Long before the new metal-cutting techniques of the industrial revolution made valved brass instruments practicable, the use of telescopic tubes to vary pitch had been employed in the sackbut, the medieval ancestor of the modern trombone. With its cylindrical bore, strong penetrating tone and ability to produce a seamless glissando, the trombone has a key role in orchestras and bands of many kinds. The addition of valves or ‘triggers’, controlling one or more extra loops of pipe, has extended the trombone’s pitch range in its bass register without making impossible demands on the reach of the player’s arm or requiring an extension handle. The modern bass trombone , pitched in B-flat like a tenor trombone, has a wider bore and a larger bell to aid in the production of a fuller, weightier tone in the low register. It also has one or two valves which, when engaged, lower the pitch of the instrument. Although it is not used in British-style brass bands, the valve trombone, in which the main tube is not telescopic but fixed in length, offers advantages in playing fast musical figures and is popular in some countries.
During the later Baroque period, Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel used the trombone on a few occasions; Bach used it in combination with the cornett to evoke the stile antico in some of his many cantatas: Handel, famously, in the Dead March from Saul. Beethoven & Berlioz exploited the trombone’s power in their orchestral and chamber music.
Amanda Prosser (1st Trombone)
John Barber (2nd Trombone)
Kath Clarke (Bass Trombone)