The 24th Harvey Phillips Northwest “Big Brass” Bash (which concurrently served as the NW Regional ITEC) is an annual gathering dedicated to bringing the Pacific Northwest tuba and euphonium community together at a two day festival where participants can meet and share with one another. Organized by the late John Baker, it began as a one-day affair in Spokane in 1986. Throughout its initial six years Harvey Phillips was the regular guest artist. The environment of the Bash is that of sharing and non-competition, and is for tuba and euphonium players of all ages and levels of experience. This year the Bash was held on July 16 and 17 at the University of Oregon in Eugene with Matt Tropman serving as the guest artist.
The Bash format is centered on the large tuba-euphonium ensemble and its concert (and preparation). Following the first set of rehearsals Matt Tropman gave an extraordinary master class. Rather than offering the usual “nuts, bolts, and breathing” format, Mr. Tropman began the class by taking questions from Bash participants. A potentially precarious way to begin, it worked out very well. Questions posed to Tropman ranged from the typical “what mouthpiece do you use” to his views on the merits of the U.S. Treasury funding the United States Marine Band. Given Dr. Tropman’s background in philosophy studies his responses to the “deeper” questions were very logical and thought provoking allowing for an interesting discussion. Although not an official guest artist, Pacific Northwest native Deanna Swoboda joined the festivities, serving as a representative for ITEA. It was good to have Ms. Swoboda participate. Like all of the professionals present, she made herself available to the less experienced participants.
Featured in the John F. Baker Founder’s Solo Recital, Eugene Dowling and Matt Tropman offered wonderfully musical and technically impressive performances. A Bash “regular,” Dowling gave an inspiring reading of Georg Frederic Handel’s Aria con Variazioni. Displaying a tone that was focused and beautiful, he performed each variation with great phrasing and technical prowess. Tropman played both tuba and euphonium with lyricism while displaying beautiful tone colors and and exceptional intonation. The musical messages he expressed were seemingly effortless and graceful. Displaying tuba virtuosity with meaning, Dr. Tropman performed two movements of J.S. Bach’s E Major Flute Sonata and Áron Romhányi’s Parallels. He concluded his portion of the recital with a euphonium warhorse, “Fantasia di Concerto” by Eduardo Boccalari. Seasoned and reliable, Tropman displayed his experience performing solos with the United States Marine Band.
Sunday afternoon, Dr. Larry Gookin of Central Washington University led the Bash “Big Band” (massed ensemble) in an hour-long concert of light classical, jazz, and patriotic selections. Michael Rosbarsky’s original composition, Glacier Lights,was a favorite of the group and enjoyed by the audience. The concert concluded with a reading of Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever featuring piccolo soloists Matt Tropman, Deanna Swoboda, Eugene Dowling, and (conference host) Michael Grose. Next year’s historic installment of the Brass Bash will be held in Spokane, paying homage to its founding roots 25 years ago.
~Submitted by Michael Grose
July 26, 2011