BARTON CUMMINGS enjoyed a distinguished international career as a tuba player. An early pioneer in establishing the tuba as a true solo instrument, he began a campaign in the 1960’s to commission new compositions for the tuba. As a result of his efforts, more than five dozen new compositions were written for him.
Mr. Cummings performed as a soloist at many Tuba Symposiums, the New York Brass Conference, the 1975-1976 Carnegie Hall Tuba Recital Series, Lincoln Center Library and state and national band, orchestra and music educator conferences. He was a popular clinician and presenter of master classes and in this capacity, appeared at schools, colleges and universities throughout the United States. Mr. Cummings also created a number of recital programs for National Public Radio and PBS Television.
At home in all musical styles, Barton Cummings was a member of the New Hampshire Philharmonic, San Diego Ballet and Opera Orchestras, California Symphony, Vallejo Symphony, Cal Jackson Orchestra, San Diego Brass Quintet, Koman Brass Ensemble, San Diego Jazz Society Orchestra, Solano Dixie Jubilee and the Brassworks of San Francisco.
In demand as a studio musician, Mr. Cummings performed on the soundtracks of such films as The Contrary Warriors, Blood of Heroes, Henry and June in Paris, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Faces of The Enemy, Eat A Bowl Of Tea, and radio and television commercials.
Mr. Cummings recorded recital albums for the Capra, Coronet, and Crystal labels, on which he performed many of the compositions written for him. His recordings were met with great critical success and reviews of albums appeared in the American Record Guide, Fanfare, The Instrumentalist, Recorded Classical Music, and others. He recorded promotional albums of tuba solos for music publishers including Kendor Music and Studio P/R. Mr. Cummings was also a member of special recording ensembles for music publishers such as Alfred Music, Kjos Music and Studio P/R.
Highly regarded as a teacher, Mr. Cummings served on the faculties of the University of New Hampshire, Indiana State University, San Diego State University, Point Loma College of San Diego and the Educational-Cultural Complex of the San Diego Community College District and Delta State University in Mississippi. In recent years, he taught part time for Diablo Valley College, Napa Valley College and Solano Community College.
Now retired from tuba playing, Mr. Cummings and his wife, Florecita, live in the San Francisco Bay Area. Involved in a very active career as a composer, arranger, author and teacher, he and his wife own and operate C & C Tours, Ltd. His original and arranged compositions have been performed internationally and recorded on the Channel Classics, Crystal, and Mark record labels. His published books include The Contemporary Tuba, Teaching Technique on Brass Instruments and Tips for The Tuba. He has published more than five hundred articles and reviews in various music journals.
ABOUT THE RECORDING
With the exception of Midnight Variations for Tuba and Tape by Walter Ross, an unreleased studio recording, the music featured on this album was chosen after many hours of listening to dozens of reel to reel, cassette and video tape recordings of live performances.
I chose live recordings because there is something about studio recording that is quite inhibiting. One is very conscious of articulations, breathing, valve clatter and pops, wrong notes, burbled or fluffed notes and so on. In live performances, although we strive for perfection, the adrenalin is pumping, the heart is beating quicker and there is a feeling of great anticipation, excitement and enthusiasm. So there are occasional fluffy attacks, valve pops, “funny slurs”, and even missed notes. It is the thrill of live music and interaction with an audience that distinguishes live performances from “canned” recordings.
ABOUT THE MUSIC
Most of the music on this album is now part of the standard repertoire with the possible exceptions of the pieces by Sam Hollomon, Linda Ostrander and Danny Williams. Sam’s piece was written when he was a student of mine for another student of mine, David Goff. Linda Ostrander wrote her three movement work for me to premiere at the Tuba-Euphonium Symposium held at North Texas State University in 1980. A complicated and complex work to put together, we were able to get only the first movement prepared. Danny Williams studied euphonium with me in San Diego, and was also a fabulous jazz composer and trombonist. He wrote this piece for me to play with jazz ensembles.
Other pieces on this album that were written for me are Rhythmic Contours for Tuba and Percussion by David Uber, Midnight Variations for Tuba and Tape by Walter Ross, Concertino for Tuba and Band by James Curnow and Three Pieces for Tuba by Jae Eun Ha.
Ballad for Tuba by James Christensen was originally composed for tuba and piano. I received permission to make the arrangement for tuba and brass choir which is heard on this disc.
I have often been asked why I chose to be a tuba player and build a career as a soloist rather than in the symphonic world. My decision was influenced by Edward Keeley, who taught music in my hometown. He saw something in me that prompted him to “try me out on the tuba”. And he was right. Born and raised in New Hampshire, I was also influenced by the poetry of Robert Frost. One poem in particular, The Road Not Taken, has stayed with me to this day. I, like the narrator, chose the road less traveled by, and it did make all the difference. By commissioning new compositions, I could participate on a personal basis with composers, arrangers and conductors to make the tuba a respected solo instrument.
During my career, I played a Mirafone CC, Yamaha CC, Yamaha Eb and Meinl-Weston BBb tubas and on certain occasions, a Conn BBb Helicon built in 1894/1895. My primary instrument was the CC, although I played the Eb on many occasions in bands, chamber ensembles, orchestras and solo playing. I often played the Meinl-Weston BBb in the music of Brahms, Bruckner, Mahler and Wagner. I used a stock Mirafone C-3 mouthpiece to play all of my tubas.
There have been other influences in my life, but none so profound as Harvey Phillips. He sets the example of what it means to be a musician, tuba player, leader and gentleman in a world that no longer respects itself or those who live in it. Harvey has never given up his pursuit of excellence and high standards. He has been and is an inspiration to everyone. I am proud to say that he is my friend, mentor and colleague. I dedicate this album to Harvey for what he did for me.
WORDS TO REMEMBER
William Bell once stated that “tuba players are very special people.” We need to remember that when we deal with each other. And, most especially, we must never forget our heritage or those who paved the way and made it possible for all of us to be who we are.
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