Peter Christensen, sackbut with Camerata Nova singer Michael Thompson (Ian Cameron)
Over the years I've become used to the strange looks I get--giggles even--when I tell people I play the sackbut. Sometimes I use "Baroque trombone" to head off the awkwardness at the pass, but mostly I don't mind. There's something earthy and honest about the word "sackbut," derived as it is from the old French verbs saquer (to pull) and bouter (to push).
How would they react, I wonder, if I told them the sackbut changed my life.
To be honest, I really mean this sackbut, the one nestled in the overhead bin above me on this flight to Winnipeg, made by the Swiss maker Rainer Egger. I've had it almost four years, and it has, quite literally, transformed how I feel about myself as a musician.
My old horn was good, but the Egger is spectacular. I actually enjoy practicing again. If the modern trombone is a big, heavy 18-wheeler rumbling down the Mahler and Bruckner highway, my Egger is a Ferrari, nimble and responsive--not much trunk space, but a delight to drive along the twisty back-roads of Baroque and Renaissance repertoire.
Musicians form special bonds with their instruments, but my ever-growing affection for my Egger has surprised even me. It has allowed me to grow as a musician and play things I never realized I was capable of, and with an expressivity I never knew I had. I work on crazy solo repertoire that no audience will ever hear--for the sheer joy of playing this horn. It's shown me, after over 30 years of playing music, what it truly means to be a musician.
Willie Nelson said it best when he sang "the life I love is making music with my friends." Flying to Winnipeg for this gig with Camerata Nova--to make great music with great friends--is like a gift. And with this horn, I can't wait to get on the road again.
Former member of the Winnipeg and Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestras, and now based in Montreal, sackbut player Peter Christensen (Twitter @petergarner) is active in that city's early music scene and also frequently performs with early music ensembles elsewhere in North America.
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