High Anxiety Bones



High Anxiety Bones


trombone Quartet


…too scared to play




Steven Witser, Edward A. Zadrozny,


Paul Ferguson, Raymond Premru










The High Anxiety Bones




My first encounter with Ray Premru was with one of his compositions. I was a senior in high school, visiting Akron University and a student quartet was rehearsing In Memoriam. It struck me then and does to this day as an extremely profound and moving piece and I hoped one day to meet the composer. That day arrived in November, 1989. Ray had recently been appointed Professor of Trombone at the Oberlin Conservatory and I had recently been appointed Principal Trombone of the Canton Symphony. I met with Ray to discuss many projects, among them, the possibility of forming a trombone quartet. I knocked on his studio door; he greeted me warmly and, much to my surprise, immediately dropped what he was doing so we could have a cup of coffee.


In about five minutes, I felt as if I had known Ray all my life. He was extremely positive and even hugged me upon our first meeting as if I was a long lost friend. I can only remember a few specifics about our conversation that day, namely, that when I suggested how nice it would be to form a group, he said earnestly, “We can, and we will!”


October of 1991 marked the first time we met as a quartet. I made the phone calls to arrange a rehearsal at Steve Witser's house. I called Steve, a member of The Cleveland Orchestra, who told me he was looking forward to getting together, and was practicing. I called Ed Zadrozny, a former member of the Philadelphia Orchestra, who told me he was looking forward to meeting, and was practicing. Then I called Ray, a former member of the Philharmonia Orchestra of London and the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble, who told me he was looking forward to our first rehearsal, and was...practicing. Speaking as the “least credentialed” member of the group, I was a bit unnerved to hear of all this diligent preparation. Obviously, everyone wanted to put his best foot forward.


Our rehearsals were usually marked by an earnest desire to make music and a staunch determination to enjoy ourselves. Appreciation of each other's talents was the order of the day. Adding immensely to our enjoyment was the availability of interesting repertoire: the marvelous arrangements by Ernie Miller (whose work comprises about one third of the disc), Ray's Tissington Variations, and my own arrangement. After about four or five meetings, we decided to take our show on the road. We initially called ourselves “The Ohio Trombone Quartet,” a title whose generic quality is outstripped only by its essential lack of originality. Eventually we settled on “High Anxiety Bones” as a way of achieving a unique flavor as well as acknowledging the jitters that we all feel from time to time. We began to perform at area colleges - Oberlin, Case Western Reserve University, The University of Akron, and later performed at Pennsylvania State University and the Eastman School of Music. Our finest hour was probably at the 1993 International Trombone Festival in Cleveland. This recording captures the essence of our repertoire during that period. Our last performance was in October of 1995 at the Cleveland Institute of Music.


In January of 1997, we learned that Ray Premru had esophageal cancer. Ray battled the cancer with the grace and gallantry for which he was known before succumbing in May, 1998. Ray's achievements as a trombonist and composer are well documented. May it suffice to say we have never met a finer gentleman and a more gracious colleague.


— Paul Ferguson


The Music


Transcriptions and arrangements play a major role in the repertoire of any brass ensemble. Although their performance is viewed by some as a necessary compromise, in reality they present the opportunity to perform outstanding music drawn from five centuries or more. This is especially true when the arranger/transcriber is the versatile and gifted Ernest Miller. A graduate of Michigan State University, Ernie has been a force in the Cleveland music scene for decades as a trombonist (often with The Cleveland Orchestra) and arranger for various groups. His settings of the French Chansons, various works of Handel and the piano music of Grieg testify to his skill and sensitivity. Of particular note is Ernie's fine writing for bass trombone solo in the Grieg Elegy, here expertly played by Ray Premru, and the extraordinary arranging throughout the Handel dances. In the manner of fine string quartet writing, melodies and accompaniment are constantly shifted throughout the parts.


Alfred Hornoff wrote his Suite for the trombone section of the Berlin Philharmonic while serving as a violist for that orchestra. Not surprisingly, it is the most symphonic and Germanic of the compositions here performed. Hornoff writes the uppermost part for the alto trombone, in the tradition of Schubert and Brahms, and the instrument soars and lingers in the upper register for much of the piece.


Jules Semler-Collery's Two Pieces for Trombone Quartet provides harmonic and formal contrast. French to the core, Chant Élégaique recalls Fauré while Chant Héroique is a somewhat brawnier take on the last movement of Le Tombeau de Couperin by Ravel.


Raymond Premru's Tissington Variations were written in Tissington, a village in Derbyshire, England known to be favored by George Frederic Handel. Tone clusters of minor and major seconds are found throughout the work, as are their respective inversions, the major and minor ninths. Biting muted passages and sorrowful glissandi round out the work.


Walter Ross is Professor of Composition at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. His Trombone Quartet emphasizes the dynamic and emotional contrast possible with four trombones. After a violent introduction, the first movement pits a heroic lead line against the dissident mutterings of underlings. A soft, distant chorale offers respite before an aggressive closing movement.


Paul Ferguson heard Ray Premru warming up on Like Someone in Love before a performance and decided that a new arrangement for the quartet was in order. Lacking sufficient inventiveness to construct an arrangement of appropriate length, Paul decided to tack on I'm Getting Sentimental Over You to provide balance in length as well as tessitura.


Ray Premru wrote In Memoriam while a student at the Eastman School of Music in the mid 1950's. The composition was prompted by the untimely death of one of Ray's classmates in an automobile accident. Ironically, the High Anxiety Bones never performed or rehearsed this piece with Ray - he seemed mildly embarrassed by it, a work from his student days. In spite of Ray's disclaimers, trombonists for four decades have known In Memoriam as one of the most powerful and profound pieces in the literature.


In Memoriam was recorded in June, 1998 as a tribute to Ray. Many thanks to Andy for his heartfelt playing on bass trombone.


The Members


Steven Witser has served as Assistant Principal Trombone of The Cleveland Orchestra since 1989, and is a member of the highly acclaimed Center City Brass Quintet. He received his Bachelor of Music degree and a Performer's Certificate from the Eastman School of Music in 1981. That same year he was a prize winner in the Munich International Solo competition. In 1988, Mr. Witser returned to Europe and won second prize in the Geneva International Competition for Musical Performers. His teachers include John Marcellus, Ned Meredith, Mitch Ross, and Dan Livesay. Mr. Witser has served as Principal Trombone with the Music of the Baroque Ensemble in Chicago, the Honolulu Symphony, the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra, and the Phoenix Symphony. He has been a faculty member of the Cleveland Institute of Music since 1993 and has taught at the Eastman School of Music and the Oberlin Conservatory. Albany Records will be releasing a disc of Mr. Witser performing works for solo trombone in early 2000.


Edward A. Zadrozny is an Associate Professor of Trombone at the University of Akron and Principal Trombone of the Akron Symphony Orchestra. He has studied at Ohio State University, the University of Illinois, and received additional training at the Berkshire Music Center (Tanglewood). A former member of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Mr. Zadrozny has performed and recorded with The Cleveland Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, and the Cleveland Symphonic Winds. A former Principal Trombonist with the Naples Philharmonic, Edward has also performed with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the North Carolina Symphony. His principal teachers include Merritt Dittert, Ernest Miller, Jack O. Evans, Lewis Van Haney, Milt Stevens, Robert Gray, and Allen Kofsky.


Paul Ferguson has been director of Jazz Studies at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland since 1988. A graduate of the University of Akron and the Eastman School of Music, Paul has traveled with the Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller bands as lead trombonist and arranger and currently fills those functions with the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra. Paul was principal trombonist of the Canton Symphony from 1989-98 and at various times has also performed with The Cleveland Orchestra, Cleveland Opera, the Ohio Chamber Orchestra, Apollo's Fire, the Cleveland Chamber Brass, the New Hampshire Festival Orchestra, and various groups across northeast Ohio. In 1995, Paul was the recipient of the Gil Evans Fellowship in Jazz Composition. A recent disc of his works, Blue Highways, recorded by the Berlin RIAS Radio Big Band, is available on AZICA records. His arrangements for ensembles ranging from big band to orchestra are regularly performed around the country.


Raymond Premru, Professor of Trombone at the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music from 1988 until his death in 1998, was a graduate of the Eastman School of Music, where he received the Performer's Certificate in Trombone and a Bachelor of Music degree in composition. Upon graduation, he pursued further study in London, England, and quickly established himself in the city's musical life. From 1958-1988, Mr. Premru was bass trombonist of the Philharmonia Orchestra; he is equally well known for his association with the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble, of which he was a founding member. Premru was also co-founder and co-director of the Bobby Lamb/Ray Premru Big Band. As a jazz and studio musician, Premru recorded with Oscar Peterson, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, and can be heard on the soundtracks of many films. In addition to presenting clinics and master classes all over the world, he served on the faculties of the Eastman School of Music and the Guildhall School of Music in London. He also conducted studio orchestras for film music and led the Philharmonia Orchestra, the London Festival Orchestra, the Eastman Wind Orchestra, and the Eastman Trombone Choir in his compositions. His works have been performed by The Cleveland Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Philharmonia Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, the British Broadcasting Company Philharmonic, the Royal Choral Society, the Guildford Symphony Orchestra, the Rochester Philharmonic, the Detroit Symphony, and the Buffalo Philharmonic.


Andrew Hicks is a native of Louisville, Kentucky. He studied music at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and the Cleveland Institute of Music. He has performed with The Cleveland Orchestra, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the Columbus Symphony, and the Festival Dei Due Mondi in Spoleto, Italy. He is Bass Trombonist with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic and performs with Brass Odyssey, a Cleveland-based sextet.


Ernest R. Miller has degrees from the Cleveland Institute of Music and Michigan State University. A noted composer and arranger, his music is widely performed and is in many catalogs including Theodore Presser, Southern Music, Ludwig Music, and Robert King. Mr. Miller has performed as a free-lance trombone and euphonium artist with symphonic, ballet, and theatre orchestras and in many jazz/swing ensembles. He is widely known as a teacher and clinician.


All proceeds from the sale of this compact disc will go to the Raymond E. Premru Endowment Merit Scholarship Fund for Trombone Students at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. Additional contributions may be sent to: Oberlin College, Office of Gift Planning, Bosworth Hall 102, 50 West Lorain Street, Oberlin, OH 44074-1089.






High Anxiety Bones


Left to Right: Paul Ferguson, Steven Witser,


Edward A. Zadrozny, Raymond Premru




High Anxiety Bones


Steven Witser, Edward A. Zadrozny,


Paul Ferguson, Raymond Premru


Andrew Hicks, guest artist






George Frederic Handel, arr. Ernest Miller


Dances for Trombone Quartet


1 Allegro (2:14)


2 Minuet from Bernice (2:58)


3 Courante (1:59)


4 Gigue (1:37)


5 Sarabande (2:48)


6 Allegro (2:10)


Alfred Hornoff


Suite for Four Trombones


7 I. Solenne (1:54)


8 II. Moderato (1:28)


9 III. Molto Allegro quasi Presto (1:00)


10 IV. Andante non troppo (2:14)


11 V. Molto Allegro deciso con impeto (2:21)


Jules Semler-Collery


Two Pieces for Trombone Quartet


12 Chant Élégaique (2:58)


13 Chant Héroique (2:47)


Raymond Premru


Tissington Variations


14 Andantino (4:59)


15 Presto (4:11)


Arr. Ernest Miller


Four Sixteenth Century Chansons


Clement Jannequin


16 Il N'est Plaisir (1:31)


17 Martin (1:24)


Jean Duboys


18 Ma Bouche Rit (1:27)




19 Reveillez (1:38)


Walter Ross


Trombone Quartet


20 I. Intrada (2:32)


21 II. Chorale (1:24)


22 III. Scherzo (2:46)


Edvard Grieg, arr. Ernest Miller


Elegy, Op. 47, No. 7


23 Poco Andante con Moto (2:33)


Jimmy Van Heusen, arr. Paul Ferguson


24 Like Someone in Love-


I'm Getting Sentimental Over You (4:47)


Raymond Premru


25 In Memorium (5:03)


Andrew Hicks, bass trombone


Total Time = 62:54