An interview with Jim Stubbs our Trumpet soloist

The Stubbs Trio

Our February soloist is Jim Stubbs, who will be playing the Haydn trumpet concerto. Jim played with the Metropolitan Opera for about twenty-five years. Yes, in New York. When you are at the concert this February 19th in Sooke, or February 20th in Metchosin, don’t miss his biography. There’s a lot in there! The New York Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic (Russia), LaScala and the Bruckner Orchestra, Lenz — and that’s just a start.

How did this busy professional land in the Gulf Islands?

That was our first question to Jim, when we recently had a chance to talk to him.

He said that he knew of the existence of the Canadian west coast (not all New Yorkers do) through two adult children of his, who knew the region and had been to Victoria.

Back in New York, Jim and Laurie, his wife, a professional bassoon player, spent a lot of their time in the car, getting to rehearsals, getting to concerts. Although they lived just across the river, on the New Jersey side, they would have to leave home an hour or an hour and a half before down beat, to be on time. Jim names traffic as one of the big stressors of life in the city. Also, he was a very busy man, as his biography fully attests.

One day Laurie Stubbs Googled Saltspring, and liked the alternative look of the Island: organic farms, sheep, plenty of artists. She liked that it’s built on a rock. Next, she Googled condos. Three and a half years ago, the Stubbs arrived, with son Matthew, then 11, and daughter Sarah, then 15, ready to try something completely different.

Jim says he is pleased his children have experienced both New York and Saltspring, two contrasting lifestyles.

Jim has done more than sit on the Ganges dock and watch the tide go in and out. Together with Laurie and Matthew, who is a pianist, he founded the Saltspring Chamber Players, which has presented a variety of interesting work, from Stravinsky to all six Brandenburgs, to solo piano works, presented by Matthew.

Jim tells us that he often put together informal concerts in New York City, for reasons as varied as fundraising for immigration lawyers, to playing for the homeless. In New York City, he says, it’s always easy to find people who are willing to play.

Another of his Saltspring endeavours is Bach on the Rock, a chamber choir and 

chamber orchestra, which gives combined concerts twice a year together. They are doing Elijah, this spring; they have done the Christmas Oratorio. The orchestra also performs on its own and recently played the Haffner Symphony;

We know opera fans wouldn’t forgive us if we failed to ask about his twenty-five years at the Met. He tells us he enjoyed playing on stage and did it many times. He played herald trumpet, an instrument that looks like the trumpets in Egyptian hieroglyphs: long, straight and narrow. Usually they have a flag of some kind hanging down.  At the Met, they are used on stage in a number of productions such as Aida and Lohengrin. He also played in the Meistersingers, Carmen, and the one onstage trumpet note in The Magic Flute

For the Haydn concerto, Jim will be using a relatively small E-flat trumpet. The work was originally scored for clarina, a kind of keyed woodwind, which had (it is assumed) the elegance and flexibility of a woodwind instrument, and which makes it a challenge to perform on the trumpet.

Jim is more than up to it. We have already enjoyed his playing in the Christmas Oratorio and the Messiah.

Sooke: EMCS at 8:00 on Saturday, February 19th .

Metchosin: New St. Mary’s at 2:30 pm on Sunday February 20th.

See you there!

interview by Sonja de Wit of Sooke Phil High Notes