America: Day 3 (by Huw Morgan)

Day 3 took us from the outskirts of Fort Worth, Texas, to the college town of Manhattan, Kansas, home of K-State University and affectionately nicknamed ‘The Little Apple’.

Today’s journey – the longest of the tour

The 494 mile drive seemed at times almost interminable, the sun-scorched prairies stretching as far as the eye could see, occasionally punctured by a roadside service station. ‘Des’ (or designated driver) for the morning session was Simon, who sought redemption for a dramatic misadventure early on by proceeding to put in a sterling 5-and-a-half hour shift behind the wheel.

Not the scenic route: this was basically our view for all 7 hours

As the only member of the group without a driving licence, I’ve been condemned to the ‘hole’ at the rear of the bus, where leg-room is at a premium (though still more comfortable than American Airlines economy!) It has meant a good vantage point for the ride, however, where I’ve been continually amazed by the size and quantity of pickup trucks speeding past us on the interstate.

Morale is high at the back of the bus

The downtime on board has also given many of us the chance to catch up on movies, reading, emails, spreadsheets, score learning or arrangements, the battle bus often resembling a mobile office, littered with laptops and iPads.

Reaching Manhattan only 30 minutes before the scheduled sound check, we proceeded to check into our hotel before heading out to the performance venue.

Setting up in Manhattan, Kansas

Most players’ pre-concert routines involve a gentle warm-up, some stretching or breathing drills, but the green room at the First Presbyterian Church afforded Matt Knight and Alan the opportunity to test their table tennis skills as 7:30 approached. Matt, our resident southpaw, dominated the early exchanges, before Alan’s guile and experience came to the fore, no doubt with a little help from his tour book, Matthew Syed’s Black Box Thinking. Final score: 11-9 to Alan, and the trumpets handed a well-timed morale boost before heading onto the platform.

Warming up Septura style

The concert itself was a real success, with yet another hearty welcome and standing ovation from our friendly audience, many of whom dazzled in their purple KSU Trumpet Studio jackets.

Welsh members Huw Morgan and Simon Cox with new Septura fan Henry Law

After several post-concert pictures and CD sales, we headed downtown to the local Irish pub, accompanied by Henry Law, an enthusiastic, sociable and ever-inquisitive bass trombone student who ensured that we were well looked-after by the charming bar staff. A round (or was it two?!) later and we headed home, ready to rest our limbs before another 6-hour journey to Iowa the following morning…

Tour stats:

Concerts: 3

Standing ovations: 3

Distance travelled: 5772 miles

Time on the bus: 12 hrs 15 mins

Time on planes: 11 hrs 31 mins

Road incident near-misses: 1

America: Day 2 (by Dan West)

Day 2 and we’ve already racked up some serious miles in the Septura battle bus. So far we’ve resisted the urge to stencil the group’s logo onto the side of the vehicle, and the only thing we’ve knocked over has been a very unfortunate traffic cone on the Interstate.

The Septura battle bus

We woke up this morning in Stillwater, Oklahoma, well rested & refreshed from our stay in the beautiful Atherton Hotel on the Oklahoma State University campus. The hospitality extended to us at OSU was genuinely extraordinary. We said our goodbyes to my very good friends Paul & Lanette Compton and then piled into the van. The other lads are starting to become acquainted with the Interstate freeway that dissects the continental USA, I35. We’ll be traveling hundreds of miles on this stretch of tarmac that spans from the US/Mexico border in the south all the way to Lake Superior in the north.

Our journey from Stillwater to Fort Worth

Matt Gee at the helm

Today we spent about 4 hours on I35, finally reaching Fort Worth in time for our rehearsal ahead of the concert at Texas Wesleyan University. The Texan border welcomed us with the sight of a familiar London landmark, which happens to adorn the front of a casino.

Feeling at home in Texas

In many ways this USA road trip is a trip down memory lane for me. I spent a few years in Texas, earning my Bachelors degree from the University of North Texas – a campus which is clearly visible from I35. I’ll spare our loyal readers the nostalgia trip of a nearly middle-aged bass trombonist, but I have to mention how nice it has been to catch up with friends who I haven’t seen since I finished my degree and moved to London in 2005. Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra bass trombonist Dennis Bubert taught me for a year at UNT, and I was excited (if not slightly nervous) to see him in attendance at our Texas Wesleyan University concert.

Good to see our name up in lights

Once again our hosts exhibited the friendly hospitality that is typical in this part of the world. After setting up in Martin Hall we were ready for our second concert of the Ravel/Debussy/Gershwin programme which we’ve debuted on this tour. The hall offered us a rich acoustic which especially suited the French music in the first half. The all-Gershwin 2nd half seems to get toes tapping and Coxy’s performance on the car horn was especially superlative. We were rewarded for our efforts with another standing ovation and a record number of CDs sold in the interval.

Celebrations ensued at, what is in my opinion, the finest drinking establishment in Fort Worth: the Flying Saucer. Our friends David Begnoche (trombone professor –Texas Christian University) and Michael Martin (trumpet – Boston Symphony Orchestra) joined us and my college buddies for a couple of jars (and evermore chicken wings). Hundreds of beers are featured on the menu at the Flying Saucer, and we managed to sample a few before the sensible members of the group retired to recharge batteries ahead of the long voyage in the morning.

Tomorrow we’re retracing our steps and heading north on I35, bypassing Oklahoma on the way to our 3rd concert of the tour, this time in Manhattan, Kansas. It should take about 7 hours, and I’ve baggsied the right to sleep for the first driving shift, having enthusiastically reminisced about the Good Ol’ Days with my Texan friends until the whee hours of the morning.

Old Friends – left to right: Dan, Cory, Stephen, Dennis, Trevor and Jonathan… all trombonists!

Tour stats:

Concerts: 2

Standing ovations: 2

Distance travelled: 5278 miles

Time on the bus: 5 hrs

Time on planes: 11 hrs 31 mins

America: Day 1 (by Matthew Gee)

Our debut USA tour opened at Oklahoma State University (OSU), home of the Cowboys (Go Pokes!).

The group met up in Dallas Fort Worth Airport, with Matt Knight and I having flown down from San Francisco on the back of a 3-week tour with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. We squeezed onto a tiny plane bound for Stillwater, Oklahoma: getting the tuba on board shocked a few of the locals, but where there’s a will there’s a way, and 40 minutes later we were disembarking into the smallest arrivals ‘lounge’ I’ve ever seen.

Disembarking at Stillwater Regional Airport

Not too hi-tech baggage reclaim

Our wonderful hosts for the first concert, Paul and Lanette Compton, met us at the airport and transferred us to the Atherton Hotel, OSU’s flagship hotel – comfy beds, great bar and restaurant. We were well looked after. By this point Huw – flying from Switzerland to the USA – had been up for twenty-seven hours, so it was high time for some kip.

Jet-lag dealt with, the next morning was spent at leisure, with a surprising number of people hitting the gym, before rehearsal started at 3pm. On arrival we picked up a large shipment of mutes courtesy of Denis Wick USA who have very kindly provided them for the tour (if you’ve ever been to one of our concerts you’ll know that we use a lot of mutes).

All the trombone mutes we need for this programme

Can you guess which is the tuba mute? Thanks to Denis Wick USA

As yet, the second half of this programme – Gershwin Preludes, Songbook and An American in Paris – had never been performed, apart from an informal run-through for our Friends and Supporters at the Wigmore Hall earlier in the month. There were a number of corners which required attention, including the first outing for Simon doubling on taxi-horn – which, being so loud, is going to assist in getting any late, lazy members out of their slumber in the mornings.

The standing ovation reflected on a concert which went down extremely well, attended by people from Oklahoma City and as far as Texas. A strong cohort of students were keen to take pictures and chat with us post-concert, and as well as the usual brass chat, we discussed the building of OSU’s fantastic new performance centre and the possibility of us returning in a couple of years.

The evening was rounded off in true American style in Buffalo Wild Wings, with most of us ordering chicken wings which were both too hot and too large for our appetite. When we’d finished sweating we headed to bed. Tomorrow we pick up our tour bus and begin our road-trip in earnest, as we travel to our second concert at Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth.

Tour stats:

Concerts: 1

Standing ovations: 1

Distance travelled: 5015 miles

Time on planes: 11 hrs 31 mins

Septura in the USA

We’re looking forward to our first US tour in just a few weeks’ time. All of the info about where we’re going can be found on this page – it’s going to be quite a busy couple of weeks, with 10 concerts in 10 days in 8 different states.

We’re playing a brand new programme called “American in Paris”, which explores a great transatlantic relationship – between Ravel and Gershwin.

We’re very grateful to the Royal Academy of Music and Denis Wick London for supporting this tour.

Our first rehearsal of 2018 took place this week, polishing up the new arrangements for the tour. Perhaps the best rehearsal venue we’ve ever had – London’s Wigmore Hall.