Euphoniums of the Marine Band
by Arthur Lehman U.S. Marine Band, retired
edited by David Werden
In 1947 when I got into the Marine Band, the band used all Conn Double Bell silver plated euphoniums, except Buddy Burroughs who used a Conn single bell silver plated euphonium. Apparently, he had been given special dispensation by Lt.Col. Santelmann who preferred the double bell horns. According to photos of the Marine Band going all the way back to WWI times, they used Conn Double Bell euphoniums even then. However, going back farther than that we come to a photo which Lt.Col. Santelmann had in a frame on his office wall of the 1905 Marine Band. Standing in the front row are two men with Boosey and Company euphoniums, with five valves(!). But before that they were using Conn Double Bell euphoniums. Why they decided to use Booseys I don't know. Perhaps they had been visited by some British band and had seen, tried, and liked the euphoniums that band was using. Who knows?
Several accidents involving the double bell horns have been reported by various band members whom I knew in my early Marine Band years. All of these accidents involved the detatchable large bell which had come loose and had fallen off during some tour concert or other. When such a bell fell off, being of the bell front type, it was so round and curved that when it hit the floor (usually with quite a clatter) it rolled back and forth thus prolonging the unwanted noise. During a concert this was terrible. I can imagine what effect it had on the leader.
Because of these occasional accidents, the Leader had locks put on the horns so that when the large bell was engaged properly and turned so that the bell faced the front at the correct angle two strong pins were engaged in the hook type locks and thus the bell could not possibly fall off.
As time went on, the locks were neglected and any Conn Double Bell euphonium I was issued had no lock. However, at one time -- just before I got my Boosey and Hawkes "Imperial" euphonium -- I took a spare euphonium out of the supply room, tried it out, liked it a lot, and it was issued to me upon which I turned the horn I was playing back in. (Mr. Weber, the Second Leader, was in charge of issuing, taking back, and keeping records of all Marine Band instruments)
This Conn Double Bell euphonium, silver plated as were ALL Marine Band euphoniums, had been bought for Pete Hazes, the band's principal euphonium player for many years and this horn had been purchased in 1928. 1 felt that it played better than the rest of the euphoniums in stock. It had been reconditioned so it was beautiful. It also had the hook type locks so that I never worried that my bell would ever fall of during a concert.
Don Kimball's bell did fall off once but, fortunately for him, paranoid about his big bell, too. He kept tightening the thumb screws all the time. They held the bell on. Not locks. Just thumb screws with the ends fitting into a groove in the collar of the bell. This was really not a secure system so he was constantly worried about it. He would tighten, tighten, tighten the thumb screws. Eventually, the collar around the base of the detatchable large bell would come apart and the horn had to be repaired -- welded at that spot. I never had that happen to me because I wasn't strong enough to tighten the thumb screws so terribly tightly. Then, when I was issued the old Pete Hazes horn, the problem ceased to exist.
In time I began using my Boosey & Hawkes "Imperial" much to Lt.Col. Santelmann's disgust. In fact when I first received it from England in January 1949, 1 started a band rehearsal using it. Lt.Col. Santelmann spied it and growled back to me, "Lehman, what's that?" I told him what it was. He replied in another growl, "Well, ditch it." So I got up, put it back in the case, and used the Pete Hazes horn for the rest of the rehearsal. Soon, however, it came time for me to play a solo. I believe that the first solo I played after burying the B & H horn was "Facilitala" and I got up with the Boosey for the rehearsal. Lt.Col. Santelmann didn't object and I started using the 8 & H horn in rehearsals, radio broadcasts, and concerts However, I still used the Conn Double Bell horn everywhere else -- parades, funerals, etc.
That went on for a few years until I finally used the 8 & H horn for everything. I believe that it was late in 1956 - probably after tour -- when we received a shipment of the first Boosey & Hawkes "Imperial" euphoniums the Marine Band had had -- at least since WWI. They were silver plated, of Course, and they were issued to Buddy Burroughs, Bill Scheneman, and to me. We three were the only euphonium players then. The T.O. was for three youffers. These horns were okay, barely. I never cared much for any of them. I kept using my own personal one in the band. Just before I retired, we received three or four new ones. Boosey & Hawkes or Bessons, I forget which. I believe that it was B & H horns. These two brands (B & H and Besson) were identical for many years, anyway, so it would have made no difference. However, these horns were very much better than the 1956 ones. Two come in late in 1970 and I allowed them to be issued to Karl Humble and Luke Spiros. I felt that since I would be retiring in 1971 these men should get theirs first and I would take what was left over, whenever it came in. it was pretty late in arriving and, although the ones which Karl and Luke had got were wonderful, the one I got was a lot better. Boy, that was a fine horn. Luke got it when I retired.
The intonation was much improved on these horns. You didn't need to pull out the first and third valve slide very much, if at all, on these new horns. Eventually, the band bought a set of four Willson euphoniums and since then they have obtained one or two more sets, replacing the original ones. In my experience, although the Willson is a very good horn, it is pretty big -- quite a lot like a small tuba -- and every individual Willson euphonium is much different from another. I, myself, have one which I used for two years. No where near to be broken in. My pupil Tony Ciarlante has had one for almost four years and his horn, too, is no where near to being broken in. I have another pupil with a Willson. And I have tried out two more blowing them for a good test. Each of the horns I have played is vastly different from every other. In fact the differences are so dramatic as to be amazing and startling. While my own horn has two very bad (sharp) notes, Tony's horn has no such notes. On his horn the notes terribly sharp on my horn are very slightly flat on his. Very easy to correct. Now, Jim's horn is a lot different from Tony's and mine. A completely different horn. Plays very differently. Good horn, but so different. These differences don't seem to be characteristic with a B & H horn or a Besson, however.
Why the great differences between various examples of Willson horns? I believe that it must be because the Willson is primarily a hand built instrument as opposed to an instrument which is primarily machine built. With hand built instruments you do get such differences. No two are alike. In one way this is good -- if you try out, say, ten hand built horns, you should find one you like especially well. If you try out one machine built horn and you don't like it, the chances are that every example of that make and model of horn will not suit you, either. They should be very much alike if they are machine built.
Oh, well. We are always looking for the prefect horn. A perfect horn -- the one we are searching for -- always plays in tune perfectly; it has a fine tone always; it has a very fast and light valve action; the valves never stick; and the horn makes no mistakes. The sight reading of this horn is perfect and it never gets mixed up in clefs. No matter what key it is -- 8 flats or 6 sharps -- it never gets even one note wrong. The rhythm when using this horn is always exactly right. And the style is perfect for every type of music it runs across. This is the ideal instrument. It plays itself. No effort for the musician what so ever. That's what we are searching for. I wonder why we never find one like that?
Written by Arthur Lehman, March 3, 2007