Book Reviews

Barclay: His Majesty’s Grand Conceit

barclay majestyHis Majesty’s Grand Conceit. By Robert Barclay (Loose Cannon Press, 2020). 294 pages. ISBN 9781988657196. (Available in-print or as an ebook through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

George Frederic Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks (HWV 351), composed in 1749, is certainly one of the most beloved and splendid pieces in the early brass repertoire. The work was commissioned by King George II of Great Britain to celebrate the end of the War of the Austrian Succession and the signing of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748. This, Robert Barclay’s fifth work of fiction, is a historical novel where the author puts much meat on the bones of a possible scenario of the preparation and the grand event of April 27, 1749 where an estimated audience of 12,000 people jammed into London’s Green Park to witness a spectacular fireworks display and hear Handel’s music.

Jacob the Trumpeter by Robert Barclay

Barclay Cover Front szRobert Barclay. Jacob the Trumpeter. Ottawa: Loose Cannon Press, 2018. 424 pages. ISBN 978-1-988657-13-4. Click here for publisher's website and purchasing information.

My experience is that most of the world often views the interests of HBS folks as weirdly focused or even strange. It is not often that a novel is published that would be deemed as perfect literature for our membership. But Bob Barclay’s latest work of fiction—he’s written three others—will be, without a doubt, of great interest to our community.

Vernhettes: African-American Military Bands in France during World War I

Vernhettes AA bandsDan Vernhettes, Commemoration of the Centenary of the Arrival of the African-American Military Bands in France during World War I: A Historical and Musical Approach (Paris: Jazz’edit, 2017). ISBN 9782953483192. 54 pages.

Those who heard John Wallace lead the 20 piece period instrument band playing the music of James Reese Europe and the Harlem Hell Fighters at the 2017 HBS Symposium were given a rare treat. That spectacular repertoire, sadly rarely heard today, is recognized as an important link between ragtime and early jazz. Dan Vernhettes’s new book puts some more meat on the bones of this musical story, but more importantly introduces the musical community to little known information about a slew of other Black proto-jazz ensembles that also made their way to France and introduced this music to Europe.

Hasselbring and Montgomery: Around the World in Twenty-One Trumpets

hasselbring around the worldChris Hasselbring and Kirsty Montgomery. Around the World in Twenty-One Trumpets: A Brass Odyssey: An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Fundamentals of Brass Playing Using the Natural Trumpet. Skokie, IL: Brass for Beginners, 2017.  ISBN 10-0-9909663-3X. 95 pages.

Those who have seen Chris Hasselbring and Kirsty Mongomery’s presentations at various HBS events or other venues have seen one of the more innovative approaches to music pedagogy in recent times. Incorporating the use of natural trumpets incorporating an interdisciplinary approach to the study of history, they have created a fascinating approach to studying music. The most current incarnation of the book is comprised of 10 chapters divided into three units. The fictional hero of the book is Ragnar, a prehistoric trumpeter who takes the reader through musical and historical adventures. Sound files of musical examples, reference and review material and other resources are online at The site “Hear it online” additionally contains a narrative that reviews historical and musical elements of Ragnar’s tale.

Bacciagaluppi and Skamletz: "Romantic Brass. Ein Blick zurück ins 19"

2017 romantic brass reviewClaudio Bacciagaluppi and Martin Skamletz, eds., Romantic Brass. Ein Blick zurück ins 19. Jahrhundert (Schliengen, Germany: Edition Argus, 2015), 321 pgs. ISBN 978-3-931264-84-0. Publisher's website for the book.

Over the past decade our knowledge of brass instruments in the nineteenth century has come into focus by leaps and bounds. While earlier work fixated on a few major figures—in the trumpet realm for instance the Anton Weidinger circle in Austria and the F. G. A. Dauverné circle in France—to the point of exhaustion, today a new generation of scholars together with a virtual second wind among the older generation now offers breadth and depth

Brookfield: A History of the Port Royal Bands

2017 brookfield book reviewJohn Brookfield. A History of the Port Royal Bands: The Men and the Music of the Bands of the Third Regiment, New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry and the 2nd Brigade, 10th Army Corps, Department of the South during the American Civil War. South China, ME: Sam Teddy, 2015. Price $37.95; 441pp.

For enthusiasts and scholars of brass-band music of the American Civil War (1861–65), the few surviving sets of band partbooks are treasured as the clearest windows into what was actually played by bands during that war. While recollections by soldiers who name certain tunes are helpful, these non-musicians usually only recognized certain patriotic airs or the occasional popular song.

Creole Trombone by McCusker

mccusker ory

McCusker, John. Creole Trombone: Kid Ory and the Early Years of Jazz. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2012.

This is an excellent book and leaving aside a short pamphlet put out by the UK jazz magazine Crescendo, it is the only study to be devoted to one of the iconic trombonists of jazz. I use the word iconic in the absence of any other term that properly describes him. He was certainly famous, but was he a great player? Therein lies the rub: why was Ory such a celebrated player when, by the evidence of his recordings, he was not always fully in charge of the instrument he played? Lawrence Brown, another iconic trombonist, refined his technique by playing cello music as a teenager because he “wanted to get away from all that tailgate stuff”—I wonder to whose recordings he had been listening. Brown is universally regarded as a great player; Ory occupies a different place.

The Baroque Trumpet Revival by John Foster

foster revival 

Foster, John. The Baroque Trumpet Revival. Chandler, Arizona: Hickman Music Editions, 2015.

Virtuoso Australian natural trumpet player John Foster has presented a vivid picture of the revival of the Baroque trumpet tradition in our modern era. The book begins with some basic information on the history, structure, and literature of the natural trumpet. He then outlines the contributions of some nineteenth and early-twentieth century pioneers, including Xavier Teste, Thomas Harper, Julius Kosleck, Walter Morrow, and John Solomon. Once he gets to Walter Holly he is off and running.