The Band World

Solo-ing the Euphonium with Gary Curtin

The Band Post speaks to Gary Curtin, Principal Euphonium player of the world-renowned Black Dyke Band, on his thoughts about the instrument as a solo career.

This interview is part of the coverage for the Singapore Low Brass Festival 2016 organized by The Band World and Music Elements.

TBP: Is this your first time in Singapore?

GC: It is my second time being in this part of the world. Just two weeks ago, I was in Japan with Black Dyke Band and we did 4 concerts there. Then I went back to UK to do some teaching for a week and now I am back here, to this part of the world!

BF: Euphonium players have limited opportunities as they are usually not required by orchestra. Given the choices that you have, either you do solo, or be part of a wind or brass band. What are your opinions about it?

GC: For me, I was in that very position. When I was in Ireland, which was where I came from, I used to play in a very low down brass band where they would work on maybe 1 program for the whole year. I played in wind bands there as well.

But after a while, I was studying and I needed a teacher, so I thought I need to go to the UK to have some lessons. I went to the UK, had some lessons and I find that the things that I have learnt were fantastic.

I decided to leave my life in Ireland and move to UK so I could play in the brass bands there as I could not get much opportunities in Ireland at that point of time. Within my first few months, I was in a band called Wingates Brass Band.

After three and a half years, I moved to a brass band called Fairey (Geneva) Band and after that, I went to the Black Dyke Band and have been there ever since. So, my life did change after 2005 ever since I moved to Manchester, UK.

BF: Is there a difference playing solo in a brass band as compared to wind band setting?

GC: Yes! You cannot use the solo sound you use for brass band in a wind band as it will stick out too much.

In my opinion, being in a wind band, your euphonium sound essentially sits on top of the tuba sound and tubas aren’t exactly notorious for using a lot of vibratos. In the brass band, you are essentially a lead player, like a cello in an orchestra; almost like a leader. You are part of a section in a wind band setting with the tubas, but in brass band, you are more like a leader, and you lead things more.

BF: Do you often do solo performances with the Black Dyke Band?

GC: Yes I do get some sometimes! This is my first time being in Singapore and I am hoping to get a few more opportunities to do solo works and teachings around here.

I do enjoy doing solo works, and with different bands. I am quite lucky as well, because in almost every concert I do with Black Dyke Band, I am on my feet, doing solo stuff most of the time. You will get more and more used to playing solos as time goes by.

BF: What kind of repertoire you do often?

GC: For me, it tends to be more brass bands solos. You don’t often in a brass band concert hear a full concert. It is a little too serious for the audience members.

Our band (Black Dyke) is a little bit different. In our band, we have Katrina Marzella and Zoe Hancock, who are fantastic for playing slow melodies; they are absolutely brilliant at it! And then you have people like myself and Richard Marshall, who do all the fast stuff and the crazy stuff! I tend to be pushed into that area – the crazy, fast, loud and high stuff! But really, we can play anything we need, and that’s just my strong point.

BF: Do you go around the world to do masterclasses?

GC: Yes, I have done a few around different places.

I am going to Norway in February to do some masterclasses and solo stuff. I will be going to do a weekend of masterclasses in UK as well. I do get around a bit, especially to the places we travel with Black Dyke. Whether it is in the UK or outside UK, there are going to be people looking for lessons. We usually have rehearsals there, and after that, Katrina, Richard or myself will do some classes around the places. 

BF: You played at the opening concert last night with Lion City Brass Band, how did you find the opening concert last night?

GC: It was good fun! We enjoyed it! It was great fun to share the stage with Ignatius Wang, a friend of mine and get to know each other a little bit. He does the euphonium too and I believe his wife used to play the euphonium too! There are really a lot of euphonium players around! 

Band Post
Band Post

A contributing editor at TBP.

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