Thursday, 22 November 2018

What's Your Trombone? By Emily Owen

Last weekend, I watched a programme about the composers Vaughan Williams and Holst.

The programme detailed the life and work of the two composers.  They were opposites in many ways, and yet their love of music brought them together.

Holst suffered from weak lungs all his life and learned to play the trombone when he was young, in the hope it would help. As a composer, he took the unusual step of giving the trombone section of the orchestra opportunity for solo parts, as well as giving the same opportunity to other sections.  Unusual, because the trombone section tends to have more of a supporting the whole role.

I thought, what’s my Trombone Equivalent? What have I had to learn to do as a result of (perceived) weakness?

For me, one answer is rest.  I am unable to keep going as much as I might like to, which used to frustrate me.  Ok, if I’m honest, it still does frustrate me at times. But, by treating rest as Holst treated his trombone section, it frustrates me less.  Rather than constantly being in the background, vying for my attention but never scheduled in, it gets its solo part and then it hands over to another section: writing, speaking, whatever it may be.

Trombones come in different shapes and sizes.  So, I think, do Trombone Equivalents.  They may well be different for us all.  Things that are constantly in the background but never really acknowledged, and so never able to hand over to another section.

Holst’s weakness invited the trombone section to know new strength.

When we acknowledge and offer our weaknesses to God, we invite His strength.

Holst didn’t only give prominent sections to the trombones.  He shared them out among the instruments. At the end of his life, in a letter to Vaughan Williams, Holst wrote that he ‘liked the impersonality of orchestral playing’ because it was not about individuals.

It was about each section playing what the composer had written for them, to the best of their ability, and so, acknowledged and together, producing something beautiful.

Something written by the Writer...


  1. Thanks Emily. Some good thoughts to ponder.

    1. Thank you, Eileen. The programme really made me think, too.

    2. Don't know why it says 'unknown'! - Emily