Trombone in the (old) news–part two

Here are some more gems from the Times of London:

Dec 25, 1863. In the midst of the American Civil War, the Christy Minstrels, among the most important American entertainers of the time, went on an international tour and presented ten concerts in London during the week following Christmas 1863. The advertisement lists all of the music to be played on the two concerts on Saturday, the 26th, including a trombone solo performed by J. Randall.

1866. Two different horses named Trombone appear in the “Sporting Intelligence” column. One owned by Mr. Machell is mentioned on Sept. 29, and Oct. 27, and one owned by Mr. Chaplin on Oct. 20 and Oct. 29. Both men owed several other horses named in the same columns. On Oct. 29, there was a match between two two-year-olds: Mr. Chaplin’s Trombone, by Trumpeter, and Admiral Rous’s Lady Bugle Eye [no parent named], with the betting 3 to 1 on Lady Bugle Eye. “They left the post in close company, and ran so to the bushes, where Trombone took a clear lead, which he retained to the end, and won in a canter by two lengths.”

Sept 28, 1870. From a classified advertisement: “Papeta, the largest and most wonderful Performing Indian Elephant, accompanied by her two Infant Prodigies. Plays the organ, harmonicon, and trombone; blows a horn, dances to music, picks up a coin and answers any question that may be put to her.”

July 7, 1885. The International Inventions Exhibition included a “Recital upon some of Rudall, Carte, and Co.’s instruments. . . Mr. Millar on the double-slide trombones.”

Feb 23, 1887. Throughout the nineteenth century various experts expressed doubt about genuineness of some of Mozart’s parts for trombone. And legitimately so. Many nineteenth-century conductors did not hesitate to reorchestrate the music of the masters in hopes of making a better effect! The 100th anniversary of the premiere of Don Giovanni called special attention to that work. In a long article in the Berlin journal Vossische Zeitung, Gustav Engle pointed out, among other things, that the autograph score did not include trombone parts in the finale from the appearance of the statue in the supper scene to the end of the opera. Mozart had written these parts on a separate page while in Prague making final preparations for the performance. The conductor Julius Rietz insisted that he had seen it, but no one knew where it was. The Times reported Engels misgivings and noted, “Professor Engel proposes that a mixed jury of musicians and accomplished amateurs should decide whether the trombones should be retained or discarded.”

April 15, 1887. The passenger liner Victoria Nyanza ran aground off the coast of France in foul weather, with high winds, heavy rain, and a dense fog, on April 4, 1874. The Times carried several articles about it. According to the April 15 article, the wreck happened because the foghorn was out of order and did not sound. Apparently the reporter either did not know what a foghorn was or thought that would be an unfamiliar term to his readers, so he wrote, “I have visited the station and inspected the horn. It is a huge trombone, blown by steam.”

August 1, 1895. “Eisteddfod” is the name of a Welsh competition in literature and music, erroneously thought in the nineteenth century to date back to the time of the ancient Druids. I wrote an article some years ago about one held at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. That one was the largest and richest eisteddfod held in the entire nineteenth century. As the musical competition was limited to vocal music and harp music, I was surprised to learn that at least one other eisteddfod included a trombone competition, won by Mr. Hanney Morriston.

(Originally published in The All-Purpose Guru on August 25, 2009)

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