharnberg that was written to celebrate John Marcellus’s career at the Eastman School of Music. For Kim’s piece I did a rendition of the Pledge of Allegiance through the trombone a la Robert Erickson’s General Speech. We finished the concert with the current Eastman students who are graduating with a performance of Ralph Sauer’s new arrangement of the Adagio from Saint-Saëns’s Third Symphony conducted by John Marcellus. Doc was in prime form and his musicality transferred to the ensemble. There were tears. I really hope someone recorded that.

Then came the concert with Novus. We prepared a fifty minute performance with brand new and not-too-old repertoire.

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Our performance may have been the only not double-booked for the festival and we had a great audience. Thanks to all who attended. I truly hoped you enjoyed it.

The final concert of the festival was that evening and featured Bret Baker, Ian Bousfield, Matthew Guilford and Jim Pugh performing with the Eastman Wind Ensemble.

Sunday June 7

That wasn’t the end of the trombones. Sunday morning I headed to Riverside Cemetery with about twenty others to pay respects to Emory Remington. In an event organized by Ralph Sauer and Gordon Cherry, trombonists gathered, warmed up, listened to Ralph play the Sarabande from the fifth Bach Cello Suite, played O Sacred Head and the Adagio from Saint-Saëns Third Symphony and listened to stories about “the Chief.” It was an indescribably powerful event, one that I feel fortunate to have participated in. Gordon spoke of Remington’s lasting contribution to creating the trombone “community.” The ITF was definitely an extension of that. The people I met and old acquaintances I reconnected with made the week truly special.

I can’t put into words all that I experienced at the festival but hopefully what I can share is useful to the community.

Celebration for Doc

(Written by Michael Clayville.)

On May 2, Novus joined Scott Hartman, John Fedchock, Jeremy Moeller, Mark Lusk, Jeannie Little, Ron Barron, Lisa Albrecht, the Eastman Trombone Choir and a full audience to celebrate Dr. John Marcellus‘s career at the Eastman School of Music.

It’s beyond words the honor that it was to perform on the concert. So much of what I know and strive to be comes from John Marcellus. For our portion of the event Novus performed two movements from John Orfe’s Parable of the Sower. The original parable talks about the things that keep the farmer’s seeds from growing to their full potential, John’s piece expresses those ideas in musical form. The group thought it fitting to perform a piece with such a direct relation to teaching.

Full program here (not printed: Novus interrupted the first piece with the Eastman Choir/Christmas Sing standard the “Trink Canon.”):

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While I didn’t get many photos from the event itself I did manage (with friend, Mike Ketner’s, help) to get some images from the rehearsal before the performance.

From the program at the event:

Trombonist, conductor, and pedagogue Dr. John Marcellus was appointed Professor and Director of the Eastman Trombone Choir in 1978 after a worldwide search for an heir to the legacy of Eastman’s legendary Professor of the Trombone, Emory Remington (1922-1972), the “Chief.” “Doc” Marcellus is internationally known as a soloist for his performances and recordings as Principal Trombone of the National Symphony Orchestra and as soloist with the United States Navy Band. He is a respected brass pedagogue and international recording artist with a stunning record of former students successfully winning major symphony orchestra auditions and appointments to some of the most prestigious music faculties in the world.

Dr. Marcellus is currently a member of the Eastman Brass, Principal Trombone of the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, Music Director of the Brighton (NY) Symphony Orchestra, and a performing artist for Courtois Trombones of the Buffet Crampon Company. He is a former member of many fine ensembles, including the National Symphony Orchestra, the National Ballet Orchestra, the American Ballet Orchestra, the Boston Pops Orchestra, the National Symphony Brass Quintet, the Washington Theatre Chamber Players, and the Contemporary Music Forum of Washington. Dr. Marcellus has appeared as guest conductor at Interlochen Center for the Arts (1982); Penfield Symphony; US Naval Academy Band; and the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra (1995, 2005).

Novus’s participation in the event was made possible with generous support by Sheridan Brass:



International Trombone Festival 2014

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On Saturday, June 7, Novus will perform at the 2014 International Trombone Festival in Rochester, NY.  Their program will consist entirely of works for four trombones written for Novus by American composers. The program will include:

Jeff Cortazzo, Opus Esoterica
John Orfe
, Parable of the Sower
Tim Albright, Reflection
Robert Pound, Oedipus at Colonus
Hilary Purrington, Events and Their Horizons
Eric Guinivan, World premiere

Novus is honored to have been selected to perform at this event.


Saturday at 11:30 in EEW 415

NOVUS Returns to the ETW

On March 19, NOVUS will return to the Eastern Trombone Workshop in Ft. Myer, Virginia for its third performance at the festival. NOVUS will premiere two new works, Opus Esoterica by Jeff Cortazzo, US Army Blues/Capitol Bones/Washington Trombone Ensemble bass trombonist; and Events and Their Horizons by Hilary Purrington, graduate student at the Juilliard School and graduate of the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University.

Jeff’s piece creatively intertwines musical cells familiar to most every trombonist:

Remington exercises in harmony

Remington exercises in harmony

It’s an exciting piece that will have you amazed by how naturally he blended these exercises together. And fun for the group to put together, we feel like we’ve been practicing the piece for most of our lives!

Hilary’s piece is a longer affair, with unison notes passed through the group that, sometimes subtly and sometimes not, shift to dissonant harmony then back again. It’s an exercise in blend and uniformity, of pitch, articulation, release… all the fundamentals of ensemble playing.

Events and Their Horizons by Hilary Purrington (excerpt)

Come check out these brand new pieces!


Shires Artists!

Novus is extremely proud to announce a partnership with S. E. Shires Co. As Shires Artists the members of Novus will use Shires Instruments in their quartet performances.

Mike Selover and Dana Landis made a trip to the Shires Factory in Hopedale, MA last weekend. Both are looking to purchase new instruments: Dana, a Shires “Chicago” tenor, and Mike, a custom tenor. This wasn’t Novus’s first trip to Hopedale, Mike Clayville and Dana Landis have been playing Shires horns since 1999. The whole quartet took a trip to the factory in 2010. Here are some pictures from last weekend and 2010:

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Novus Residency At Dickinson College – February 12-17, 2013

Parable - Ravens

Novus had the great pleasure of being in residence at Dickinson College last month. It was a week of incredibly productive collaborations and interactions with students and faculty. We talked to the choir about blend and balance, performed and gave feedback on student compositions, collaborated with the Department of Theater and Dance on two pieces, worked with the brass students and much, much more.

Flight of the Four Kings

Flight - concertDance Rehearsal In Rubendall-3

Dance Rehearsal

In Flight of the Four Kings, the trombone quartet written for us by Chris Brubeck, we collaborated with dancers from the college. Several months ago we sent a recording of the piece to Dawn Springer at Dickinson. Dawn selected dancers and developed choreography to enhance the music. This semester Sarah Skaggs, director of dance at Dickinson, took over the work and spearheaded an incredible performance.

Oedipus at Colonus


Another exciting collaboration was on Robert Pound’s Oedipus at Colonus. Several years ago Robert composed incidental music for the Sophocles play for which the work is named. He chose to write for oboe and harp, and trombone quartet because of their links with ancient instruments. For this production Dickinson professors Sherry Harper-McCombs and Karen Kirkham led college actors in performing excerpts from the play to go along with Robert’s music and even had students construct masks for the performance.  Benjamin Farrar, another Dickinson faculty member, did lighting design for this as well as the entire concert. Meghan Levy, a Dickinson alum, created images to be projected during each segment.

A highlight of the performance was Classics professor Marc Mastrangelo’s delivery of Oedipus’s curse of Polyneices. Here’s a clip from the tech rehearsal:

We also took the piece to the college library where we performed excerpts, the composer discussed the construction of the piece, Marc talked about the importance of the play and students recited lines.



With ChoirComposer Readings

We spent much of our time at the college when we weren’t rehearsing talking to students in various classes. Other than the work we did with the choir, composition and brass students, we also talked to a music theory class about Webern’s Langsamer Satz, a music appreciation class about life as a musician, and middle and high school band students about everything from the trombone to practice habits to careers in music.

Final Concert

All this hard work was capped off with a concert on the final day. The students performed superbly and Novus filled out the program with works by John Orfe, JacobTV, Eve Beglarian and Webern. Thanks to everyone at Dickinson who made this possible starting with everyone mentioned above and also: Stacy Rohrer, Keith Novak, Amy Wlodarski, Blake Wilson and Blanka Bednarz.