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.