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Arthur Lehman on Karl Humble

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What follows is taken from a hand-written monograph by nonagenarian Arthur Lehman sharing his thoughts about the late Karl Humble. Thanks to Keith Barton for transcribing this article into electronic format!


by Arthur Lehman, 3-20-09

It escapes me as to how and when I met Karl. We did know each other pretty well in the 1950's. He stopped in at my Keppler Road house several times with his horn for a nice blowing session. Couldn't call them lessons. He could play as well as I could so, in that case, who should be teaching whom?

At any rate Karl was a member of the U.S. Air Force Band of Washington, D.C. and he lived over in this area in nearby Forestville. My mom and I would stop over there on occasions when Mom needed information on gardening chemicals or plants. Karl was an expert. In fact after Karl retired from the military service, he was the manager of the big Hecht's store of Marlow Heights, Maryland of their enormous greenhouse which they called "Sylvan Gardens." Mom and I would often see and chat with Karl there. Nice talking with Karl. Very polite and friendly.

While in the U.S. Air Force Band, Karl never played solos that I know of. He must have been in that band for 5 or 6 years. Somewhere along the line he had a disagreement with Col. Howard, the Band's Director and Karl was shipped to the Air Force Academy Band in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He remained in that band for 3 years and was a real "wheel" and hero there. He did a lot of solo work with that band, all first class playing, naturally.

Then Karl came back east where he auditioned with the U.S. Marine Band. We snapped him up quickly and he must have joined us in 1959. Retired in 1972. He got in a bit of an argument with Lt. Col. Harpham who had just been made Marine Band Director and was given two options. "Retire now or be sent to a line band." Karl retired. He joined the National Concert Band in 1973 and at one time was our principal euphonium player. We took a vote and he won! The five man section consisted of Harold Brasch, Karl Humble, Corliss Harsha, Buddy Burroughs and myself. Karl was a dandy first chair man.

Karl was always interested in brass instrument repair, apparently, and he'd take my "Imperial" horn with him for some small repair job or other. That was when we were both playing in the U.S. Marine Band. Then, came a big job for Karl - installing new valves in my old "Imperial."

I used to deal with a wonderful music store in Leeds, England, called "Kitchens of Leeds." (Not in business any longer, alas). I bought a lot of items there - cheaply. Bought that set of 4 valves for the grand total of $28.00! Can you believe that? I had bought them around 1951 or 1952 and had them in a safe spot until Karl installed them for me in about 1965. They worked wonderfully well, too. Karl was a real stickler for doing everything right.

Later on Karl moved back to Albuquerque, his home town, to live with an older sister who had cancer. He set up a dandy instrument repair shop in the large garage there. At one time he sent me snapshots of the shop. Later, a crack repairman from New Jersey I knew well saw the snapshots and told me that some of Karl's equipment was the latest state of the art equipment you could get and it was a surprise to him that Karl did have such expensive equipment in his little shop. Well, Karl did excellent repair work and he could obviously do more and better work with better equipment. Good for Karl!

After joining the Marine Band, Karl didn't play solos with us, that I can recall. A pity for he was a fine soloist. However, after I retired, he did perform several solos. Two may have been Pryor's "Air Varie" and the Innis "Phenomenal Polka." If he did play "Air Varie," I didn't get to hear it, but I did hear him play "Phenomenal." Did a splendid job on that performance. Very tough solo and it yields itself to lots of style. Karl got it just right. He had one of the Marine Band's arranging staff make a band arrangement of it so he could play it with the band. Glad that I got to hear him play that great old solo.

One day about 1981* or so, Karl was in this area to attend a T.U.B.A. (now ITEA) conference and we had him for lunch. We offered to take him to a good restaurant but he was reluctant and not comfortable with the idea. Frieda, my wife, then suggested a pot luck lunch here at "La Casa Lemonetti" and he jumped at that idea. Suited him perfectly. We had a nice lunch and Karl was so happy just to sit there and chat with us. That was the last time I saw Karl. He was fighting Parkinson's even then but you saw no evidence of illness in his appearance or actions at that time.

Check the Bob Hoe 12 inch disc on which is recorded "The Manzoni Requiem" (Verdi) for a good recording of Karl and his top drawer euphonium playing. We had one microphone on the euphoniums and it was set 2 feet from Karl's bell. Although I played the principal part, I was 6 or 7 feet from the microphone and Karl was picked up stronger than I. You can hear this one strong euphonium voice in the section. That was Karl. Fine playing. Great player. Nice man.

* I believe the year 1981 should be 1991 because Arthur and Frieda have not been married 20 years. His mother died around 1990, as I recall. [Keith Barton]

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