The Sam Houston State University School of Music will open its fall semester performance season Friday as one of the nation’s most astonishing and comical ensembles comes to campus.
Paul Blackstone, Audrey Good, Tony Licata and Gerry Wood make up the ensemble known as the Four Hornsmen of the Apocalypse, which has been performing for almost 15 years. Members of the group serve as ambassadors of music and the French horn itself, according to Wood.
“When we play for the younger kids, they’ve never heard one good French horn, let alone four, and so a lot of the opportunity for them is to be exposed to what really is going on,” he said. “Most of the stuff we’re doing this time is for college kids, and I think it’s important for them to hear what professionals sound like when they play together. Most of the time they hear them in orchestras and they hear them in various other situations, but they don’t hear four of them all together.”
The group has recently started their fall tour that will send them across the country to perform and teach. The Four Hornsmen will travel to several universities, such as Stephen F. Austin State University, the University of Central Arkansas and the University of Illinois to perform and will teach master classes at several stops, including SHSU.
SHSU horn professor Peggy DeMers, Ph.D., said in a statement that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear this level of French horn performed.
“Their vehicle for their expression is the horn, not the voice or guitar, but they will entertain and challenge your musical imagination,” she said. “This chamber music ensemble is leading the country and Europe in new compositions written for their group and new arrangements of classic popular and rock music for their group.”
Wood said the tour called for quick preparation, and some of the material was tested at his son’s middle school.
“A lot of the repertoire we’re playing we’ve played many times before, but we basically get together about two or three days before we take off on tour and we rehearse in a marathon fashion,” he said. “We do usually three two-and-a-half hour rehearsals during the day working up to it.”
Woods, one of the founding members of the Four Horsemen, marched with The Cavalier Drum and Bugle Corps and has worked as a freelance musician and private instructor in the Dallas-Fort Worth areas. He has first place honors in several solo performances and has been a finalist in seven major symphony auditions.
Paul Blackstone has studied at the University of North Texas and the University of Illinois and is pursuing a Doctorate of Musical Arts from the University of Texas. Blackstone has performed with the University Orchestra at UT as well as the Austin Symphony and the Dallas Wind Symphony.
Toni Licata, another founding member of the Four Horsemen, has studied at the University of Southern Mississippi and the University of Illinois. After enlisting in the U.S. Army, he performed with the Army Ground Forces Band and the First Calvary Division Band. Licata has also held full time positions at multiple orchestras across the country.
Audrey Good has studied at the University of Illinois and Rice University. She has worked with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Houston Symphony Orchestra, and joined the Four Hornsmen in 2004.
The ensemble recently held residence with the Symphony Orchestra of Augusta and released a CD titled “Intuitions.”
The quartet will teach a master class for SHSU horn students Friday at 3 p.m. in the Gaertner Performing Arts Center Concert Hall. Following the master class, the group will perform at 7:30 p.m., also in the GPAC Concert Hall.
Both events are free to attend. For more information, contact the school of music at 936-294-1360.