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James Olcott, Professor of Trumpet Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, USA




Reminiscences on A Hoffnung Fanfare on the Occasion of the 50th Anniversary of its Composition
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A Hoffnung Fanfare: No Joke
by James Olcott

A Hoffnung Fanfare, written by Malcolm Arnold in 1960, was composed for a memorial service in honor of Gerard Hoffnung, a much beloved British humorist, who had died of a cerebral hemorrhage the year before. The piece is unique in several respects, not the least of which are the forces for which it calls: thirty-six herald trumpets. To this writer’s knowledge, there are no other original works for trumpets alone that match or exceed this number.

The circumstances surrounding the work are also unique. From creation to performance to print to its special place in trumpetdom, the fanfare has a fascinating history.


Gerard Hoffnung  (1925-1959) was a very popular British humorist and a man of “considerable achievements as - amongst other things - a cartoonist, tuba player, impresario, broadcaster, and public speaker much sought after by the Oxford and Cambridge Unions.”[1] He is best known for two activities, however. His music-based cartoons have been a staple of inside-the-profession humor since their first appearance in Punch in 1955, and for his highly successful - and very funny - music festivals held at the Royal Festival Hall in London. “These concerts featured contributions from distinguished serious musicians. Compositions commissioned for the festivals included Malcolm Arnold's A Grand, Grand Overture, Op. 57 which was dedicated to U.S. President Herbert Hoover and was scored for three vacuum cleaners and floor polisher, [2] and Franz Reizenstein's Concerto Populare was described as ‘The Piano Concerto to end all Piano Concertos’[3].

Upon Hoffnung’s death, it was decided by Hoffnung’s friends and family to produce a memorial concert in his honor. It was not to be an ordinary memorial service however, for, in accordance with Hoffnung’s joie de vivre, this concert too was to be an evening of surprise and humor.[4]

Malcolm Arnold, one of Hoffnung’s like-minded and trusted musical collaborators, was commissioned to write a fanfare to open the event, now entitled the Vintage Hoffnung Music Festival. The celebration was set for October 31, 1960 in London’s Royal Festival Hall, the location of the two previous Hoffnung festivals.[5]

The Work
It is unknown whose idea it was to begin the evening with a grand fanfare, but Arnold’s sense of irony was clearly in play.  With the evening conceived as a celebration of Hoffnung’s own gift of musical humor, nothing could, it seems, be more appropriate than a fanfare of grandiose proportion.

Fifty-eight measures long with a performance time of one minute and fifty-five seconds, A Hoffnung Fanfare is a quintessential British fanfare, rousing and rhythmic, with typical harmonies. It is scored for six groups of three B-flat herald trumpets and three bass herald trumpets each, with each assemblage in a different position in the auditorium so as to surround the audience. The groups enter at different times within the work, trading motifs and combining with others to create a truly overwhelming and exhilarating experience.

But Arnold, also well aware that the fanfare was heralding the opening of a memorial concert, insured a moment of serious remembrance of Hoffnung through a unique musical gesture: after what is clearly the final chord, the piece continues with eleven beats of rests. “These three measures were to be counted out full value in the performance,” said Arnold in a conversation with this writer in 1990, “creating, for six seconds, the decorum and tradition of a memorial service, namely a moment of silence.”

The First Performance
The work was listed in the program simply as Fanfare[6], and, true to the intended humor of the evening[7], John Amis’ program notes introduced the work in the following manner:

The composer was out walking one day on Richmond Hill and he stopped for a while on the brow and started to read from a Bowdlerised Shakespeare. He was so taken with the line: “She hath played the trumpet in my bed” that he decided that when he had finished writing the tune “Colonel Bogey” he would compose a work based on this poetic phrase from ‘Othello’. It is scored for solo trumpet (muted).

With the groups interspersed throughout the hall, A Hoffnung Fanfare opened the concert, performed by students from the Royal Military School of Music under the baton of Lt.-Col. David McBain. Trombone and euphonium players played the bass trumpet parts on bass herald trumpets pitched in G and B-flat.

Expecting an introspective solo muted trumpet, which would have suited a memorial concert, and getting instead a fanfare which “made a thrilling effect simply through the sound of group on brazen group stationed throughout the hall,”[8] the audience was prepped and primed for the rest of the evening.

After the concert, which included works by Francis Baines, Francis Chagrin, and Joseph Horowitz, among others, the parts to the fanfare were given to Annetta Hoffnung, Gerard’s widow, who stored them at her home.

The Music and Subsequent Publication
The parts were written out in ink on thin manuscript paper and pasted on pieces of cardboard measuring 7.5 inches by 5.25 inches. The first six parts are written in one hand, while the rest are in Arnold’s own manuscript.[9]  Parts one, two, and three of each group are in treble clef and transposed for B-flat trumpets, while the fourth through six parts are written in bass clef in concert pitch.

Note in the second example that fingerings for bass trumpet in G have been added by the performer. Note also that the manuscript, in Malcolm Arnold’s hand, is smeared by condensation indicating music stand rather than lyre use[10], and that the page has been pasted over Regimental March Past Quick Steps. [11]

The piece remained unknown and set aside until 1986, when I was asked to chair the organization of the Festival of Trumpets Concert at the 1987 International Trumpet Guild’s international conference in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The 1986 ITG conference had been held at the Guildhall School of Music in London where, at the Festival of Trumpets, several of Arnold’s fanfares for six trumpets were performed. Hoping to bring these fanfares to the 1987 ITG conference, I contacted Malcolm Arnold’s agent, Georgina Ivor.

During our telephone conversation, Ms. Ivor mentioned A Hoffnung Fanfare. Immediately intrigued - for here was a work of which no one other than those directly involved with the 1960 performance had been aware - I asked if it would be possible to send the music to me ascertain its possible usage in Kalamazoo. To my amazement and gratitude, Ms. Ivor, in March of 1987, obtained the music from Mrs. Hoffnung and sent not copies, but the original parts themselves.

It did not take long to realize what had been uncovered: a major British fanfare by a major British composer which called for the largest contingent of trumpets on record.

As there was no score in the package from Ms. Ivor, the manuscripts were immediately photocopied, a full score was created, and the package sent back to her. Aware that it would be unlikely that, because of the forces necessary, the piece would get much play, I condensed the work to twelve trumpets, and with that premiered the fanfare at a concert given by the Miami University (Ohio) Trumpet Ensemble on April 9, 1988. In December of that same year, the original version, using twenty-four trumpets and twelve trombones, was given its American premiere at Miami University, conducted by myself.

The original work, transcribed for thirty-six B-flat trumpets with optional notes down an octave in seven of the parts, was finally performed for the first time on an ITG Festival of Trumpets Concert in 1989 at Santa Barbara, California. It was played by professional performers from around the world, again with myself as conductor.

In January 1990, Malcolm Arnold was artist-in-residence for one week at Miami University. The original version of A Hoffnung Fanfare, this time with twenty-seven trumpets and nine trombones, was played at the opening concert. Praising the performance, Arnold mentioned that it constituted only the second time he had heard the piece outside of his head.[12] Later that year I received permission from the composer to publish my earlier twelve-part arrangement, and in 2000 to publish the original version. [13].  For the latter, I chose to publish the version used at the 1988 ITG Conference. This version has been played at ITG conferences seven times since 1989 (1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2003), and has become a staple at large gatherings of trumpet players around the world.

A Hoffnung Fanfare has not been performed with the original instrumentation since its presentation in Royal Festival Hall, and is being published by Triplo Press in this form in 2010, on the occasion of its 50th anniversary.[14]



Notes and References:
[1] Wickipedia ( Hoffnung’s monologues – in particular “The Bricklayer’s Lament” – have become classics of British humor, as have his comments and performances at his various music festivals.
[2] Gerard Hoffnung’s widow, Annetta, recalls Arnold and her husband traveling together to the Hoover Showroom in London to find suitable appliances for the overture. “Malcolm took a tuning fork with him and found several sweepers in B-flat to his liking, and was especially taken with a floor polisher in G.”
[3] Peter Schickele, Wait Till You Hear Mozart on the Garden Hose, New York Times, March 10, 1968
 [4] Annetta Hoffnung, March 15, 2010
[5] The Hoffnung Music Festival Concert, November 12, 1956, and the Hoffnung Interplanetary Music Festival, November 21 and 22, 1958. A third festival, The Hoffnung Astronautical Music Festival, performed on November 28, 1961, was also performed here.
[6] There is speculation as to why the title A Hoffnung Fanfare was not used in the program. The most logical – and most likely - is supported by an email sent to this writer on May 26, 2010 by Arnold biographer Paul Harris: “Malcolm was able to write very fast when he wanted to.  There are numerous stories - he helped a friend complete a film score overnight once and famously did the entire score for Bridge on the River Kwai in ten days.  So, a fanfare could have been dispensed with in thirty minutes easily! He probably hadn’t written (the fanfare) when the programme was being put together.”
      This is also supported by the fact that the forces listed to play the fanfare include drums, of which there are none in the score.
[7] “John Amis and Malcolm Arnold worked closely together in producing the Vintage Hoffnung Music Festival, and John certainly knew of Malcolm’s intent to write a mammoth fanfare for the concert. Everything was mammoth with Malcolm.” (Annetta Hoffnung, May 27, 2010)
[8] Andrew Porter, Financial Times, November 1, 1960
[9] Determined upon examination by Malcolm Arnold biographer Paul Harris.
[10] It is impossible for condensation to drip on the music if the music is above the water key on a trumpet.
[11] “It is clear that all the original parts were written on thin manuscript paper, rather than stiff cardboard.  These 'floppy' parts would have tended to bend over when placed in the instrument lyres, therefore they would have been stuck onto some disused march-card parts made of cardboard. (As there were over 200 army bandsmen studying at Kneller Hall each year, there would have been plenty of spare march cards available.)  Also, 'Regimental March Past Quick Steps' is not the title of a piece of music in itself; all British Army military band marches had that description at the top of the march card, followed by the actual title of the piece below.” Major (Retd) R G Swift, LRAM, ARCM, LTCL, psm, Archivist, The Royal Military School of Music, London. June 1, 2010.
 [12] Arnold’s method of composition was to write music away from the piano, using his ‘inner ear’ as his only reference. “The room was bare but for his desk and a piano, which was rarely used. He wrote directly into full score in ink, with a penknife to hand, in case, like a medieval monk, he had to scrape away an error, but he hardly ever did so, because the music was assembled within his mind before he even began to bar the manuscript paper.” (Anthony Meredith and Paul Harris, Malcolm Arnold –  Rogue Genius, Thames/Elkin, London, 2004. Page 125)
[14] Presuming that it would be a rare moment when 18 bass herald trumpets would be available with which to present this work, substitutions of trombones or euphoniums are entirely acceptable and suitable.

About the author: James Olcott is Professor of Trumpet at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and an active trumpet performer. Long a proponent of trumpet ensemble as a composer/arranger/editor/conductor and pedagogue, he is the founder of Triplo Press, which publishes music for trumpet ensemble only and boasts a catalogue of over 100 works for from three to thirty-six trumpets.

Copyright © 2010 James Olcott, Oxford, Ohio 45056 USA. All Rights Reserved.
Reproduced with permission and courtesy of Philp Biggs Brass Festivals Ltd. To order The Brass Herald please call 01223 234090 or visit

To order scores and parts for Sir Malcolm Arnold’s Hoffnung Fanfare visit 



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