The red tuba

Scott Irvine tuba fondue (fonduba)

So here I am outside of Owen Sound’s Mudtown Station Brewery and Restaurant with Paul Sylvester. He came to me in 1977 after his high school music teacher (who I was playing with on a steady gig at Toronto’s famed Brunswick House) said he should get tuba lessons. He was my first private tuba student. … Read more

The Flintstones Tuba

Imagine getting to play Heifetz’ violin, or Rubinstein’s piano or Casals’ cello or…..

Living the dream at Jim Self’s house in Los Angeles.

I have to admit that I really didn’t know what to think of playing the tuba after being first handed one in 1967, but one thing was clear – this was the instrument that I heard on my favourite TV show from my youth; The Flintstones!

. In fact, I have to say that watching the reruns of those Flintstones episodes from the early 60s afforded me the opportunity really pay attention to the background music. Whoever that tuba player was, was my inspiration! Many years later I would discover that the tuba player was an LA studio musician named George Boujie, who was the go-to guy for most stuff before Tommy Johnson began his legendary career. On a visit to LA in 2007, I got to fulfill a dream and play Boujie’s CC York tuba used on MGM movie scores in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s as well as on the original Flintstones background music. (a big thank you to tuba legend Jim Self, who now owns the horn.)


True north brass members playing kelphorns

Bull kelp is one of the largest brown algae. It grows attached to the sea floor by a specialized root-like structure called a holdfast. From this, a long stem-like stipe extends to the surface of the sea, terminating in an enlarged, spherical, hollow float from which the linear leafy blades emanate. It occurs on rocks in the upper sub-tidal zone to a depth of several fathoms throughout coastal British Columbia.

Al Kay: Friday, July 18th &emdash;
The kelp harvest
Al Kay: Saturday, July 19th &emdash;
Trying the new kelphorns

Never a group to miss a performing opportunity, True North Brass took the kelp challenge in beautiful Bamfield, BC during our residency there in the Summer of 2009. Trombonist Al Kay went out early one morning with local kelp harvesters and brought back a number of “instruments” for our concert.

Al Kay: Friday, July 18th &emdash;
Richard Sandals looking for the perfect horn (again)

Here are some pictures of our performance and even a post-concert photo with the harvesters. (BTW, Al Kay took these great photos. You should visit his site at – a great place to spend an hour or two!)

Al Kay: Saturday, July 19th &emdash;
The concert
Al Kay: Saturday, July 19th &emdash;
True North Kelp with the kelp harvesters

After selecting particularly good sounding horns, we experimented in finding some common notes and chords. We then worked out the form for the piece, and that was about it. It’s basically a TNB group improvisation — and it came off rather well!

But best of all, you can actually hear and see the performance right here.  (Unfortunately, most of the camera time is focused on the portly tuba player. Note that hornist Joan is playing a “double kelp”!)  Note also the “kelperidoo” at one point.

Kelpaphonics from MusicByTheSea on Vimeo.