Festival celebrates the tuba

Music Beat | Peter Jacobi H-T Columnist


Time for the tuba. Time for music set to Shakespeare.

The annual Octubafest opens on Tuesday evening not with a tuba recital but one featuring the euphonium, the tuba’s little brother, as played by a distinguished guest, Misa Mead. The fest ends next Sunday with more guests, a renowned twosome from Japan — Shimpei Tsugita and Shoichiro Hokazono — performing new music for a tuba/euphonium combination, plus piano. There are daily concerts in between performed by upcoming talents, a lineup put together by the IU Jacobs School’s chief of the tuba and its little brother, Provost Profeesor Daniel Perantoni.

Meanwhile, on Thursday evening, as part of a concert by the New Music Ensemble, faculty composer Don Freund will introduce two parts of his setting for Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” the Ballroom and Balcony scenes. They’ve been performed here before but with piano accompaniment. Professor Freund has now orchestrated those scenes, making his new music newer.

If it’s autumn, there must be tubas

The history of Octubafest goes back to 1974, when the late Harvey Philips, IU’s legendary teacher of the tuba, started the event in remembrance of his teacher, William Bell, who was on the IU School of Music faculty for the last 10 years of his life (1961-1971). The idea spread, as did Phillips’ Tubachristmas and Tubasantas and Tubajazz, all designed to celebrate his beloved big brass instruments.

Daniel Perantoni, a Phillips student, when later he was named to the music faculty, decided that traditions matter. As he has built his own distinguished teaching and performing career, Perantoni found his own ways to celebrate the tuba and little tuba, but he’s also seen to it that Octubafest remains important here as an annual showcase.

“My enthusiasm still throbs,” he says, throwing back at me the verb I used in sending him questions about what’s to come. Octubafest, he insists, still “has an impact on me. I have so many wonderful memories of my dear friend and mentor. I see his picture every day in my studio, so that I think of him every day.”

For this 2016 version of Octubafest, Perantoni has left spaces on the festival schedule for every student of his. “All of them will perform a special solo for their colleagues, peers and the general audience. As every year, we’re starting the student recitals with an arrangement of Bach’s ‘Come Sweet Death’ by William Bell. This was the tradition that Harvey wanted to continue to honor his teacher. Then, we close our last Octubafest student program with Harvey’s arrangement of Bach’s ‘Air on the G String’ for tuba quartet to honor Harvey.”

How did Daniel Perantoni end up with the tuba? He tells the story this way:

“I first auditioned at the Eastman School of Music on piano, which I had started at age 5. My father was a fine jazz trombonist and also played with the circus on euphonium. He wanted me to play in his jazz band on piano, which I did in high school. I wanted to play his trombone, but he said he’d rather not teach that to his son. I was hurt playing high school football my freshman year and was asked by the band director to join the band. He asked me what I wanted to play. When he brought out the sousaphone (a wind instrument similar to a bass tuba but shaped for easier carrying in a marching band) I played it. I took to the instrument like a duck in water. And three months later, I won a superior rating at contest.

“When I auditioned on piano at Eastman, they asked me to play the tuba,” Perantoni continues. “My father had me bring my sousaphone, and I played a couple of solos. They offered me a scholarship on tuba. My teacher, Donald Knaub, said I was the only one ever to audition at Eastman on a sousaphone and get in. I never really had a lesson on tuba until then, in college.”

The ties between Perantoni and his tuba became a love affair still lasting. And he raves about changes in the instrument “Over the last 50 years,” he says, “our instruments have really developed into works of art. Today, there is really no excuse for anyone to play out of tune; plus, we have reached a range of more than five octaves. After all these years, I am still trying to master the instrument. There is nothing I would rather do than play and teach at my dream job at IU.”

I say believe the tuba-loving Master Perantoni and join the crowds at one or more concerts during Octubafest.


Contact columnist Peter Jacobi at pjacobi@heraldt.com.

If you go

To Octubafest:

• Tuesday evening at 7 in Recital Hall, guest recital by Misa Mead, a Japanese-born and now England-residing euphonium virtuoso. She performs her own music, along with works by Schumann, Debussy and contemporary composers.

• Wednesday evening at 7 in Ford-Crawford Hall, recital by Jacobs School tuba and euphonium majors. They play music of Bach, Bozza, Ewazen and others.

• Thursday evening at 7 in Ford, recital by student tuba majors. They play works of Grieg, Vaughan Williams, Bozza and Arban.

• Friday evening at 7 in Ford, another student recital by tuba and euphonium players. They focus on music of Horovitz, Marcello, Penderecki, Golland and Hindemith.

• Saturday evening at 7 in Ford, more tuba and euphonium students. They offer pieces by Lundquist, Plog, Hummel, Stevens and Menendez-Pidal.

• Sunday evening at 7 in Ford, students play Octubaween program with music for tuba by Paganini, Meador, Broughton and Wilder.

• Next Sunday evening at 8 in Auer Hall, a Japanese duo — Shoichiro Hokazono on euphonium and Shimpei Tsugita on tuba — performs music by Monti and Bernstein, along with items by contemporary Japanese composers.

All events are free.

© Herald Times Online 2016

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