BILL BELL AND HIS TUBA
PROGRAM NOTES (FROM LP3015 AND RE-ISSUE CR4027)
KING OF THE TUBA!
In the old days it was a tradition for musicians to refer to the greatest of players on a given instrument as the King! Hence in New Orleans at one time Freddie Keppard was acclaimed as King of the Trumpet until Joe Oliver came along to dethrone him. From then on Joe took over the title and was known as King Oliver. There is no question that among musicians today William Bell would be enthroned as King of the Tuba. So fantastic are his achievements on this instrument that the professionals who know and understand its difficulties shake their heads in wonder and amazement when they hear him play. “He plays it like it was a fiddle,” one admiring musician said thinking of the lightness of touch and agility of fingering. “He plays it like a French horn,” a distinguished composer added, thinking of the brilliance of tone and the richness of range.
In and age in which superlatives have become suspect through over-usage it is difficult to find suitable words to describe a triumph of this kind. There is, however, an analogy in the field of sports. One knows, for instance, that a runner who breaks the four minute mile is among the elite of athletes. William Bell, most musicians would agree, has established a comparable record with his mastery of the tuba.
Arturo Toscanini, for whom he played for many years, declared William Bell the greatest tuba player he had ever heard. Once at a rehearsal the great conductor suddenly stopped the orchestra and called out “Play that again, please!” Mr. Bell looked puzzled and the maestro explained, “No, no, there is nothing wrong. Play it again, please, just for me. I have never heard that passage played with such a lovely tone!” Coming from Toscanini this was adulation of the highest order.
In the theater an actor’s true greatness lies in the fact that he can play both tragedy and comedy. William Bell, like a truly great actor, is at ease in any kind of role assigned him. He has been a member of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. He has taught at the Julliard School of Music, the Manhattan School of Music and Teachers College of Columbia University. He has played “Tubby the Tuba” under Leopold Stokowski and the “Concerto for Bass Tuba and Orchestra” by Ralph Vaughan Williams with The Little Orchestra Society under Thomas Scherman. And on the record his range is even greater as he romps through a variety of items from both the classical and popular repertoire.
Born in Fairfield, Iowa, Mr. Bell began playing the tuba at the age of eight! His first successes were at the summer park concerts given in his home town. By the time he was fifteen he had graduated to the ranks of playing with a band on the Chautauqua circuit. Later he played with the Bachman Band and the Sousa Band. In 1937 he came to New York to play under Toscanini and since that time has appeared with most of the major orchestras on radio and television. Golden Crest Records presents him now on this unique record devoted entirely to the music of the tuba. Oh, yes, one other thing – there is an excellent bass singer on some of the songs whose deep, resonant voice will remind you of the tuba. How logical that this singer is also the fabulous Bill Bell! After all, it’s his record.
(The previous information was taken from original liner notes.)
Track 11 is a live recording of Bill Bell, Arnold Jacobs and Harvey Phillips performing “Moto Perpetuo” with the “Directors Band” at the Gunnison (Colorado) Music Camp in 1963. This track is the property of (and used by permission) of Ms. Kate Hawkins, widow of Robert Hawkins who conducted the performance.
Track 12 is a live recording of the world premier performance of the Ed Sauter arrangement of “Komm Susser Todd” by J.S. Bach. This performance was on the morning of Saturday, May 26, 1973, on the lawn in front of the brand new Indiana University Musical Arts Center. Conducting was New York freelance tubist Don Butterfield. The performers were many of those attending the First International Tuba Symposium-Workshop which was hosted by Mr. Harvey Phillips and the Indiana University School of Music. Some of the attendees did not have an instrument with them and their voices can be heard singing the parts they would normally have played. The voices, the singing of birds in the background and someone playing the practice carillon next door can be heard and give this performance, which was dedicated to the memory of Mr. Bell, an almost ethereal quality. It was a fitting tribute to a great man who was a great musician and a mentor and friend to so many.
Track 13 is a live recording of Mr. Bell giving the narration for “Peter and the Wolf.” It was recorded at a performance by the “Directors Band” (a faculty ensemble) at the Gunnison (Colorado) Music Camp in 1963. This track is the property of (and used by permission) of Ms. Kate Hawkins, widow of Robert Hawkins who conducted the band.
THE MAKING OF THIS CD
The original recording was released by Golden Crest Records as a monaural lp record in 1957. It was re-released as a simulated stereo lp a few years later. In this writer’s opinion, the original mono release was superior. See comments from Mr. Harvey Phillips regarding the photos of Mr. Bell used on the two record releases. For this CD release we were able to obtain the original full track mono tape master for Side A from John and Shelley Broven, owners of what remains of the Golden Crest archives. The Side B master has been lost, but fortunately, the Brovens had a pristine copy of the original mono lp which we used. We added three “bonus tracks” to the original selections. “Peter and the Wolf ” and “Moto Perpetuo” were taken from a live recording of a concert at Gunnison (Colorado) Music Camp in 1963. These were restored from audio cassette and vinyl disk respectively. The final track, “Komm Susser Todd” was taken from the stereo master tape of a live outdoor performance at the First International Tuba Symposium-Workshop on May 26, 1973. Some of the tracks were noisy and had other problems. Noise reduction was done by Masterphonics, Inc., of Nashville using the “Cedar” system. Additional work was done by T.J. Larkin of Larkin Audio, Nashville. It is our belief that the tracks on this CD sound better that in any previous release. We hope those listeners who remember them will agree.
Bill Bell and His Tuba” was recorded by Mr.Clark Galehouse, owner of Golden Crest Records, in 1959, an era when no record company had any interest in recording a tuba soloist. Mr. Galehouse was interested in “educational recordings” at the time and recorded great soloists on many of the wind instruments. I was starting high school in Florence,Alabama, shortly after this record was originally released. Fortunately, my band director, Mr. Floyd McClure, purchased a copy for our band library. I spent many hours in stark amazement as I listened to what I thought were the impossible feats performed by Mr. Bell. I am sure that a whole generation of young players was influenced by this recording. This was prior to the composition of most of today’s standard repertoire of tuba literature. Mr. Bell believed that music should entertain and he made no apologies for performing selections such as “The Tuba Man” and “When Yuba Plays the Rhumba on the Tuba”. His rendition of “Carnival of Venice” holds up well even against the standards set by today’s many fine soloists.
By Garnett R. Davis, Vanderbilt University, March, 2008.
I first heard this recording in late spring 1959. I was a high school senior and my band director had just gotten a copy. We wore his copy out and I immediately ordered my copy which I still have in near mint condition almost 50 years later. THIS RECORDING WAS THE SINGLE MOST COMPELLING REASON I decided to go into music as a career and that the TUBA was the instrument I HAD to play!
By R. Winston Morris, Tennessee Technological University, March, 2008.
Tracks 1-10 recorded by Clark F. Galehouse at Golden Crest Records, Huntington Station, NY, in 1958.
Tracks 11 and 13 recorded live at Gunnison Music Camp, Gunnison, Colorado, by Century Custom Recording Service of Saugus, California in Summer, 1963.
Track 12 recorded live by Tom Wood at Indiana University School of Music, Bloomington, IN, May 26, 1973.
Executive Producer • Harvey G. Phillips
Producer • Garnett R. Davis
Track editing and mastering • T.J. Larkin, Larkin Audio • Nashville, TN
Noise reduction treatment • Masterfonics, Inc., • Nashville, TN
Graphic Design/Layout • Kimberly Collignon, MarkArt
CD Production • MarkCustom.com
Production Coordinator • Mark J. Morette
This LEGACY SERIES is dedicated to the memory of CLARK GALEHOUSE (1911-1983), founder and CEO of Golden Crest Records, for his dedication to music, education and life! Selected LP’s from the Golden Crest Archives for release on the CD format illustrate his open endorsement of every music discipline.
Harvey G. Phillips, Founder of the Harvey Phillips Foundation, Inc.