Although you may know the horn by the common “French horn” moniker, most horn players know that the modern form of the instrument we see in bands and orchestras today originated in Germany, not France. Since 1971, the International Horn Society has recommended that we just call it a “horn.”
Whatever you call it, the players of this versatile instrument gather together this time of the year to participate in annual Horns A Plenty Christmas events around the country.
Don Krause, a hornist and horn teacher from Neenah, Wis., is the founder and director of the Fox Valley Horn Club. The club encourages hornists of all ages to pursue the horn and perform at a high level of musicianship. It conducts two annual performances — the spring concert, which features student soloists and contemporary horn ensemble literature, and the Horns A Plenty Christmas concert, in which horn players from far and wide are all welcome to participate.
In 2001, Krause organized the first Horns A Plenty Christmas and brought about twenty horn players to the City Center Plaza in Appleton for a free concert. Several years ago, the first Horns A Plenty event held outside the Fox Valley occurred when the group was invited to perform at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts in Milwaukee. Since then, the event has spread across the country.
“We have been in Washington D.C. the past six years,” Krause said. “Last year we were part of a concert tribute to the Minnesota Orchestra in Edina with fifty horns and some of the most distinguished hornists in the country from Chicago, Cleveland, San Francisco, Cincinnati, Minneapolis and Philadelphia. This year, we’ll be at the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center on December 6, in Kansas City on December 13, and back to Appleton at Fox Valley Lutheran High School on December 20.”
A unique feature of Horns A Plenty Christmas is that Krause brings in a guest artist each year to offer a master class for participants prior to the group’s rehearsal and concert.
“I want younger horn players to witness a concert performance by a professional horn player,” Krause said. “The guest artist this year at Appleton is hornist Sarah Schmalenberger, a professor at the University of St. Thomas. Her master class will begin at 11:30 am. The group rehearsal is at 1:00 pm, and the concert will begin at 2:00 pm.”
Participant registration fees ($5), donations and funds from the sale of event merchandise and the Horns A Plenty Christmas Quartets book all go toward this non-profit group’s mission to promote horn education.
“All of our concerts are free,” Krause said. “Our reason for existence is to provide scholarships to high school horn performers when they go to college.”
Horns A Plenty Christmas will take place on December 20 at Fox Valley Lutheran High School, located at 5300 N. Meade St. in Appleton. Music is available for purchase at the event ($10) and is arranged so that everyone from middle school to professionals can play the book and enjoy performing.
For more information, go to the Horns A Plenty Christmas page on Facebook or check out www.hornsaplentychristmas.com.
Karen O’Brien is a freelance writer and musician.