The name for our group came as result of a radio announcer mistakenly announcing the Budapest String Quartet as the Buddhist String Quartet. John Miller thought it was funny and would work for us - and it did - even though we are not Buddhists (at least as far as I know). I wrote many of the arrangements for the Buddhist Bassoon concerts between 1972 and 1980 for our group which was known as the Buddhist Bassoon Trio or Quartet depending on our configuration. I never anticipated these arrangements being used anywhere else except for our own annual fun. Eventually, I gave them all away and have since discovered that they had circulated far beyond what I had thought the interest would or should be. But who am I to judge taste given the nature of some of these arrangements.
I usually conceived these arrangements during the summer while working on Cape Cod playing sax and woodwind doubles for big name entertainment headliners like Bob Hope, Sammy Davis Jr., Jack Jones, Jerry Lewis etc.. The arrangements were generally performed at our annual Labor Day weekend concerts at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and in Belmont, Ma. Playing these concerts around Labor Day was tough for me because I wasn't playing much bassoon during the latter parts of the summer due to the Cape Cod gigs. The concerts were much looked forward to by many bassoon aficionados and we had a sort of cult following.
Beginning in 1978, we wore monk's robes (without street clothes underneath) which were still very hot to perform in! Of course, just like baseball games and such, The Star Spangled Banner (played while standing) began every concert. Audiences weren't quite sure how to react during that piece.
In our 1976 concert I also played contra bassoon for some pieces using a borrowed contra. Getting a reed to work with it and figuring our how to play it were somewhat challenging because of our brief rehearsals and the time that I could use the borrowed instrument the same week.
Originally our rule was whoever wrote the arrangement would play first bassoon which in many arrangements generally has the higher and sometimes more difficult part. My work around was to write the first part as fourth bassoon and the fourth part on the first bassoon part. My trickery was found out almost immediately and we changed the rules. Subsequently, to determine who played which part, our parts were almost always drawn like picking cards from a deck at the 1st rehearsal and that was your part for the concert. There were only one or two rehearsals taking place two or three days before our annual concerts to read the new arrangements and check for last minute corrections to the parts. Many of the new arrangements were initially in pencil and completed the day of the 1st rehearsal.
In some of our concerts we utilized a variety of gimmicks within the arrangements. For example, while playing our bassoons we had a Buddhist Bassoon bass drum played by John Miller with a foot pedal that we used for Zacatecas as well as “foot” castanets that I played with my feet for the off beats. I challenge any bassoonists out there to try to play foot castanets while playing the bassoon. I played the bass drum for my arrangement of the Star Wars medley and even utilized a slide whistle to play a jazz solo my 12th Street Rag
In many of my arrangements I liked to insert quotes from well known bassoon excerpts from standard symphonic repertoire, of my favorites, quoting the Rite of Spring and other bassoon solos in Penny Lane, the Mozart Bassoon Concerto in Watermelon Man and Buglers (Buddhist) Holiday. In other arrangements I would interpose parts of other pieces of music. For example in my Star Wars Medley, the piece begins with Jaws theme while “When You Wish Upon a Star” plays above the low throbbing of the “Jaws” bassoon. Another example of my musical quotes was placing the theme from “The Stripper” into the “Ain’t She Sweet” arrangement (today very politically incorrect – but not at the time it was arranged).
To record these concerts we used whatever cheap recorder we could borrow or had available. We had no professional sound set up or microphone placement. Sometimes it worked — and sometimes not. The cassette tapes were put into digital format, cleaned and burned on my home PC. The sound on the tapes had deteriorated some.
Scarborough Fair has remained one of my favorite arrangements. I used a dissonant chord- release on the 2nd and 3rd beats of the introduction and in other parts of the piece. I also added a varied counterpoint as the piece progresses and modulated to a pseudo fugue to end the arrangement. Cartoon Music is a fun three theme arrangement using the Mickey Mouse theme followed by the Woody Woodpecker theme and ending with Looney Tunes. Looney Tunes is the longest segment in which I added a couple of different treatments. The added treatments are Chinese, Viennese Waltz and Klezmer.
Once in a while, we forgot which repeats to use in a piece. The hand copied arrangement got stuck on the last page turn of John Miller's part during Bassoonists’ (Buddhists) Holiday which made us come to a grinding halt. After audience laughs including our own laughs, we began playing the piece again from just before the breakdown.
Ultimately, it was a thrill and privilege to be able to perform with all of these extremely talented high profile bassoonist colleagues and friends.
Any unappreciative mail or comments about these arrangements should be addressed to John Miller or Bob Williams. And of course, appreciative comments can be addressed to me. For those who have asked, I have been living in New Jersey since 1995.
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I liked to recycle some of my arrangements for other instrumental combinations when I was performing various chamber concerts around the Boston area. The performances and re-arrangements below were for bassoon and string trio (violin, viola & cello). I tacked these on for the last part of a concert at Boston's Gardner Museum in 1983. They followed the more serious pieces (Hindemith, Devienne etc.) on that concert and were recorded with a handheld tape cassette recorder - and again with little rehearsal. (Steve Young - bassoon, Michael Rosenbloom - violin, John Englund - viola & Marc Simcox -cello)
Humoresque - Glière - Jalousie Tango - Bassophobia (Saxophobia) - Cartoon Music
Original arrangements for bassoon & string trio performed are below. All of these files are in PDF format and have all of the parts.
Jalousie Tango - Bassophobia - Cartoon Music
Humoresque - Glière (Only the string parts are here from what I arranged from the bassoon & piano version. You need to have a copy of the bassoon part from that edition to perform this because it is copyrighted)
Chant Duo - Bassoon & Cello or Two Bassoons by Young - PDF of manuscript
Woodind Trio (Flute, Clarinet & Bassoon) version of Cartoon Music (S. Young - Bassoon, M. Marvuglio- flute, A. Lizotte -
Clarinet) - from Berklee College of Music Faculty Concert in 1982
Cartoon Music for WW Trio
See menu item "S. Young Other" for interesting woodwind trios.