Songs in the Heart: The Cornet Solos Written for Derek Smith
By Jeffrey Barrington, Senior Lecturer of Brass, Asbury University, 2021.
Derek Smith stands as one of the most talented cornet soloists of his generation. From the 1940s to the early 1970s, Smith wowed audiences all over the world with the ease of his technique and the simple vibrato of his beautiful expressive sound. While much has been documented regarding Smith’s later years as the conductor of The Salvation Army’s New York Staff Band, there is a gap in written biographical knowledge concerning his career as a cornet soloist. During his influential career, there were several solos written specifically for him. The purpose of this research is two fold. First, it is intended to bring this collection of solo literature and their origins to light. Second, it is important to highlight the life and achievements of an often overlooked figure whose quiet influence is felt throughout the trumpet word, most prominently through the success of his son, Philip Smith.
While Derek Smith championed many cornet solos throughout his career, there are a handful of influential solos commissioned by or for him. These solos are the focus of this research and include:
Songs in the Heart by Eric Lèidzen
Song for Cornet by Richard Lane
Caprice by Joseph Turrin
The Reason by Earnest Rance, arr. Stephen Bulla
To a Wild Rose by Edward MacDowell, arr. Stephen Bulla
Countryside (later published as Folksong) by Bruce Broughton
Just Where I Am by Miriam Mary Richards, arr. Thomas Scheibner
Several of these solos have gone largely unknown outside of Salvation Army brass band circles. It is through these circles, by way of general familiarity, oral traditions and legends, that these solos are commonly known, however very little has been written about their history. Of these, Songs in the Heart remains as one of the most demanding solos in the cornet repertoire. There were three solos written for Smith that were not part of Salvation Army brass bands; Turrin’s Caprice, and Lane’s Song for Cornet, and Broughton’s Countryside. Again, however, while these have made some limited entrance into the mainstream trumpet solo literature, not much has been written about their origins.
Research into these works was conducted firstly through interviews and correspondence with Derek Smith, Joseph Turrin, Bruce Broughton and Ronald Holz, who as a prominent historian of Salvation Army brass bands provided valuable points of departure. Through these interviews, archival recordings and images, and published material much has been revealed which highlight the importance Derek Smith’s influence has had on the trumpet world.
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