Birge's Picks

Birge's Picks: A centennial or two

Adolph “Bud” Herseth was the longtime first trumpet of the legendary Chicago Symphony Orchestra brass section.File

July 26, 2021

Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
Who’s the greatest Minnesotan of them all?

 Judy Garland? F. Scott Fitzgerald? Kirby Puckett? Hubert Humphrey?

 All worthy. But ask any trumpet player, and they’ll tell you it’s Adolph “Bud” Herseth. Without a doubt, he was one of the greatest trumpet players of all time.

One hundred years ago this week, Herseth was born in Lake City, Minnesota, and grew up in Bertha, where his father was the high school band director. Bud would become first trumpet of the legendary Chicago Symphony brass section for more than 50 years, overcoming personal and professional challenges that would wither a lesser musician. When he played his final concert with the Chicago Symphony, I interviewed him for NPR’s Morning Edition and found that for all his profound artistry and global fame, he never lost his small-town humility and grace. 

One other unsung orchestral hero also has a 100th birthday anniversary this week. You might not know his name, but you’ve heard him play on hundreds of classical recordings. John de Lancie was principal oboe of the Philadelphia Orchestra from 1954 to 1977.  His legacy also lives on in a famous oboe concerto. As a 24-year-old soldier stationed in Germany during World War II, De Lancie approached Richard Strauss about writing a concerto for oboe.  Strauss said no, but the idea took root, and later the composer produced a piece that immediately joined the standard repertory, including a classic recording by De Lancie.  

Oh, one other part of the De Lancie legacy that you might already know about: His son John de Lancie Jr. played the role of the alien Q in the Star Trek universe.