It seems incredible that a whole 6 years has passed since Wessex Tubas started trading; selling our very first tuba to a gentleman in Ireland with whom the founder of Wessex, Jonathan Hodgetts, is still friends – and that very first Tuba is still being played today!
The second sale, to a school in Estonia, set the precedent that Wessex would become a truly international company. Now, we have stores in both the UK and USA, and have sold to customers in over 50 countries – ranging from Mexico to Russia, and New Zealand to Norway.
The ever growing range of available brass
Starting off selling just Tubas and Euphonium, in only a few months the company range had enlarged to include all the brass including Trumpets, Horns, Trombones, and even the occasional Saxophone.
However, Tubas are Jonathan’s passion and have been the main focus of the company’s developments.
Initially, when we were just starting out, Wessex sold ‘off the shelf’ instruments, but after only a few months, relationships with our manufacturing factories became such that Wessex started customising and making design & quality improvements.
That trend has continued and, now, nothing in the Wessex range is ‘standard’; increasingly, we are selling exclusive and original models, some completely new designs and others great instruments from the past, resurrected.
New developments & stunning ‘resurrections’
The rate of new development is such, that Wessex Tubas probably now releases new models more often than any other brass supplier in the world.
Beginning with the novel Bubbie F/Eb travel tuba, Wessex resurrected the BBb Tornister (or ‘backpack’) Tuba made for the Austo-Hungarian army before the Great War – in a new guise, as a Travel Tuba which has become popular around the world by tubists on the move, jazz players and enthusiast amateurs looking for something different. Some are even being used as BBb bass in brass bands.
Wessex brought out an affordable and great playing Cimbasso (the favoured bass for Verdi) in both F and Eb which is now being used in a number of professional groups from the Halle Orchestra to studio orchestras in Hollywood. In fact if you hear Cimbasso in a film score, there is a good chance it is a Wessex being played!
Similarly Wessex resurrected the Ophicleide in collaboration with Tony George of the Wallace Collection and now offers versions in Bb, C and Eb.
More recently, another popular instrument from the past has been reinvented in the form of the Helicon. This is a circular bass Tuba which pre-dates the Sousaphone and was almost universally used by military bands up until the 1920’s.
Having a regular Tuba-size bell and wrapping around the player, this is much more comfortable to carry on a march than either a Sousaphone or regular Tuba, and Wessex is now bringing this out in both Eb and BBb.
Revolutionary original designs
But developments are not confined to resurrecting old designs. Recently a revolutionary new compensated Euphonium called the ‘Festivo’ has been added to the range.
The ‘Festivo’ combines the comfort of front actions piston valves as on American baritone with the great intonation and gorgeous tone of the British euphonium. This is already causing quite a stir and could change many people’s preferred format for a Euphonium.
Striving for Tuba perfection
Alongside all of this, there have been a number of notable mainstream Tuba developments here at Wessex.
A large bore, but compact BBb bass for brass band, the ‘Excelsior’; an F Tuba with a beautiful tone and easy low register; the Berg, a new front valve Eb developed with American professional Sam Gnagey; the Wyvern CC tuba which is Jonathan’s personal favourite as a truly versatile Tuba that can do anything – and, soon to be released, an incredible 6/4 BBb, the ‘Grand’.
So much more to come
As usual there are many more developments on their way as well as quarterly visits to the factory to ensure ever rising quality.
Things are moving so fast, it is difficult to predict where Wessex Tubas will be in another 6-years…
For now: “happy anniversary!” – thanks for supporting us here at Wessex Tubas.