In a high school band room in 1994, Miss Mussel discovered that there was more to music than Andrew Lloyd Weber medleys, marches and the James Swearingen catalogue. Gustav Holst’s Suite No.1 For Military Band in Eb major was the one that started it all. It was difficult but not unplayable and each run-through brought measurable improvement. The best part was that it elicited an emotional reaction – something Memory, Blaze Away or Novena never quite managed.
As a new horn player, the F above the staff in the Chaconne solo was Miss Mussel’s nemesis, sniffing haughtily every time its heights were not quite attained. That it appeared as the second half of a rising perfect fourth at the end the melody, when air and lip endurance were at a premium, only heightened the indignation.
Another reason this piece was so well-loved is that Holst actually gave the horn a part that was interesting (those went to the euphonium in marches) and independent from the vile alto saxophone. At the high school level, most band arrangements double alto sax and horn or provide cues in the sax part should the horn player falter or not exist. This was a source of endless aggravation for Miss Mussel as many a solo got co-opted by Saxe’s infernal invention.
You cannot even begin to imagine Miss Mussel’s excitement upon discovering that orchestras had neither euphoniums nor saxophones. Result!