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Cornett - the "Megaphone of the Soul"
seminar with David Staff at Barrat Due Music Institute
David Staff is professor at Guildhall School of Music. He is a cornettist and founder member of the group His Majestys Sagbutt and Cornetts.
David is also an internationally acclaimed exponent of the Baroque trumpet. He came to Norway to play Baroque trumpet in Handels Messiah with the Oslo Baroque Orchestra.
He holds the position of solo trumpet with Frans Brüggen's Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century.
When later they heard music by Gabrieli, Locke, Pezel, Holborne and others his teacher told them. "The instruments are not the one that it was written for." (Modern instruments were used). "It is written for Cornetts". David wanted to know more about this. At 16 he met an eccentric doctor who told him that he had a Cornett and that David could buy it for £19. It was a plastic Cornett. He did not at that time know what it would sound like. As a music student he got a teacher who supported his decision to play the Cornett. He also studied the natural or baroque trumpet. Now he performs both on Cornett and Baroque trumpet and also on modern trumpets.
The Seminar was held at Barratt Due Musikkinstitutt- 10th of October 1999 (17.00 - 21.00). It was a cooperation between trumpet professor Arnulf Naur Nilsen (who teaches at Barratt Due Musikkinstitutt) and The Norwegian Trumpet Forum.
The seminar started with a lecture and demonstration of the Cornett, then after a short brake the last part was a master class. Knut Johannessen accompanied David on harpsicord.
- "The Star of the Show"
The earliest where made of animal horn, but in the Renaissance they started to make them from wood covered with leather.
It is a hybrid instrument, kind of woodwind due to the wood, but with a trumpet like mouthpiece. The typical instrument has a slight curve and an octagonal cross-section. It has six fingerholes and a thumbhole. The mouthpiece was often made from ivory. (David's mouthpiece was made from mammoth - and was maybe 15 000 year old!)
of the Cornett.
The types of Cornetts
The important composers
Why did it disappear?
The revival has now been going on for a while and David divide it into two periods:
First generation players:
Second generation players:
1. Group: 4 modern trumpets
Samuel Scheidt - Canzona
Robert (student at Barrat Due) lead a group of 4 students playing the (well known?) Canzona by Scheidt.
In addition to comment on some playing problems (tension - how to hold the instrument etc.), David stressed two important things:
Rhythm: Strong 1 - weak 2 - semi strong 3 - weak 4
Articulation: The ideal in modern orchestral trumpet playing is with attack that are "clean" and very uniform (TA - TA - TA - TA - etc.) This was not the ideal in this music (Scheidt piece was originally written for 4 Cornetts).
2. Group: Renaissance ensemble
Kristin on Cornett was next. She brought her own group who consisted of Drum/flute, Cornett and 2 Sackbutts. This group played very well - they had obvious been playing together for a long time. Here David could work on musical problems most of the time. He commented that Kristin should try to get a better mouthpiece to make her job easier.
Articulation: Since all 4 played a wind instrument (the drummer played alto recorder) David worked with all of them on different articulation.
For the Sackbutts he had found out that the articulation dø-dø-lø-dø worked well. The flute and cornett could use many more different articulations. Some examples:
Da-ga-da-ga (made a crude effect)
Te-re-le-re (worked very well)
It is important to look at the text to find solutions for different types of articulation, David noted.
Vowels for the Cornett - David suggested A for the low register, french U for the middle register, E for middle to high register and I for the very high notes. "Do not be afraid to raise the tongue." He had us all check with the thumb how much space we have above the tongue.
Always play with an open throat! To get "the open throat feeling", imaging that you breath into a mirror to fog it.
A very simple but effective thing one could do was to "unlock the knees". He had often observed that when people got this trouble they would lock their knees. That would make it difficult for the breathing, etc. By moving the knees forward and go down a bit like a weight lifter one gets a much better control. This is the best way to stand when playing.
Scola Cantorum Yearbook 1981 - "Das Zink Buch"