The Britten Pears Young Artist Programme will be 50 in 2022. One of our new 2021-22 Britten Pears Young Artists, Josh Cirtina, a member of trombone quartet Slide Action, talks to us about expectations, anticipation and creating a specially commissioned video for an event at The Red House, Aldeburgh.

by Josh Cirtina

As a chamber group on the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme we didn’t quite know what to expect. We knew when we were applying that we were hoping to receive tutoring from Titans in the music industry and would be working towards our small part in the 22’ Aldeburgh Festival, but bar that we thought it best to stay open-minded. What we certainly did not expect was the positively effervescing melting pot of musicians (singers, instrumentalists, composers) that the Young Artist Programme has assembled together for its 50th anniversary.

Traditionally, the trombone quartet has seen little relevance or attention in the classical music world (or any other world for that matter), so our open-mindedness was formerly well-placed - we were not expecting any particular interest from our fellow programme members. However, the truly unique collaborative atmosphere created on the 2021/22 programme has had some inspired outcomes. Aside from the vast swathes of information we’ve taken in from the various mentoring and coaching sessions, as a quartet we’ve been genuinely touched and amazed by the creativity, generosity and interest we have received from our fellow Britten Pears Young Artist Programme cohort. So far this has seen plans made for at least five new pieces for or featuring trombone quartet and some seeds of collaboration that we really cannot wait to see the outcome of. Each time we alight our train at Saxmundham and arrive at the Maltings there is a buzz of anticipation amongst everyone surrounding what we’ll achieve this week, what new sounds we’ll discover and where we’ll end up in a few days time.

This anticipation in turn also fosters a sense of trust; there is no judgement here in trying out new ideas, no matter how unthinkable or ludicrous, no shame in suggesting that creative thought that has been bubbling away in the back of your mind for three years but always been a little too frightened to express aloud.

Our most recent residency in October featured not only time to rehearse and learn, but also undertake a commission project from Britten-Pears Arts. We had been asked to put together a super-natural themed video, to be displayed at an event at the Red House and also online. Filmed content is not something new to us (thanks to the superb videography skills of one of our members, Benny), but we thought this a great opportunity to delve deeper into our curiosity in this medium.

I chose to arrange the prelude from Britten’s last Opera - ‘Owen Wingrave’ for the quartet as this music fit the theme perfectly. We wanted to embrace the fact that we are four trombones rather than an orchestra playing this music so tried exploring a multitude of different sounds in the arrangement. Jamie (our audio specialist within the group) set about sampling sounds of the reed beds outside the Maltings to embed within the recording (and showed his impressive talents on the tenor drum). Huw then dazzled us with his stunning cadenzas before Benny unleashed his creativity on the video. This was certainly no easy task; battling high winds, heavy rains and total darkness while filming the video in a derelict part of the site, and that was all before he spent hours working away in the editing suite.

This video marks some of the first glimpses our affirmed direction as an ensemble, pushing the envelope for the quartet, trombones and brass music in general. We plan to use our time on the programme exploring just about every musical avenue we can think of with the help of our cohort and bring you a new perspective for the trombone.

Slide Action | Huw Evans, Benny Vernon, Jamie Tweed, Josh Cirtina

Commissioned by Britten Pears Arts for an event at The Red House, Aldeburgh
With the kind permission of Faber Music

Filmed at Snape Maltings

Video by Benny Vernon
Audio by Jamie Tweed

Slide Action Trombone Quartet are Britten Pears Young Artists for 2021-22