Friday, May 23 4:30pm
Moudy Building room 141
Lecture: Carole Nowicke
Sounds and Visions; Glass Plate Images from the
Legacy of Cornet Soloist Walter F. Smith
This presentation will provide an overview of the life of a well documented, but no longer well-known 19th century cornet artist. Walter F. Smith (1859 1937) performed with the Marine Band and the Sousa Band and left a legacy of photographs and correspondence which provides a detailed look into the life of military band soloist, and Sousa Band member. Smith prepared the 19th century equivalent of multi-media shows with cornet solos, lantern slides, and lectures to tour with during the off-season of the Sousa Band. In this session, Professor Jack L. Laumer will evoke the feeling of Smiths performances with selections from Smiths favorite solos.
Joel Treybig, reporter
The presentation provided a vivid pictorial and historic overview of the life of the 19th century cornet soloist Walter F. Smith (1859 1937). Carole Nowicke expertly prepared the lecture, which included a host of photographs and excerpts from Smiths own letters. Although Walter F. Smith (not to be confused with Walter M. Smith of Top Tones fame!) is not as well known as many of his fellow cornetists of the era, he had a very successful career as a soloist, band member, chamber musician, and innovator.
The lecture was fascinating, and his letters provided many details about his life and career. Details such as what types of cornets he played (Distin model #3, Conn Wonder, Besson long model, Conn New Wonder) and other instruments he had specially made for him (Conn Flugelhorn, a Conn slide trumpet in F which he designed himself) were of interest to the audience, as were the many capacities in which he played. Smiths career as a theater musician, member of a quadrille (dance) band, soloist, conductor, and section member of the early Marine Band and Sousas band were all made clear by Nowickes documentation of dates, schedules, pay rates, and cultural happenings at the time. It was also interesting to see photos of Smith as a member of two different chamber ensembles: a brass quartet and the Lucia Brass Sextet. By showing Smiths old programs, one could glean which pieces were his favorites. Pieces such as Arbans Fantasie Brilliante and Oberon, Damares Cleopatra Polka, Hartmanns Surf Polka and Facilita all appeared often on the programs that were viewed during the lecture.
Nowickes research also indicated that Smith was an interesting and forward-thinking individual. He envisioned the concept of screw-rim mouthpieces long before they evolved, he found that knitting hammocks increased his finger dexterity, and that bicycle riding improved his endurance. He would take his photographic slides on tours, and in addition to playing solos for a crowd, he would show them slides of various themes, usually from photos he had taken himself (Washinton D.C., California, illustrations of Ben Hur, and Trumpets of Sackingen. His letters were often sarcastic and humorous, and his personality was made viable to the audience just by hearing excerpts from his writings read aloud.
While the lecture itself was captivating, the lecture was brought to life yet further when professor Jack Laumer came to the stage and performed two of Smiths favorites: the aforementioned Cleopatra Polka and Ezra Bagleys The Three Star Polka. Laumer took the effort to play these on two contrasting cornets. The first piece he played on a 1919 Holton-Clarke cornet with an authentic Clarke mouthpiece, and for the second he used a modern Leblanc Courtois cornet. Both renderings of these charming pieces were performed with flair, and like most polkas of this era, afforded the soloist the opportunity to triple-tongue to his hearts desire!
This lecture truly brought to life the personality and career of this intriguing person. While I knew nothing of him as I entered the hall, I left the hall intrigued by Walter F. Smith. It is perhaps due to the fact that he did not actually compose cornet solos that he is now lesser known, but thanks to Nowickes presentation, we now know a great deal about this fascinating gentleman and musician though his writings and photographs.
Cleopatra - Eugène Damare (1840 1919)
The "Three Star" Polka - Ezra M. Bagley (1853-1886)
Jack Laumer, cornet
Rebecca Wilt, piano