Saturday, June 10, 2006

my grandfather & Ralph Vaughan Williams

I have a Google Alert set up to e-mail me for new search results for "Philip Catelinet." Most of the time it returns links to ancient GroupWise listserv messages I posted in 1999. However, once in a while it pays off with something good. This morning I got an alert about this page where you can see a photo of my grandfather (who was also named Philip Catelinet) playing his tuba for the British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1954. I have a portrait of both men from the same photo shoot hanging over my desk at home.

Most of my friends have heard this story before, but for my new readers or those who don't know, my grandfather played the tuba for several London orchestras in the 1950s. When Vaughan Williams wrote his Tuba Concerto, he asked my grandfather for some guidance on writing a solo part for the instrument. When the work was completed, my grandfather premiered it at one of the Proms concerts in June of 1954 (I hope I'm getting all these details right). Vaughan Williams put my grandfather's name in the score of the concerto, and since there are so few works for solo tuba, most tubists know the name Philip Catelinet from the tuba part for the Vaughan Williams piece. (My grandfather also taught at Carnegie Mellon University for twenty years and wrote and arranged music for band and orchestra, so the concerto wasn't his only claim to fame.) Occasionally, in certain musical settings (like picking up tickets at the New York Philharmonic box office), someone will recognize my name and ask me about my grandfather. He passed away in 1995, but his spirit lives on in the music he wrote and the lives he touched.

1 comment:

Philip Smith said...

Hi Phil...I have just stumbled on your page as I was looking for some bio notes on your Grandad...I am playing a concert on this Friday in Lancaster, PA with my wife and some other musicians for a mental health ministry called "No Longer Alone Ministries"...my Dad, Derek Smith (English cornetist), and your Grandad were friends through their relationship with the Salvation Army...I also had an aquaintance relationship with your Grandad through the Army and its musicamp at Star Lake in NJ...I am also the Principal Trumpet at the NY Philharmonic, so if you come by, please say hi...perhaps we could have a cup of tea...sincerely...Phil Smith