Thomas Harper, Sr. and Thomas Harper Jr.
and Their Method Books for the English Slide Trumpet.

by Ralph Dudgeon

 
Thomas Harper, Sr. was a leading English slide trumpet player of his day. Thomas Harper was born in Worcester England on 3 May 1786. At the tender age of ten, he was sent to London to study trumpet with R. T. Eley and later played in Eley’s Royal East India Volunteers Band. In 1821, he replaced Hyde as principal trumpet in many of London’s leading orchestras including the Concert of Ancient Music, the Philharmonic Concerts, and the Italian Opera.  He taught trumpet at the Royal Academy of Music from approximately 1829 to 1845.  Although he may have played early valve and keyed brasses, he was noted for his use of the English slide trumpet and performed on it to great acclaim in the popular arias of the day as well as the works of Handel and Purcell. Instructions for the Trumpet was published in 1835 with a second edition in 1836.  It is a basic text for learning the slide trumpet, but is also valuable because it documents the other types of soprano brass that were contemporary with Harper’s beloved slide instrument. Thomas Harper Sr. died in London on 20 January 1853.
 
The full title of the work is: Instructions / for the / Trumpet / With the use of the Chromatic Slide, / Also the 7 Russian valve Trumpet, / the / Cornet à Piston or Small Stop Trumpet / and the / Keyed Bugle, / In which Rudiments of Music and the / Various Scales are clearly explained in a Series of / Examples, Preludes, Lessons, Solos, Duets, etc. / for each / Instrument, / Composed, Arranged, and Dedicated by Permission / To / The Right Honorable General Lord Hill / Commander in Chief / By / Thomas Harper. London: Cramer, Addson & Beale Music Publishers, 1835. Location: British Library. 68p.
 
The work presented here is a facsimile of the second edition.  Ralph Dudgeon originally published it with a commentary by John Webb and Scott Sorenson.  (Homer, New York: Spring Tree, 1989) Bound copies can still be purchased from Dudgeon, at 5745 US Route 11, Homer NY, 13077.
 
The major portion of his book deals with the slide trumpet instrument. The book is notable for the fine illustrations that were drawn on stone by H. Barraud. The number of beautiful plates of instruments, a portrait of Harper, and a detailed cut-away drawing of a trumpet mouthpiece, make this a significant work in the history of the trumpet.  
 
The syllables suggested by Harper to produce multiple tonguing such as tick ca tick and gu da gu da are of interest because they put the weak syllable on the strong beat. Arban later uses the reverse procedure in his method of 1864. Harper is the only author who includes b-natural and c (in the bass clef) as notes of the keyed bugle’s scale. As a natural trumpeter, Harper must have been aware of the full capabilities of most trumpet-like instruments. Perhaps he experimented with the pedal register. My practice on a seven-key English keyed bugle has shown that with the exception of a and g (below the treble clef), the pedal register is much easier to produce than on the cornet or the trumpet. The addition of other keys improved the production of tones in the pedal register as well as in the upper register where they appear in later fingering charts. Harper also mentions the various styles of E-flat keys and their effect on technique.
 
It is interesting to note that Harper, who was the greatest slide trumpet player in England and who was also rather chauvinistic about the slide trumpet’s superiority, would feel that it was necessary to include keyed bugle instructions in this general method. Although only ten of the sixty-eight pages are devoted to the keyed bugle, he speaks with authority. It is likely that even Harper was required to play the keyed bugle, as well as other types of trumpets (valved and natural), when they were indicated in the music in order to keep his playing position in the orchestra. A missing supplement contains a piano part to the airs.
 
Thomas Harper Jr. was born in London on 4 October 1816 and studied with his father at the Royal Academy of Music from 1830 to 1836. The RAM records indicate that Harper Jr. made satisfactory progress in his trumpet studies, but his father remarked that his son had a better tone than he. Thomas Jr. gradually replaced his father in various orchestras and continued the tradition of the slide trumpet virtuosity in oratorio and opera arias.  He made improvements to the English slide trumpet and received royalties from the firm of Köhler from slide trumpet sales. He became a professor at the Royal Academy of Music and, from 1884 to 1893, he also taught at the Royal College of Music.  He held the title, Sergeant Trumpeter to Queen Victoria until his death on 27 August 1898. The work by Thomas Jr. that is presented in facsimile here is one of two pedagogical works produced by him. The first was Harper’s School for the Cornet à pistons that investigated cornet playing.  Harper’s School for the Trumpet: Containing (in addition to the usual instructions) a full description of the instrument, observations on the use of the slide and on the mode of writing music for the trumpet, several remarks connected with the art of playing the instrument and 100 progressive exercises is, as one would imagine from the title, directed at slide trumpet playing.
 
Both Harpers had a strong influence on trumpet playing of their era.  Many works were written with them in mind and there is little doubt that if it were not for their fine playing, teaching, and advocacy for the slide trumpet, the instrument would have not held out as long as it did in England. Their careers represent almost a century of English trumpet playing.
 
For more about the Harpers, read:
 
Brownlow, James Arthur, Jr. The Last Trumpet: A Survey of the History and Literature of the English Slide Trumpet Stuyvesant: Pendragon Press, 1996
 
Sorenson, Scott P. and John Webb. “The Harpers and the Trumpet” in Galpin Society Journal xxxxix , 1986, 35-37
 
Sorenson, Scott P. Thomas Harper Sr. (1786-1853) Trumpet Virtuoso and Pedagogue dissertation, University of Minnesota, 1987