Tubalaté by SSG Michael Forbes
The UK’s Most Active Tuba/Euphonium Quartet
This year’s Tuba/Euphonium Quartet in residence for North Carolina’s ITEC-2002 is one of the most active low brass ensembles in history: Tubalaté. I was very fortunate to meet the newly formed Tubalaté Tuba and Euphonium Quartet in 1993 at the Royal Northern College of Music. I was taking my junior year abroad in Manchester, England and could not have run into a better group of guys at a better time in my life. They were getting initial read with the comments, “We liked the sound, thought it was a bit different from brass bands and, within a few months, we could earn lots of money and become famous. We were told that building a viable professional ensemble would take ten years.” Now, some twelve years later, the members of the group do indeed earn the main part of their income and spend most of their time working as Tubalaté.
Their main work today is offering the arts throughout their nation. Coupled with that country’s strongly rooted brass band tradition, unique chamber ensembles such as Tubalaté can really blossom to their full potential in such an artistically supportive culture.
In addition to their recital performances, Tubalaté earns a good part of their income playing lighter works at theme parks (like Legoland-Windsor) and through many educational and community engagements. ready for a performance at the first British Tuba/Euphonium Conference, to be hosted by Steven Mead in Birmingham in early 1994. At the time, they were search ing for new repertoire, and I was so happy to begin a long relationship of writing and arranging for them. The members of Tubalaté include Paul Walton and John Powell on euphoniums and Ryan Breen and Ian An tee on E-flat tubas.
Tubalaté formed in 1990, as the member were all first year students at the Royal Northern. They a’sert that Winston Morris wa visiting the II ge and intro duc d th m to om (t’y (tITan 1 m nts for tuba quare t. Th y on lu I I th ir varied evening concerts in music clubs, festivals, and societies. They have toured Europe and played all over Britain, performing at most of the main concert venues including the Purcell Room at the South Bank Center and Buckingham Palace. Many of these venues and some BBC Radio spots were set up by Live Music Now!, a management service that really got Tubalaté up and running. In addition to this service, the group has also w rk d with Brass 2000 and the Society for the Promotion of New Music (SPNM). AII of the e organizations are a tribute to the ulturally active British society and their appreciation and diversification of the arts throughout their nation. Coupled with that country’s strongly rooted brass band tradition, unique chamber ensembles such as Tubalaté can really blossom to their full potential in such an artistically supportive culture.
In addition to their recital performances, Tubalaté earns a good part of their income playing lighter works at theme parks (like Legoland-Windsor) and through many educational and community engagements.
As a vital part of their activities, they appear regularly at special and mainstream schools, blind and deaf homes, elderly day centers and even prisons. They also offer a “Music in Motion” program for primary (elementary) schools, which involves a great deal of audience participation. At the same time, they give advanced level conservatoire workshops and masterclasses at specialized music schools (most recently having visited the Welsh College of Music and Drama). Not to abandon their roots, Tubalaté has worked regularly with adult and youth brass bands, where they provide daytime workshops in brass performance and chamber music and evening concerts with the band.
The members of the ensemble all work individually as teacher and soloists a well as in orchestras, bands, and other chamber ensembles. Tubist Ian Anstee lectures at the Royal Northern College of Music in Music Therapy, while eupho niumist Paul Walton concentrates on arranging and setting up Tuba/ate’s publish ing company, “Breakthrough Music.”
Ryan Breen appears as tubist with many of Britain’s leading orchestras, and John Powell specializes in contemporary music and extending the potential of the euphonium as a modern, mainstream instrument. With such diversity amongst their individual careers, it is no wonder that they bring so much experience and skill to their unique ensemble.
As for repertoire, the members of the ensemble say this, “[In the beginning] we quickly realized that we needed repertoire and so retrieved the available arrange ments at the time. In the end, it simply wasn’t what we were looking for. Tubalaté then started on the long haul of creating its own repertoire. We did this by arrang ing music ourselves and commissioning other arrangers and composers to write for us. Now we have a library of over two hundred works for tuba quartet and over the ten years of the group’s efforts we have continually adapted and developed our ‘product,’ both from a musical and business perspective. We have original repertoire and arrangements of works from all periods and styles and continually try to push the boundaries of what can be achieved on our instruments.”
The quartet has committed much of their diverse repertoire to four recordings, making Tubalaté among the most recorded tuba/euphonium quartet in history. Their first compact disc, “Light Metal” show cases the ensemble’s lighter side with arrangements of Tchaikovsky to Lennon and McCartney. Their second disc, “Episodes” feature some of the more unique works in Tubalaté’s repertoire while still intermingling some of their lighter works. “Move” features more of their contemporary repertoire coupled with works strongly rooted in the brass band tradition. The recording opens with a unique brass band style march named, “March FroT” by Simon Kerwin. It was commissioned by the “Friends of Tubalaté,” a group of individuals that have organized themselves on their webpage. This CD also includes an original work for tuba/euphonium quartet by brass band composer Roy Newsom.
Tubalaté’s latest release, however, is probably their most avant-garde recording ever. “Earth and Moon” was created through a most revolutionary approach to record production by inviting a group of exciting composers to not only contribute their works, but also to the cost of the project as well. The title track comes from a work by Hugh-Collins Rice, an Oxford graduate who currently teaches part-time at the university and has roots in brass banding. He has based his piece around a geometric pattern using circles in the proportion 3:1, which is approximately the relationship between the diameters of the Earth and the moon. The recording also features works by doctoral candidate and Welsh composer Guto Pew, David Solomons, and Donald Bousted who employs a highly original use of mutes. With this recording, Tubalaté hopes that listeners will open their ears to the wide variety of new music from the pen (and computer) of Great Britain’s talented composers.
In retrospect, Tubalaté has done and continues to do what so many tubal euphonium quartets desire: make a living playing in a chamber music ensemble. Though many share this dream, the energy, talent, and enthusiasm nece sary in making it a reality is really unique to the passionate members of Tubalaté. Through their tireless pursuit of commis sioning and creating repertoire, recording, and performing in all types of venues without prejudice, the ensemble is well on its way to becoming a chamber music mainstay of the United Kingdom. They deserve the tuba/euphonium community’s heartfelt thanks for all that they do on a daily basis to not only promote our instruments, but to promote the tubal euphonium quartet genre in collaboration with the growth of music itself.
Learn more about Tubalaté or order compact disc recordings at: www.Tubalate.com