The Best Way to Show Off the Endearing Charms of the Euphonium

On Valentine’s Day, I went to a taping of the inspiring radio show From the Top, where young classical musicians perform with and are interviewed by pianist Christopher O’Riley.  Amidst all the talented string players and pianists, I was thrilled to see a teenager who played the euphonium.  If you’re not familiar with the euphonium, perhaps picture a tuba that’s been slightly shrunk or just look at the photo below.  Soundwise, it has a deep, mellow tone but is more facile than a tuba.

The young euphoniumist, Grant Jameson from Dublin, Ohio, performed a stunning number titled “Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms.”  It began with a sentimental theme and then went through a series of showy variations.  According to our almost 600 page book, Guide to the Euphonium Repertoire: The Euphonium Source Book, Jameson chose his piece well.  The book states that “Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms” is “arguably the most played and popular theme and variations ever written for the euphonium.”  (p. 51)

The variations on the traditional theme were originally composed by Simone Mantia (1873-1951) who played euphonium with such highly regarded ensembles as the New York Philharmonic, Victor Herbert’s Orchestra, Metropolitan Opera House Orchestra, and, perhaps most significant to brass players, in John Philip Sousa’s band from 1896-1904.

I’m not sure exactly whose arrangement Jameson and O’Riley performed because a great number of arrangements for different accompanying instruments have been made since Mantia’s time.  In the Guide to the Euphonium Repertoire book, though, every different arrangement includes statements such as “This work demonstrates all of the technical, melodic, and range possibilities of the euphonium.  It is a must study for the serious euphonium student.” (p. 52) or it “…will certainly test out one’s dexterity and technique.” (p. 104)

Pittsburgh’s own River City Brass Band recorded a fine version of Stanley Boddington’s arrangement of Mantia’s “Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms” on their Concert in the Park: Twenty Turn of the Century Bandstand Favorites album from 1992.  The liner notes don’t indicate whom the soloist is but they state the piece, an air varie, is “unabashedly intended to display a soloist’s virtuosity.”  It sure does!

Dr. Brian Meixner, one of the euphoniumists of Pittsburgh's illustrious River City Brass Band. (Photo used by permission.)

Go check out the River City Brass Band or Pittsburgh’s British-style brass ensemble, the Allegheny Brass Band, to hear the euphonium performed live.  For recordings, come browse over a hundred CDs of band music (brass bands, wind bands, military bands, etc.) that feature the best of American, British and other band traditions.

— Tim

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