It’s springtime in Las Vegas!  For about a month, we can enjoy outdoor parties without either freezing or roasting, and then we’re back in our climate-controlled houses and casinos.  It’s a shame; many of our city’s residents have created fabulous backyard environments, and there are some musical instruments that are just perfect for outdoor playing.

Just the other day I was downtown when I heard a distant trumpet.  Instantly I could tell it wasn’t a recording.  Sure enough, a street musician was performing two blocks away, and the breeze carried the clear notes easily to my ears.  It sharpened my anticipation for tonight’s performance, the final Soirée of the Cartier Connoisseur Series.


Barbara Butler

Charles Geyer

Barbara Butler and Charles Geyer, both music professors at Northwestern University , have been performing as a husband-and-wife duo for three decades.  Tonight, beside the pool at the home of our hosts Bill and Lynn Weidner, the couple raised two very small horns and transported us to Baroque Europe with Johann Vierdanck’s lively “Capriccioso for Two Trumpets.”  Geyer explained afterward that these were called “piccolo trumpets” for their small size and high pitch.  An American piece, “The Glendy Burk,” had Barbara starting out with the small horn but soon switching to a larger, richer-sounding flugelhorn from the arsenal of trumpets in front of them.  This tune, named for a Civil War-era riverboat, was written by Stephen Foster and inspired by Negro songs he heard sung along the riverbanks.  The horn melodies, accompanied by piano and percussion, carried beautifully in the evening air.  I hope the residents across the golf course had their doors open.

“It’s a moisture valve,” insisted Barbara with a grin as she held her horn over a cloth and opened a small hole in the brass tubing.  In my old high-school band we called it a “spit valve,” but the Weidner home is a much classier setting.  To play a trumpet, the musician purses her lips tightly against the small round mouthpiece and makes a vibrating, “pbbbbb” sound.  Inevitably, this sends a lot of “moisture” into the instrument, and it must be drained as it builds up.  Good thing this was an outdoor performance.  I was reminded of an earlier Soirée at which Eric Ruske joked, while draining his French horn into a planter box, “This is why you don’t invite a horn player into your home.”

Charlie and Barbara harmonize at
center stage on a perfect evening.

From stage right (by the sliding glass door) comes a bright fanfare from Barbara’s trumpet, heralding the unmistakable Carmen Fantasia, music from Georges Bizet’s famous opera.  Carmen is an alluring young Gypsy woman working in a cigarette factory in Seville, and trouble ensues when a soldier and a bullfighter both fall for her.  Charlie answers with his own flugelhorn fanfare from stage left (near the bar), and the action begins.  From the well-known, rollicking “Toreador Song” to the slow, sensual “Duet” to the frenetic back-and-forth of the “Gypsy Song,” this suite exudes passion and color.  It’s a wonder Spain doesn’t have a much larger population.

Visit Webbandstand.comToo bad this was the final Soirée of the season, but what a great way to end it!  The Philharmonic and its fund-raising Soirées will return in the fall.  Until then, the summer heat will require outdoor party guests to be in the pool.  Sometimes moisture is a good thing.

By Robert LaGrone, Las Vegas Jetsetters Magazine Entertainment Editor.

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