Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Have you ever seen a helicon?

This one's for all my brassed-off friends.

I was covering the annual Pepper Drive Fourth of July Parade for Altadena Patch yesterday (see the link in the post below) and ran into Stan Freese with his 1894 helicon. The helicon developed from the saxhorn or saxtuba according to Wikipedia.  Both of those were, of course, developed by Adolphe Sax, who created the saxophone family.  French horn players generally have an uneasy relationship with saxes, because as beautiful as they can be, they are usually assigned the horn parts in concert band transcriptions of orchestra music, but of course we love tuba players of all sorts.

The sousaphone, brainchild of John Philip Sousa, is a variant of the helicon with the bell pointing forward and a much larger flare, which of course is great for mounting icons and (if you go to Stanford) silly signs. Before yesterday, I had not realized that Sousa didn't come up with this all by himself.

The Londonderry Band at last year's Tournament of Roses Bandfest made good use of those huge flared bells Sousa designed.

So there you are.

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