Famous Orchestral Personalities of Yesteryear: John Solomons, trumpeter

John Solomons, Trumpeter
It was in the late 1940’s.  The London Symphony Orchestra asked me to play with them at the Royal Albert Hall, London,  in a performance of “Israel in Egypt”.  Sir Malcolm Sargent was conducting and the Royal Choral Society was singing.

Sargent was at his best when conducting choral music and I was looking forward to playing the engagement.  At the morning rehearsal we had arrived at the Plague Choruses and Sargent noticed that we were all anxious to have the intermission and a cup of coffee so we all trooped off stage and as I was exiting I noticed a well dressed old gentleman surrounded by a large group of the older players in the orchestra. I enquired of his name and was told Jack Solomons, and that he was over ninety years of age, although he did not look it. In his day  he was reckoned to be the best trumpeter in the country.  He could play all the exacting Bach stuff well, but his tour de force was the trumpet obbligato in “The Trumpet Shall Sound” from Handel’s “Messiah”.

He would arrive at the concert dressed immaculately, sporting a large diamond ring on his right hand, clutching a long ‘D’ trumpet.  He always brought the house down. In his day there were many choral societies scattered round Great Britain and Jack was always sent for to play the “Trumpet Shall Sound ” whenever it was on the programme so he must have made a killing with all those fees.  The long ‘D’ trumpet seems to have gone out of fashion now, but I have to admit I liked the sound and also it looked so dramatic

There is a moral to be drawn from this, especially by some of our younger players.  My teacher and mentor, Eugene Cruft, always drummed it into me that it was not only necessary to build up a good playing technique but also to present oneself on stage with a good air and presence, looking confident and well groomed. He was right!

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A Happy Concert in Istanbul

In 1964 the London Symphony Orchestra asked me if I would be available to play with them in Istanbul, Turkey. I had previously rehearsed the programme with them, so in Istanbul there were to be no rehearsals except for a seating rehearsal lasting only an hour. It was to be a nice little gig so I agreed gladly. The conductor was Sir Malcolm Sargent, a seasoned conductor with a very clear beat and easy to follow.I left early to catch the chartered plane to Istanbul. The pilot, “Lofty” I knew already from previous trips and I was very pleased when he invited me into the cockpit when we were landing at Istanbul.I had read in Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall” much about Constantinople and I was thrilled when Lofty pointed out the Bosphorous and various other landmarks. He couldn’t talk too much, as he told me that Istanbul was a very difficult place to land an aircraft.After a perfect landing I made my way to the Topkapi palace, looked at the Harem and the eunuchs section and also some treasures, then I made my way back to Istanbul to meet a friend of Adrian Cruft, a bass player and composer and son of Eugene. He had given me a piece of music to give to his friend, a Turkish composer. We sat down for a chat and he offered me some coffee, I’m afraid after all this time I cannot remember his name, and Adrian has passed away so I am unable to check on it. Upon leaving he presented me with a lovely box of Turkish Delight and then, after warm goodbyes I headed back to the hotel and dinner and bed.Early next morning I visited Haggia Sophia, that was once the church of Santa Sophia, and marvelled at some of the relics left from ancient times. There was part of a great iron chain that prevented enemy ships sailing in to Constantinople. All in all it was very fascinating.A visit to the Janissary Band’s headquarters and museum had been arranged and everybody in the orchestra turned out for the visit, including Sargent.The Band, all dressed in the old Ottoman Empire uniforms gave us a special performance which I really enjoyed. There were huge drums played by equally huge drummers and also a gentleman with a long pole on top of which was a crescent and beneath it some bells. There were also some other instruments I had not seen before, and so, after looking round the museum we went back to the hotel for a meal and to change for the concert, which was packed with an enthusiastic audience. And so to bed!