Concert Notes

Dani Howard’s Trombone Concerto

Notes by TŌN tuba player Tyler Woodbury

Hope. Not the first word many of us think of when reminiscing on the year 2020. But composer Dani Howard’s Trombone Concerto explores the positive side of the human spirit in times of mass hardship. Howard was commissioned for this work by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and began writing it during the lockdowns in the summer of 2020, with help from trombonist Peter Moore, who premiered the work. Concert halls were closed and musicians were confined to their homes, yet Howard saw how humans were coming together to heal, uplift, and spread joy, despite our physical distance. 

This work opens with a movement titled “Realisation”, where the solo trombone is instructed to “play as if you are totally oblivious to your surroundings.” A rather intriguing instruction, this is meant to emulate the feeling of the world moving around you, pressing forward in day-to-day life. As individual people, we can come to feel small in a world that seems to pass us by. But our main character begins to contemplate the impact they could make, especially in a trying time. Although small, can they bring something to help society? In the second movement, titled “Rumination”, this sense of pondering is expanded on, with the trombonist weaving in and out of the metaphorical “society” that is the orchestra. Beginning the movement unaccompanied, the player contemplates the thoughts of the previous movement. Eventually, though, the orchestra joins in on the contemplation, slowly but surely encouraging the soloist along. To close the work, the third movement, “Illumination”, challenges our soloist’s technical skills in a barrage of celebration. Despite the dire situation of the world, our main character can find a way to make it better. The human spirit can always be a beacon for positive change.