Written By: Rachel Allen Comments: 0

Royal Northern College of Music Trombone Choir visit ITF New York.

Monday 6th June 2016 – Sunday 12th June 2016

Monday 6th June:

After what felt like an extremely early meeting time to set off for the airport at 8.30am from the RNCM (after finishing packing at 2.30am – sorry Mum), we started our journey to New York. For most of the journey we were talking about how we still couldn’t believe that we were going. It had all been made possible thanks to the very kind and generous backing from our families, friends and supporters who donated to our online funding page. We literally could not have done it without them. We were particularly determined to go and perform at the International Trombone Festival and represent the Royal Northern College of Music in memory of Adrian ‘Benny’ Morris who sadly passed away earlier in the year and who in every previous year had proudly conducted the RNCM Trombone Ensemble. This year we were lucky enough to rehearse, perform and go on to win the Emory Remington Trombone Choir Competition under the guidance of Simon Cowen. Unfortunately Simon couldn’t join us on our trip to New York due to commitments at the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra but lucky for us that Katy Jones was available to come with us and conduct our celebratory recital! It was also really special that we were joined by Carole Morris, Benny’s wife, as our number one fan!


After eight sleepy trombone players arrived in New York, we enjoyed our first American feast (a round of “Jucy Lucy” burgers!) and ate far too much food - that became a common theme throughout the week. Later that evening, we made our way to the top of the Empire State Building and the view was overwhelmingly impressive.

Tuesday 7th June:

We started the day with a rehearsal in the Buffet Crampon New York show room, and we were extremely grateful to them for allowing us to use their space. At the end of the rehearsal we thought we would post a live video of us performing one of our recital pieces to the ‘RNCM Trombone Department’ Facebook page to let our supporters know what we were up to. We weren’t just enjoying a holiday in New York. As I write this, the video has had over 21,000 views and counting, not bad!

The plans for the afternoon included visiting Ground Zero and the One World Trade Centre, which really was a special experience. Once inside and at the top of the One WTC, we were treated to more fantastic views of New York.


Since this was our last ‘free’ day before the start of the ITF, we thought it would be a great idea to finish the day by going to watch a Yankees baseball game. I didn’t really know much about baseball but I think it was basically rounders… And we couldn’t resist buying some novelty foam fingers while we were there too!

Wednesday 8th June:

We were all looking forward to the start of the ITF so woke up bright and early to attend some amazing recitals, including the Opening Ceremony presented by the Juilliard Trombone Choir and their director Joseph Alessi, an exciting performance from David Taylor and an inspiring recital given by Matthew Gee. We also managed to squeeze in another rehearsal in preparation for our own performance on Friday. There were plenty of trade stands at Juilliard for us to wander around too, and of course some of the group couldn’t resist buying some shiny new mouthpieces…

To finish off a trombone-filled day, we made our way to Little Italy and once again ordered far too much delicious food.

Thursday 9th June: 

As it was the day before our recital, we managed to fit in a final rehearsal in the Paul Recital Hall at Juilliard. We later saw another inspiring recital given by Denson Paul Pollard, although he was originally meant to be joined by Stefan Schulz who unfortunately couldn’t make it due to illness. Nevertheless, it was another stunning performance! From being keen trombone players, we transformed back to keen tourists as we visited Times Square and explored the shops there.


That evening, we all attended a concert at the Peter Jay Sharp Theatre, given by the New York Wind Orchestra, and featuring several trombone soloists, including Vanessa Fralick (Tenor Trombonist of Monarch Brass), Blair Bollinger (Bass Trombone of the Philadelphia Orchestra), Joseph Alessi (Principal Trombone of the New York Philharmonic),  and Jörgen van Rijen (Principal Trombone of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra). We were truly stunned after every performance and particularly in awe of Johan de Meij’s Two-Bone Concerto, which featured both Joseph Alessi and Jörgen van Rijen.

Friday 10th June:

Our recital day! We were all so excited to be performing as the Emory Remington Trombone Choir Competition winners and to represent the Royal Northern College of Music – the first British Conservatoire to win this competition!  The recital, held in the Paul Recital Hall at Juilliard, featured music that was associated with England and Manchester in some way and music that was special for us personally to play, including some stunning arrangements by one of our tutors, Robert Holliday. We were even lucky enough to be joined by our International Trombone Tutor of the RNCM, the legendary Jiggs Whigham, for our encore. I think I can speak on behalf of everybody involved when I say the performance was totally for Benny, and from the comments we received afterwards from the audience, it was some of the most musical playing because of this. We even had Eric Ewazen attend our recital. He was so happy that we had performed one of his pieces and he later met us backstage to give us some fantastic comments.


Not long after, we celebrated with some well-deserved refreshing lemonades before heading to a very exciting concert given by the New York Philharmonic at the David Geffen Hall, conducted by Alan Gilbert. It featured Joseph Alessi performing William Bolcom’s world première Trombone Concerto and Martin Grubinger performing John Corigliano’s New York première of Conjurer: Concerto for Percussionist and String Orchestra and Brass. After a few days of watching and listening to unbelievable musicians performing some incredible music, this certainly was the cherry on top – I think most of are still stunned and cannot quite find the right words just how great this concert was!

Saturday 11th June:

It was the closing day for the festival, and of course the concerts did not disappoint. It was a real treat to see the World Trombone Quartet (although not with their usual line-up, it was still remarkable) comprising Joseph Alessi, Jörgen van Rijen, Hakan Bjorkman and Denson Paul Pollard. I think it is fair to say that it was some of the most inspirational trombone and ensemble playing we had seen and heard. Thinking that the music couldn’t get much better, we were then spoilt by a who’s who line-up of jazz trombonists, supported by the brilliant ensemble ‘Band of Bones’. The line-up included Eijiro Nakagawa, Conrad Herwig, Wycliffe Gordon, Michael Davis, Tom ‘Bones’ Malone, Marshall Gilkes, Ed Neumeister, Andre Hayward, Joseph Alessi and special guests, Bill Watrous and Dick Nash. I couldn’t think of a better way to have finished the International Trombone Festival in New York, and thanks to the astounding musicians that performed at this festival, we all have the most inspiring and special memories that surpassed anything we were expecting.

Thank you to everybody who made it possible for us to go to perform at the International Trombone Festival  and another big thank you to our bass trombonist, Joshua Cirtina, who did the most excellent job of organising the trip!

Best wishes from the RNCM Trombone Ensemble.

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