A Natural Trumpet Challenge

Last night I played in a performance of Mendelssohn's Elijah at Cadogan Hall. I've played this work once before on modern instruments, however this time I was required to play it on the natural trumpet.

When I checked through the part online, I felt pretty confused because the trumpet part changes between six different keys - C, D, Eb, E, A and Bb. This is not normally too much of an issue, because we are trained to transpose into all of these keys on the modern trumpet. But my confusion soon turned to horror as I realised that I had just one week to source natural trumpet slides for each of these six keys from other people - my own natural trumpets were being repaired...

Thankfully I was helped out by some generous trumpet colleagues who, between them, provided me with all the equipment I needed for this concert. I used a regular, low natural trumpet for the keys of A, Bb, C and D and then a high natural trumpet to play in Eb and E. (Huge thanks to Gwyn Owen, Mark David, Paul Bosworth and the brains of Darren Moore!)

The full set of pipes needed to play  Elijah

The full set of pipes needed to play Elijah

Whilst preparing for this performance, I was struggling to keep on top of which slides and tubes to use where and which ones went together. So I came up with a system involving coloured stickers (matching each yard with its corresponding lead pipe) and created a chart to go with it. To add to the difficulty, the orchestra was tuned to classical pitch (A=430) so I used thick tape to ensure that the lead pipes would stay in the right position in the trumpets. 

Pipes complete with matching coloured stickers and tape

Pipes complete with matching coloured stickers and tape

It may seem over the top, but this system made the gig so much easier and meant that I could always just check my chart to anticipate which changes to make next. Having never done something like this before on the natural trumpet, I'm now glad that I know what to expect in the future and I actually really enjoyed the challenge. It certainly made a notoriously long piece like Elijah go much faster..!