Hello, today's interview is very gratifying for me not only because he is an excellent tuba player but also because he is an interpretative reference and teacher of our instruments in his homeland, Belgium.
I am infinitely grateful for his collaboration and interest in my interview project and of course for his friendship.
Without further ado, let's begin.
|Photo: Ieen Vandenhende
· Name and surname:
Bernd van Echelpoel
· What instrument / s do you use?
I play all kinds of tuba. Depending of the music I play, I try to choose the instrument that fits the best in my opinion. This makes me able to stay Flexible and making different colors as a musician.
Last years I mainly use the German rotary F and B tuba by B&S and Melton. Before I also played the 4/4 piston valves C Tuba and the 4/4 piston valve F Tuba. I always was sceptic about the big American York 6/4 C tuba. But recently I switched to the Eastman 6/4 C tuba wich is an instrument that sounds and plays much lighter compared to other York style tubas i tried before.
In Brassband and English music I use the Besson E-flat tuba because of its round and singing sound. Since I first used this instrument in the music by Elgar it felt like the perfect match.
For opera and Italian music I use a Cimbasso built by Lätzsch. This instrument adds a color to your sound what you never will get with a tuba.
· What make and model are the instrument you use:
E-Flat tuba: Besson Sovereign (straight leadpipe and exchangable mouthpiece reciever S, M or L)
F tuba: B&S JBL (with extra trigger on the mainslide and 5 valves)
C tuba: Eastman 836 6/4
B tuba: Melton Fafner
Besson Sovereign (old model)
|Testing your fafner Melton at the factory.
· That manufacturer and model of the /s nozzle /s you use:
F tuba and cimbasso: Dillon Chris Olka CB2
C and B tuba: Dillon Chris Olka CB1 (European shank)
E-flat tuba: Bach 12
Let's talk about your EDUCATION:
· When and where their studies or tuba or euphonium started?
I started as a very young kid with playing percussion in the local wind band. This was not a great success and we decided to change to the trumpet soon after.
My first lessons where with Arthur Vanderhoeft in the Antwerp music academy. I was lucky to have my first lessons with a great pedagogue like him. He certainly planted the seed of my love for music. After a few years he made me change to the euphonium what suited me much better as trumpet.
At the age of 15 I decided to go for a career in music and I started my studies at “dé Kunsthumaniora” (preliminary conservatoire of Antwerp) with teachers Nick Ost and Bart Van Neyghem. Both working in the Symphonic Wind Band of the Belgian Guides at that time and playing with the famous Brassband Willebroek. I started playing still the euphonium, but after 1 year I switched completely to the tuba.
At the age of 18 I went to the Antwerp Conservatoire to study with the great Hendrik-Jan Renes, who is the principal tuba with the Rotterdam Philharmonic. Hendrik-Jan really was of a huge importance to change my mind about sound and projection. He gave me a clear idea about how to sound in a symphony orchestra and how to play in the big concert halls.
· At what age?
I started to play music when I was 7 but the change to tuba came when I was 16.
· What reasons or circumstances led him to study this instrument?
The way this instrument sounds and the function of being the fundament in an ensemble made me loving this instrument so much.
My physical abilities made the tuba more suitable for me.
After listening a recording made by Hans Nickel, Tubaplayer with the German WDR orchestra, I really fell in love with the beautiful singing sound of this instrument. Many people still see our instrument as just the low brass instrument from the wind band. With no more qualities as just accompanying. Nothing more is true!
· Who were your main teachers?
Bart Van Neyghem
As for his PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE:
Please leave us a little account of his experience as a soloist, a member of chamber ensembles, orchestra, band, etc.
· In Orchestra and / or Band:
I started playing music in the local Music School Brassband, A.M.Brass conducted by my teacher Arthur Vanderhoeft. Shortly after I started to play in the local wind band of Edegem and Zwijndrecht, both close to my home.
|With his colleagues from Antwerp Symphony Orchestra
When I started my studies in “dé Kunsthumaniora” I joined brassband Bacchus conducted by my teacher Bart Van Neyghem and the world famous Brassband Willebroek. For the moment I still play in one of the best brassbands of Europe, Festival Brassband for fun. Brassband gives me the extra challenge I need to stay in shape and keep working on my technical side.
My first professional position was with the Netherlands Ballet and Symphony Orchestra “Holland Symfonia” when I was 21.
3 years later I won the same position in the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra.
1 year later I switched to my current position with the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra in my hometown.
As freelancer I played with many of the big orchestras in the area like: Concertgebouw Orchestra, Radio Symphony Orchestra Frankfurt, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Philharmonie Zuid Nederland, Residentie Orchestra the Hague, Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, Brussels Philharmonic, Flemish Opera, symphony Orchestra of Flanders, …
· Metal sets:
I n the past I have been working a lot in Brass quintets and Brass ensembles. At the moment I don’t play in a fixed ensemble. In the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra we play lots of chamber music with the Low Brass section and Brass quintet.
I love playing chambermusic and I have lots of plans for the future. Stay tuned if you want to know more.
· Solo concerts:
As Besson, B&S and Melton artist I love to play solo concerts and to give masterclasses all arround the globe.
This brought me to Colombia, Brasil, USA, Spain, Germany, Netherlands, France, Finland, …
I recorded A solo CD with the Belgian AirForce Band called Berno with 2 new Belgian Compositions on it written for me by my Good Friends Steven Verhelst and Wim Bex.
About your ORCHESTRAL EXPERIENCE:
• Tell us your experiences to access the orchestra place you currently occupy:
Playing as a professional musician in the Netherlands gave me a lot of experience. I loved my time in the Netherlands but I was living at the same time in Belgium. Every day I had to travel hours to my work. I never really wanted to move because my family and friends were all living in Belgium. As soon I heard the position of tuba was open in Antwerp I decided this position had to be mine. In the the end I can only be happy to be able to play in my hometown, close to my family and friends. Doing what I like the most. Playing beautiful music and connect to the Antwerp audience together with my lovely colleagues.
• How was the selection process?
Like in almost every regular selection for orchestras there was an audition in 3 rounds. The first 2 behind a screen and a last one open for the jury to see us.
There were in total 39 people present that day to do audition. In the 2nd round 4 people were left and I entered the finals together with my dear friend David Kutz who is currently playing in my old orchestra the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra.
|In the orchestra
• What works and / or orchestral solos were there as mandatory in the tests?
In the first round I had to play Lebedev Concerto on the contrabasstuba. In the 2nd round they asked me to play the Vaughan Williams Concerto on the bass tuba. The final round consisted of the major symphonic orchestral excerpts.
• Did you take any work of free choice? Which was?
No there was no free choice piece. As far as I know this happens not so much in European orchestras.
In another sense:
• How is your current work in the orchestra?
I love to be able to work in the same city as I live with my family. I grew up as a kid 15 km away from Antwerp. So I can not be more happy to share my passion so close.
The work in the orchestra is every week different. We play lots of big symphonic repertoire. But as a Flemish orchestra we see it as our duty to perform less known music from our own composers in the past as also giving a stage to young and more established composers living at the present time.
Next to the regular work we have lots projects for kids, schools and what I like the most are the social projects we do. This way we connect with people who would never be able to come to us in the concert hall.
• Do you combine it with another musical group?
|With his colleagues from Festival Brass band
I play for fun in one of the best Brass bands of Europe “Festival Brass band” conducted my close friend and colleague Steven Verhaert.
Playing in a brass band is the perfect way to keep challenging myself and not to forget where my roots are.
• What recommendations would you give future tuba players aspiring to an orchestral position?
Look for your own sound and don’t try to copy the sound from somebody else. Maybe your sound is not suited for orchestra A but orchestra B might just be looking for somebody like you.
Keep working to become everyday a better player as you were the day before. Don’t wait for magic to happen. The only person who can help you to become a better player is yourself! Be your own teacher! We as teachers are just a coach to help you reaching your goals.
When you prepare for auditions, exams, concerts, … keep working on a good sound, sense of rhythm, Metrum, intonation and articulation. This is what can make the difference on the moment with other players.
Know that people in a jury for an audition are looking for a musician and they are not there to judge you as a person!
Treating OTHER TOPICS OF INTEREST.
Here in Spain, in some centers the Euphonium is considered to be an instrument that should have its own specialization and, on the other hand, some believe that, as an instrumentalist, one should know and master the Tuba and Euphonium.
In the school where i teach in Antwerp we have different teachers for both instruments. In my opinion this is the best way. A euphonium and tuba have similarities but also big differences.
The best way is like we teach in Antwerp. We are more a team of brass teachers instead of individual classes.
I don’t know many people who combine playing the tuba and euphonium on a high level. Both instruments are not easy to combine because of the difference in size of mouthpieces. I know people who can manage it very well. But most of the time 1 instrument is the primary choice.
• Could you give us your opinion on this and how you would approach this topic in the interest of education and training adapted to the necessary specialization that is currently required worldwide?
As a professional musician of the 21st century. We need to be much more open for different styles and work options. It is almost impossible to earn a living with only one job. Most of us will combine playing in orchestra, ensemble, solo and teaching.
Therefore it is important to have knowledge of different instruments and styles. For a tuba player it can be interesting to know more about the euphonium. For a euphonium player it can be interesting to know more about trombone, tuba, tenor horn and baritone. This to be a better teacher to the future generation of young musicians and to have more options in your career.
• How do you see the tuba and euphonium teaching today and with a view to the future?
The quality of teachers is always increasing but the quality of time we get to teach young musicians is always decreasing. This is something we see in Belgium very good the last decade.
Because of this we have to be much more inventive to get our message to our students. We have to be much more flexible but please never lower the level of your teaching. We have the future of music in our own hands and this this is a big responsability!
• Please tell us anything else that you consider of interest on this topic
Any good brass student should have a very well balanced practice routine. Never just play what you like but also what you less like. Probably you donˋt like it because it feels difficult to you. Practice makes you a better musician. Try every day to be a better musician as the day before.
For me a good practice diet exists of: warming up, basics, lyrical playing, orchestral playing and repertoire. All of this topics you should handle every day depending of what you have to do professionally that day. If you had a rehearsal in the orchestra you should maybe not handle that topic to much but more of the lyrical etc.
|The Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp.
Let's talk about your EXPERIENCE IN TEACHING:
• Tell us in which learning centers you have taught classes (visiting teacher, courses, master classes, etc.)
I have been teaching in all levels of music in Belgium. Today I only teach in the Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp.
I used to teach in the local music school of Antwerp and in the middle school of music of Antwerp till last year.
For masterclasses i visited many places in the world but mainly Europe. I gave masterclasses in the USA, colombia, Brasil, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, France and Spain.
As a Besson, B&S and Melton artist I can visit many places. Next to this we are participating as school in the Erasmus Program of Europe. This system makes it easy for teachers to exchange between schools for masterclasses en for students to study abroad. Please contact me if you are interested to work with me in your school or if you would like to come and study in Antwerp.
• How do you organize your classes and the topic in general?
My teaching day is normally on Monday. I start at 9.00 in the morning with a warming-up for the whole class. After this we go to individual classes and chamber music classes.
Every 2 weeks we try to organise a rehearsal with piano and we try to organise every (2) months a concert for our class. Every time with a different topic going from preparation auditions to repertoire concerts. In the brass department we organise each month a moment where the students play for each other and to give comments to the fellow students.
Every Wednesday the students play together in the brass ensemble or orchestral repertoire classes. In this classes we do not only touch the symphonic repertoire but also wind orchestra and brass band.
• How long are your classes?
The classical warming up usually is 1,5 hour. The individual classes between 1 and 1,5 hour.
• Do you think it is important for a student to make public presentations during their years of study? If so, how many times do you consider it appropriate and at what age or grade? Elementary, Professional, Superior?
Every concert or exam I ask my students to present themselves. This has several reasons. First of all it is the best way to connect with your audience and next to this it makes sure you have to know the background of what you play.
An important part of the course curriculum is standardized and based on the idea that the student masters the repertoire alone, sometimes to the detriment of the large group repertoire (Orchestra and Band), when in fact the majority of Tuba students and Euphonium are going to be teachers and / or members of a band and, to a lesser extent, of an orchestra in the case of the Tubas.
· In your opinion, how should this problem be addressed? How important do you think it is to include learning and mastery of the orchestral repertoire as part of the course curriculum?
As I already mentioned before we have different view on this topic in Antwerp. We have 2 types of masters available. One for the performing artist and one for the teaching artist. This way the student can choose which path they want to follow. They can also choose to do first the performing masters and after that a shorter educational master.
In the orchestral repertoire class and audition training we use repertoire from the symphonic orchestra, wind band and brass band. This because the reality in Belgium is indeed that many of our students win jobs in wind bands or teach and play in brass bands.
A musician in the 21st century can not only do 1 thing, they probably have to combine more jobs and be flexible to do them. The conservatoire is there to prepare the students for this changing world.
· If I had to choose as a student (in a hypothetical situation), would you have a preference between a Tuba student and a Euphonium student?
This is all depending of what you would like to do and where your heart is. This is not up to me to judge. As a euphonium player you have less chances to play in symphony orchestra but more to play solo and teach. You would have a more leading role in ensembles.
As a tuba player you have more chances to play in symphonic orchestra and you can teach also. You would have a more supportive role in ensembles. It is all a matter of choice and taste.
Next to all this there is something like physics. Not everybody is made to play tuba or euphonium.
About your DAILY WORK.
· What type of repertoire do you mainly work in?
My daily work is in a symphony orchestra. So mainly I play the classical music written for big orchestra.
To challenge myself technically and also because I just like it, I play in a brass band called Festival Brass band (current national champions of Belgium).
I love playing solo and chamber music but there a not so many chances to do this often.
· What warm-up exercises do you use?
I try to have a basic routine to lean on every day and to add new ideas from time to time.
I use a combination of ideas from my teachers, my own and books i have. A good routine should have at least breathing, physical, tone excercises, flexibility, scales, range, Flow excercises, …
There is so much fun stuff out there. Go and explore them and do not just stick to what you know. Learn by trial and error what works and does not work for you.
|In the record studio
TALKING ABOUT TECHNICAL ISSUES:
· Could you give us your opinion on the different concepts of sound and what characteristics define it, the articulation, the types of instruments, the literature, if the influence of language and musical tradition on sound is considered important and how to play?
Sound is something in your mind. Like Arnold Jacobs said. Sing the melody in your mind and play it.
I try to vary my sound for every style and piece of music. This one of the main reasons I use 5 instruments in the orchestra. They all have a different characteristic and sound. Next to all of this I try to differ the different articulations and sound I want.
The most important thing is what nature gave us, our ears! Always listen and adapt to what is happening around you.
· Tell us a bit about the manufacture of Tubas and / or Euphoniums and mouthpieces and tell us about your experiences and tastes of a particular manufacturer and why?
Again is this something of taste. Do you prefer piston valves or more into the German rotary valve system? Both have pro and contra.
I am big fan of the instruments made by the Buffet Crampon group. They have everything I like and especially they make top quality instruments. My f tuba B&S JBL has a warm round sound with lots of core. My besson E-flat has a dark round and singing sound which blends well with the other tubas in the brass band. My Melton Fafner has everything an orchestral tuba needs to have. A deep dark sound with lots of projection and core.
For my c-tuba I went to an American 6/4 Eastman. This is something different. Dark warm and very flexible. Perfect when you want to make a carpet beneath the orchestra and blend in with the double basses.
My cimbasso by Laetsch is amazing when you play Italian opera repertoire. Easy to play in tune and with a singing projecting sound blending very well with the trombones.
For my mouthpieces I have been searching long time to find the perfect gear and I am still looking. Perfection does not exist! It is all matter of searching and taste.
On my C and B-flat i think I finally found almost perfection. I use the Dillon Chris Olka cb1. The perfect combination between good clear articulation and a deep dark projecting sound.
On my e-flat I play a Bach 12 what gives me a good articulation and easy to blend sound.
On my f-tuba I use a perantucci 65. Till now the best working mouthpiece, but i keep looking.
|Photo: Ieen Vandenhende
Please, if possible, tell us about the history and teaching of our instruments in your land and in neighbouring countries.
In Belgium we have a mixture of 3 main languages and cultures Dutch, French and German. You see this also in the musical world. We have influences of all countries surrounding us what makes us a very rich country.
I like to call myself a mixture of German, French en English influences. I see the same in my orchestra. We have so many different cultures and we have a long tradition of being flexible in service of the music. After playing professionally in many other countries this is the thing that defines us in Belgium the most, i guess.
· In your experience, do you think the diversity of performers, instruments and the opportunity to train in various specialized schools is homogenizing in interpretive centers already established? (Example: Russian, American, German, English, French).
In the past you had orchestras with mainly people from around that area who played in orchestras. This is changing for long now to a more versatile combination of nationalities in each orchestra. But I don’t believe that they are losing their identity because of this. When you look to orchestras like Concertgebouw, Berlin, Vienna, Chicago, … They still have their own way of making sound. This is something we have to treasure for the future! We have to play intelligent, with knowledge of the music and add our own taste to the recipe. There is not something as a standard recipe for the perfect standard orchestral sound.
Bernd, it´s a big pleasure and an honor to count on your experience, collaboration in this series of interviews and friendship.
Thank you very much and my best wishes.
A big hug.
PD. Here is the link to Bernd's youtube channel. It's really great. Enjoy it. 🤙🏾🤙🏾🎶🎶🥃🥃🇨🇺🇪🇸