Customers at Southgate Mall were treated to a live concert while they shopped Saturday, courtesy of a group of French horn players from around western Montana.
Zach Cooper, who started teaching horn and music theory at the University of Montana in August, said he put the show together as a way to build up the horn community in Missoula. He invited students from UM and area elementary and high schools, as well as symphony musicians from around the region, to come and play at the free show.
“The purpose of the ensemble is to get young players to play alongside more experienced ones,” Cooper said.
Although most people refer to the instrument as the French horn, Cooper said that is a misnomer and the instrument is simply called the horn.
Around 25 musicians were in attendance Saturday, including members of the Missoula, Glacier and Helena symphony orchestras, Cooper said. All of the musicians met earlier in the day to see the music – primarily classic Christmas tunes – they would be playing for the first time.
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Ashley Koerner, a sophomore at Florence High School, said the songs Cooper picked weren’t especially difficult, so she wasn’t nervous about having to perform them mere hours after seeing them for the first time.
Koerner said her band instructor told her about the show and she immediately wanted to be a part of it. She’s the only person in her class who plays the horn, so this was one of her only experiences being around other people who play the same instrument.
“It’s just really exciting for me to be able to sit down and perform with other horn players,” she said.
Cooper said he’s hoping the show, which he named Holiday Horns, becomes an annual tradition in Missoula.
“I’m delighted to hear how strong the players are in the community,” he said.
Bob Green of Seeley Lake, who is also the Montana representative to the International Horn Society, said there hasn’t been a strong horn-playing presence in Missoula in several years, and he’s hoping events like this will begin to revive the tradition.
“It’s a great opportunity for people to just come out and have fun and play and not be worried about the pressure of trying out,” Green said.
The Saturday show was the second time this week mall-goers were treated to a free concert while they shopped. On Friday the annual Tuba Christmas show was held in the mall’s clock tower courtyard for the 26th year.