Sion "Ted” Honea considers the horn to be "the glue in the middle of the orchestra.” It’s a valid viewpoint since the horn more or less serves as a link between the woodwinds and brass. In chamber music, the horn has the rare distinction of playing an important role in brass quintets and in woodwind quintets. It’s sort of a dual-purpose instrument in that respect. That duality also applies to the construction of the modern orchestral horn. Commonly referred to as a double horn, the instrument has a thumb trigger which allows the player to shift from a horn pitched in F to one pitched in B-flat. While such innovations make the instrument easier to play in a variety of different keys, many performers enjoy the challenges of playing the natural, or valveless, horn. Honea is one such advocate. He’ll be joined by other University of Central Oklahoma faculty members at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday for a concert titled "Ted Honea and Friends.” Presented at the UCO Jazz Lab, 100 E Fifth in Edmond, the concert will spotlight three centuries of music including the "Quartet for Horn and Strings” by natural horn virtuoso Giovanni Punto. "I bought my first natural horn when I was still in college,” Honea said recently. "Playing the natural horn gives you a chance to perform early music as it was intended by the composers. It certainly has its eccentricities, but I think it adds an interest and richer variety to people’s enjoyment of music. It’s no longer a historical curiosity but a distinctive instrument in its own right.” An 18th-century musician who played the natural horn used various crooks (brass tubing of different lengths) to play in different keys. Honea said horn players were easy to spot: They carried their instrument in one hand and the circular crooks over their other arm. Honea’s interest in music history led him to pursue a master’s degree at the prestigious Eastman School of Music. From 1978 to 1998, Honea worked at the school’s Sibley Music Library, the largest academic music library in North America. Honea was head of rare books and special collections and the library’s vast historical archive. In much the same way pianists point to Beethoven, Chopin and Liszt as composers who significantly advanced the capabilities of their instrument, Honea cites Mozart, Richard Strauss and Britten as champions of the horn. Mozart composed four concertos for horn, Strauss two and Britten the celebrated "Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings.” "Mozart made the horn a melodic instrument, Strauss showed its virtuoso capabilities, and Britten understood its lyrical capabilities,” Honea said. "All three were opera composers, and that’s not a coincidence. Each of these composers saw the horn as an instrument with potential. "I’ve had opportunities to play in bands, orchestras and chamber music groups. The nice thing about the horn is that it mixes with strings and with winds. In every ensemble, you have to play a bit differently. That keeps things interesting.”
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Sion "Ted” Honea→Title: Assistant professor of music history, head of division of graduate studies, University of Central Oklahoma. →Hometown: Harrah. →Age: 57. →Education: Bachelor of Music in horn performance, University of Central Oklahoma; Master of Arts in musicology, Eastman School of Music; Ph.D. in classics, State University of New York-Buffalo.