Thoughts on life and music.

Japan Bought Our Orchestra All New Yamaha Instruments!

I had to keep quiet for the last few weeks until the official press conference, but the Sarajevo Philharmonic received 73 brand-new Yamaha instruments as a donation from the Japanese embassy! The orchestra did not have a decent collection of percussion instruments, and the contrabasses were falling apart. In this country, the orchestra is required to pay players for using their own instruments due to nuances in the labor laws; if one provides the means to work to an employer they are entitled to compensation for bringing their own tools. In the orchestra's case, this means instrument, and having orchestra-provided instruments will save the organization a lot of extra payments. With the new donation, many orchestra members are upgrading the quality of their instrument as well.

Yamaha 667VS

Yamaha 667VS Sarajevo Philharmonic

Yamaha 667VS Sarajevo Philharmonic

As far as the horn section goes, we got one triple horn and three double horns from Yamaha. The triple is a YHR-891 and went to Asim, as principal of the orchestra. Mattia, Rebecca and I were assigned Yamaha 667-VS horns, which are the hand-made version of the 667. The horns were all brand new, fresh from the factory and still smelled of whatever chemicals go into lacquering horns. It was really exciting to take the bells out of the plastic wrap, and pull the freshly greased slides from their default position. Each horn came with a Yamaha 30C4 mouthpiece, but I don't believe any of us are using them. I'm still playing on my Lawson mouthpiece, Rebecca uses her Marcinkewicz and Mattia is on a Bach.

Sarajevo Philharmonic horns Erin and Rebecca

The convenient part of having orchestra-owned instruments is not having to haul my Kühn on the bus/tram every day for an hour. The unfortunate part is that my Kühn triple and the Yamaha 667VS double are very different horns. I play on one horn at the theater for my job, and immediately go home and practice on my personal horn to try and forget what the Yamaha feels like. I haven't been able to decide if it's worse to only have to do this for two months, or if it would have been easier to adjust to if I had done it from the beginning.

Yamaha 667VS Sarajevo Philharmonic horn

My back is saying having a horn at the theater since September would have been nice... But I think my chops would agree that the daily transition between the two is not something I'd like to do for a long period of time. There's a stiffness that has developed in my chops from the Yamaha, I think I'm used to putting out a high volume of air through the Kühn and to do the same in the Yamaha is overblow. I've also found myself inadvertently using my air incorrectly, and pushing from the throat/mouth instead of the diaphragm. I haven't figured out why, other than noting the different feels of the two horns and trying to combat the tendency.

I do enjoy playing the Yamaha 667, but I haven't had second thoughts about my Kühn for a minute. There's a complexity to the sound that isn't quite the same with the Yamaha, and I find it gets metallic very quickly when playing louder passages. I have trouble feeling in control when trying to reach a higher dynamic level, the sound spreads quickly. It's a nice horn, and I'm very glad we received such a generous donation from the Japanese Embassy, but I'm glad I still have my Kühn waiting for me at the end of the day.

We had a press conference last Tuesday to officially announce the donation to the Bosnian press, and the dignitaries from the Japanese embassy were present and gave short speeches (in English!) to explain the donation. The ambassador expressed their wish to support peace and harmony through music, and they admired the Sarajevska Filharmonija's determination and tenacity during the siege of Sarajevo in 1992. (The orchestra continued to play despite snipers, blackouts, water shortages, food shortages, damage to the theater, etc. Not to mention that the orchestra lost 6 musicians to the violence.)

Sarajevo Philharmonic

A few chamber groups from the orchestra performed in honor of Japan's donation, playing traditional Japanese folk songs including the infamous Sakura, and the percussionists played a piece counting off in Japanese.

Sarajevo Philharmonic Brass Quintet Japan

Sarajevo Philharmonic percussion Japan

Sarajevo String Quartet Sarajevo Philharmonic Japan

A few orchestra musicians were interviewed after the main event was completed. I'm assuming no one talked to us since we only spoke English... I did manage to get the back of my head and the horn bell in a photo gallery of the event on Al-Jazeera Balkans though.

Click here to see more pictures from Al-Jazeera

Asim Gadzo interview Sarajevo Philharmonic

Chihiro also spoke with the Japanese representatives, they were surprised and happy to find a Japanese girl playing with the orchestra. They gave her their fancy business cards and invited her to stop by the Embassy any time.

Embassy of Japan Bosnia-Herzegovina Sarajevo Philharmonic

Sarajevo Philharmonic horns

Sarajevo Philharmonic Kent Rebecca Lindsey

Getting all five of us standing still together in one room with our instruments is an epic feat these days, so we couldn't miss the chance for a great group picture!

Sarajevo Philharmonic American exchange

The first concert after getting our new instruments was Carmina Burana, but not everyone in the orchestra was ready to make the switch immediately. I used the Yamaha for that concert because it had a freer low range (which started to deteriorate after a few weeks, but it worked in that moment!) and I didn't feel like dealing with two horns in my locker (which is a great, artistically sound reason). It was a fun first experience on a different instrument.

Sarajevo Philharmonic Carmina Burana

Sarajevo Philharmonic Carmina Burana

Music Academy Concert

Zagreb, take two! (Part 2)