Joshua Walford Poet Laureate of The Euphonium . . .
B/M Robert Getz (R)
I write as one who was considered by many to be at the apex of euphonium players in my day. I was for ten years soloist with the Chicago Staff Band of The Salvation Army and later played professionally with the late Dr. Leonard B. Smith. I say these things not out of immodesty but rather to lend credence to what I have to say about another player. My "day in the sun" was coincidental with the final playing years, and years after, of a man whom I consider the most poetically musical player on any instrument I can name - Joshua Walford. I knew Josh slightly, and wish I had gotten to know him better. He treated me as a colleague, though our ages were disparate. The late bandmaster of the International Staff Band, for which Josh was principal euphonium and legendary soloist for decades, Lt.-Colonel Bernard Adams, asked me if I would consider coming to England to replace Josh who was soon to retire. It was not possible for me to do this, though I consider it perhaps the greatest compliment I ever received.
Josh was a building contractor. I know very little of his personal life or educational background. He was very supportive of and affable toward me. On one occasion I had the honor of playing Ransomed under Bernard at a music camp, giving my own testimony of love for the Lord and dedicating the performance to my friend Josh (I hit it out of the park that night as well!)
It is my understanding that the euphonium solo, Ransomed (a.k.a. In Evil Long I took delight) was written for Josh by the late Bandmaster George Marshall. Because it is not as flashy and technically demanding as some of the latter day stuff, it is unfairly accorded a place in the umbra of other much less worthy solos. This concept is the soul of this tome I write.
There are and have been many players who could play more notes per minute than Josh, higher and lower and whatnot, I among them. But just as Ransomed is not about notes but rather about great music, so was Josh not about notes but about musical poetry.
His recording of Ransomed under Bernie Adams with the ISB, though imperfect technically, is magnificent music - musical poetry - a classic. This is especially manifest in the gorgeous slow section of the solo and ensuing cadenza where Marshall is an equal poet to Josh and vice versa. Josh's easy and elegant octave slide to the high C in the cadenza, growing softer on the way up is evidence of his command of the instrument and of the muse.
MF 355 is Ransomed with Josh and the ISB 1951
Even the rude, curmudgeon, Navy Commander Harold Brasch (a man well named!), then euphonium soloist of The United States Navy Band in Washington D.C. was effusive in his praise of Josh's tone and artistry. This is surprising since Brasch played with a much harsher, mechanical style, nothing like Josh.
During Josh's time, the late Dr. Leonard Falcone reigned in the USA, professor at the University of Michigan. His was the American style of "baritone" playing, which, though he had ample technique, was blatant and clumsy by comparison to Josh. Oddly, at Blue Lake Music Camp's Leonard Falcone International Euphonium and Tuba Festival, none of the participants play anything like Falcone. Another educator, William Revelli, of University of Michigan, heard a concert of the ISB and was astonished at the sound of Josh and went straightway to England and returned with 35 Boosey euphoniums - one of which was issued to the new freshman Bill Himes.
I have witnessed people reported to be stellar musicians mock Josh's vibrato as though there were some rule against it in music. Of course brass players are taught that by decidedly unmusical professors of brass at universities and music schools. If vibrato is acceptable on a cello, which it is, then why not on the "iron cello", the euphonium? People who hold to such arbitrary and unmusical ideas are automatons incapable of understanding the soul of music.
See if you can hear when Josh enters in On The Sea by Soderstrom
Evidence of Josh the poet is also available on various tour recordings of the 1950's and early 1960'. His interpretations in Morley Calverts's For Our Transgressions are breathtaking in his gentle emerging into sound absent the usual evidence of the tongue in action. I believe that if technique is evident is destroys the music. Josh could "breathe" a note into existence so that the note just appeared and then disappeared in perfect alliance with the demand of a certain passage. This was evident in his solo in Treasures From Tschaikovsky recorded for the ISB's American tour of 1957. His entrances on the high A in the solo show no stress or difficulty, just music. And for the record - his vibrato is perfect for the demands of the music. To play the passage absent vibrato would turn beautiful music into a steam whistle.
Clearly I didn't hear every note the man played, but every note that I heard was the very essence of music, poetically delivered. This was nowhere more evident than in Ray Steadman-Allen's magnificent Festival Series piece Emmaus Journey, which I recorded poorly (including cloddish announcer-interruptions!) holding a microphone in front of an old radio, with a flickering green eyeball in the middle, as the International Staff Band, under Adams, presented this glorious masterpiece on Easter Sunday, 1957, at the Hollywood Bowl before thousands. It will never be played better or recorded more poorly! It is interesting that, through no effort by me, the euphonium is picked up more clearly than the rest of the band! Though Josh's part dominates the piece, Roland Cobb plays magnificently as well. In fact it is easy to see why Ralph Vaughan Williams said of this very band "I've heard many bands, but never one with such a fine sense of style - classical style!" As the announcers finish their miscreant deeds, and Jesus Himself Drew Near continues in the background (another Marshall masterpiece!) and Josh adds the little decorations to it, the taste and grace with which he so does should inspire even the musical Neanderthals amongst us.
Hear Josh in that performance
To the present, some could play more notes, perhaps more accurately, but none has ever captured the soul of music better that our historic "Poet Laureate of the Euphonium".
Emmaus Journey ISB 1957 Easter Josh
God bless the memory of this profoundly gifted and dedicated man!
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