Interview with Kris Garfitt
Award-winning trombonist Kris Garfitt is constantly busy with concerts, competitions and recitals. His sheer breadth of styles has led him to become a remarkable force in the business. He is currently a member of the German Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, where he performs a variety of orchestral music.
A graduate of the Guildhall School of Music, Kris is also a successful solo musician. He has performed with some of the top orchestras in Europe, as well as with some of the most popular accompanists.
Kris was the first prizewinner of the both 2018 International Tenor and Bass Trombone Competition in Budapest and the 2018 International Juozas Pakalnis Competition of Wind and Percussion Instruments in Vilinus.
I was able to catch up with Kris recently to talk all things trombone and more!
What drew you in to playing the trombone? How old were you when you picked it up?
The moment I was large enough to sit on a piano stool, my mum started teaching me piano, so music has always been a part of my life. Around the age of 8 I was inspired by a brass instrument demonstration at my junior school. Afterwards I went to the brass teacher and said I would like to learn an instrument and he told me I had big lips and should therefore play the euphonium! A few years later I realised I wanted a career in music and due to the limited opportunities for euphonium, around the age of 13 I began to play trombone.
What was your music education like growing up?
I’ve been extremely lucky with regards to my music education. I went to Mount St Mary’s College in Spinkhill, and it’s largely thanks to the music department there that I am where I am today. Outside of school, I was always heavily involved in the Sheffield Music Service (now Sheffield Music Hub). They offered such a large variety of musical ensembles to play in. During my time there I played in their big band, junior level orchestra, senior orchestra, junior level wind bands and their ‘Festival Band’.
You’re an incredibly busy musician – how do you balance your time to fit everything in?
I’m officially working full time with an orchestra in Germany (the German Radio Philharmonic Orchestra) but I’m fortunate to have relatively large amounts of free time. The weeks that I’m working in the orchestra tend to feel like weeks off, and is when I get most of my practice done. The weeks away from the orchestra almost always involve doing doing projects, whether that be solo work or projects with other orchestras. On the rare occasion that I’m free from the orchestra and I don’t have anything else in the diary, I spend it rehearsing intensively with Seri, my pianist.
Do you have any concert highlights in your career so far?
There are so many! One orchestral concert highlight would be the first time I performed in the BBC Proms with the European Union Youth Orchestra. We played Shostakovich 4, and I was completely overwhelmed, performing on the Royal Albert Hall stage in such an iconic festival. A solo highlight has to be performing on the Queen Elizabeth Hall stage during my Royal Overseas League competition final.
Another is perhaps last summer in Jeju, South Korea, when I performed Henri Tomasi’s Trombone Concerto with the Jeju Philharmonic Orchestra, during the celebration concert of the Jeju International Wind Festival. I’ll always remember this performance fondly because of how much fun I had on stage. (Performance here! https://youtu.be/yY0VPkYlI-w
You’re both an accomplished soloist and orchestral musician – do you have a favourite?
I absolutely love both. I can say I have more fun on stage when I’m playing solo. I enjoy the thrill I get from being completely responsible for the performance and in charge of the music. However, there is no feeling quite like playing the big symphonic works and being a small part of something so much bigger. Sometimes I enjoy concerts where I have almost nothing to play as much as any other, as then I can sit back and feel like I’m a member of the audience!
What’s a work that’s still on your bucket list to play?
Two symphonic works I’m yet to play are Mahler 2 and Mahler 3. I’d love to play Mahler 2 for the epic climaxes and beautiful brass ensemble writing, and Mahler 3 has the king of all trombone solos. Hopefully I’ll get chance to play both at some point soon!
How would you describe your sound in three words?
I would describe the sound I’m aiming for in three words as ‘brilliant’, ‘colourful’ and ‘warm’.
What exciting concerts/events have you got coming up in 2020?
Due to the Coronavirus crisis everything is suddenly looking rather uncertain. However, assuming my plans are unaffected, I have many projects this summer, all of which I’m looking forward to. Firstly, a couple of days giving masterclasses in Madrid in May. Then 2 weeks of concerts and masterclasses in Shanghai at the start of June. At the end of July/early August I have a run of nice UK recitals, including solo debuts at the Lichfield Festival and the Lake District Music Festival, as well as a recital at St Martin in The Fields in London.
Mid August I’m returning to South Korea to perform again in the Jeju International Wind Festival, and then returning to Edinburgh to play some recitals at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with other Royal Overseas League musicians. Finally at the very end of August I will be going to Alsace in France to give a masterclass and a recital as part of the Alsace Trombone Festival. Fingers crossed the virus clears up quickly and everything can take place!
©Alex Burns 2020