Double French Horn
by Frank Lloyd
I actually know this double-belled instrument really well, and played it in a concert just a few months ago. Christine Chapman plays horn in a modern music ensemble called Musik Fabrik, where I used to play for several years when I first went to Germany (16yrs ago!). The trumpet player in the group had a double-belled trumpet built around the year 2000 and gradually they have had all the brass instruments made with an additional bell. The piece I was playing in was a new concerto for double-belled trombone and ensemble, where all of the brass players were required to use these instruments, including a double-belled euphonium (in the background of my picture).
Such an instrument certainly comes into its own in a modern music ensemble, as you can use different mutes for quick changes, quarter tone shifts, and, as we had to do, have a microphone attached to the 2nd bell, which was then channelled through an amplifier - which together with a foot-pedal to adjust the volume separately, and constantly changing between the two bells, with quarter-tones etc made the piece an absolute pain to learn - no wonder Christine had taken the concert off!
But the instrument is heavy as you can imagine, and not possible to play standing up. But it works astonishingly well, the second bell sounding more like a tenor horn, making the contrast between the two even more pronounced. But it is a novelty, and only really useful for pieces that are written especially for it.
I just happened to record this rare ‘occasion’ at a rehearsal:
Meanwhile, all the best to you, and I look forward to seeing you in Margate!