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Tubist adds much more than oomph to symphony

WANT TO GO?

Respighi: "Fountains of Rome" and tubist Aubrey Foard

Presented by: West Virginia Symphony Orchestra

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 19 & 20

WHERE: Clay Center

TICKETS: $13 to $67

INFO: 304-561-3570 or www.wvsymphony.org

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Tubist Aubrey Foard usually sits in the back row of the orchestra, where he produces warm, low notes that provide a foundation on which the other musicians add the melody. He'll take center stage Friday and Saturday when he solos with the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra in pieces written to showcase the tuba.

Composers don't often feature tubas in orchestral music, but Ralph Vaughn Williams and John Williams both did just that when they wrote concertos for the instrument. Foard will sit beside Maestro Grant Cooper's podium to perform their concertos that showcase the range of the tuba, both in notes and style.

Foard hopes to use his front row spot to broaden the perception some people have of tubas as oompah and marching band instruments. 

 "The tuba can produce anything from a brassy angry sound used effectively in big dark orchestral pieces to high ethereal notes in melodies, " he said. The tuba's range is extensive, from four to five octaves, compared to about three or four produced by many other instruments.

"Anytime someone hears me play a concerto, they are usually surprised at how much the tuba can do. They see that a tuba can produce the high melodic notes as musically as a violinist or pianist would," Foard said. "When they hear that, it really knocks people out of their socks."

 Foard, who resides in Charlotte where he is principal tubist with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, will perform Ralph Vaughn Williams' "Tuba Concerto in F Minor," a piece that he said reminds him 1950s Britain. The first movement contains a stiff march, while the second feels more hymn-like and choral. "It makes me think of an Irish tenor singing in church," he said.

Composer John Williams' background as a movie score creator shows in his "Concerto for Tuba and Orchestra." He weaves themes from "Superman" "Star Wars," "Jaws" and other movies throughout the piece.

"It's an awesome combination of movie-influenced excitement and inward-looking retrospection," he said. "It appeals to me on a visceral level and really gets me in an energetic mood."

Foard began playing the tuba when he was 9 years old. He wanted to play the bassoon, but it wasn't available in his elementary school music program, so he took up the tuba because he thought it looked cool. He was a big kid who liked the idea of a big instrument, he said.

Foard's critically acclaimed performances have earned him many honors and solo spots on NPRs "Performance Today" and with many orchestras throughout the country. He's the first tubist to graduate from The Colburn School's Conservatory of Music.

"It's tough to say of what I'm most proud. One of my proudest moments was when a former Washington Post critic wrote that I played with 'ease and aplomb.' To be told I play with aplomb was a career highlight," Foard said.

Cooper will lead the orchestra in two other pieces Friday and Saturday. Ottorino Respighi's "Fountains of Rome" depicts Rome's famous fountains and acts as a single day travelogue through the city.

Maurice Ravel wrote "Rapsodie Espagnole" as a composition for two pianos, but orchestrated it for its premiere. The four movements range from one meant to bring to mind a sultry night in Spain to others that highlight clarinets and bassoons.

Join Maestro Cooper at 7 p.m. before the concerts for Preludes in which he will discuss more in-depth details of the evening's programs.

Reach Julie Robinson at julier@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1038.


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