Holton French Horn – history
Soon after undertaking professional events along with Sousa’s great band, Frank Holton opened up a small store in The city of chicago in 1896, offering second hand musical instruments and his magic formula of Electric Oil trombone slide oil. For the initial couple of years, business was limited and Holton would spend nights plus saturdays and sundays performing in order to pull an income to back up his small business. By 1898, business had maintained itself to the stage Holton could hire a musical instrument (blank) to start producing what he presented as the “Holton Special” trombone. As business progressed, his “Holton Harmony Hints” catalog increased in proportions to incorporate trombones, cornets, valve trombones, as well as mellophones by 1904.
Business carried on growing and Holton’s musical instruments became the personal choice of leading professionals such as Vincent Bach, first trumpet for the Boston Symphony in 1914 (he soon started building his very own musical instruments). In 1917, Holton authorized a binding agreement together with the city of Elkhorn, Wisconsin to create a manufacturing plant. In the actual agreement, a preventative measure was made that in case Holton paid out $500,000 in salary over seven years to back up the community workforce, he would be given the title to the property and building. In 1920, Holton achieved this requirement.
In June 1919, in order to motivate a greater labor force to relocate from Chicago, IL to Elkhorn, Holton purchased seventeen acres and contracted 27 homes built to provide to his staff members. Production of top range professional musical instruments grew even larger. In 1929, Holton launched an entire collection of school grade musical instruments under the Holton Collegiate brand.
In 1939, Frank Holton sold his business to Fred Kull, a company employee. In 1942, Frank Holton died. Throughout the Second World War as most producers did, the Holton Company switched to producing elements for the army. As the war finished, the Holton Company found steady growth. In 1964, after demands to supply a complete selection of woodwind musical instruments, the Holton Company sold to G Leblanc Corporation.
In the course of Leblanc’s ownership, Holton would escalate to be a leader in low brass production. The support of renowned artists including Philip Farkas and Ethel Merker, Holton’s French horns became more popular then ever. Manufacturing of Holton instruments was kept in Elkhorn, Wisconsin right up until 2008 when it was transferred to Eastlake, Ohio.
Holton’s early years
The turn of the last century foretold a new age in French horn craftsmanship when Frank Holton opened his third-floor two-room Chicago shop in 1898. Formerly first trombonist in Sousa’s band, Holton achieved initial success with his revolutionary slide oil formula, Electric Oil, which is still popular today. Soon Holton began experiments to improve brasswind instrument design.
In 1917 Holton moved his company to Elkhorn, Wisconsin, where it has remained as the country’s oldest continually operating wind instrument company.
New standards for excellence were set when G. Leblanc Corporation acquired Holton in 1964. This alliance has produced French horns recognized as the finest in the world, bearing such names as Collegiate, Slotspie, Farkas and Merker.
Philip Farkas’s legendary career as a musician, teacher and author spans more than a half-century. As a youngster, he discovered the horn seren-dipitously, as it proved to be a more compact alternative to the tuba, which would not fit through the door of the streetcar that took him to school.
A chance meeting with executives from the Holton company and Farkas’s desire for one French horn that would incorporate the good qualities of the many horns he was using led to the creation of Holton’s initial Farkas model horn in 1958.
Farkas left the Chicago Symphony in 1960 to begin a distinguished teaching career at the University of Indiana, Bloomington. America’s senior statesman of the horn retired from academia in the early 1980s, but continued to practice two to three hours a day until his death in December, 1992.
Ethel Merker’s career spans over 50 years and encompasses nearly every musical experience imaginable. In fact, the Holton clinician has been something of a French horn-playing explorer, taking special pride in fitting in with whatever the job demands.
At age 18, Ethel was not only going to school at Northwestern University but holding down the first-horn chair with the NBC studio orchestra. Says Merker, “I was making $150 a week, and the Chicago Symphony only paid $90; the symphony played a 17-week schedule, and NBC was 52 weeks. To be working with the best in the business and to be treated like one of them, I was exposed to a world I didn’t know existed.”
A former member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Ethel has also performed with the Boston Pops tour orchestra, the Berlin Radio Orchestra, the New York City Opera and the Chicago Lyric Opera, to name but a few. As a recording artist, she backed the Jackson Five, Diana Ross, Curtis Mayfield, Ramsey Lewis and John Denver. Her sound has filled commercials for McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, United Airlines and on and on.
“My specialty is trying to expose young players to all kinds of music so they will be flexible in their playing instead of stodgy and rigid.” Besides teaching, Ethel Merker does clinics, appears at festivals and freelances whenever there’s a call for the lady with the horn.
Louis J. Stout
At age ten, Louis Stout regularly listened to the Chicago Symphony on the radio and vowed that one day he would play in that orchestra. Two years later, he took up the horn and, without initial instruction, learned to play the instrument that would be a companion for the rest of his life.
By age 16, Louis entered college as a horn student, but the start of World War II interrupted his education. After the war, and eleven years after first starting, he returned to college to teach horn and earn his bachelor’s degree.
After graduation and four seasons with the Kansas City Symphony, Louis heard of an opening in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and he auditioned before director Fritz Reiner and hornist Phil Farkas. The pledge that he made to himself as a boy finally came true when the job was offered to him.
He played five seasons with Chicago and then started another phase of his career, teaching college. Because he was offered every job for which he auditioned, it never occurred to Louis that he might not get the position he sought at the University of Michigan. He got it, though, and 28 years later, in 1988, Professor Stout retired from a distinguished teaching career at that university.
“When I got my first Holton I felt as if I had owned and played it all my lfe. The notes were all there, the intonation was superb, and it was an accurate horn. I had not one minute of break-in time. It played so great from day one, I have used that horn ever since. I consider the Holton line of horns just what I want in sound, intonation and accuracy.”
Mr. Stout’s interest in the horn has lead to the acquisition of a vast collection regarded as one of the finest in the world. It is housed at the Schloss Kremsegg Brass Collection located in Linz, Austria. Lately, Louis has maintained an active roster of private students.
Lisa Ormston Bontrager
A virtuoso hornist, Lisa Bontrager may have defied the conventional career path of someone with her talent by not taking a seat in a first-class symphony orchestra, but choosing to dedicate herself to the teaching profession. An associate professor of horn at Pennsylvania State University, Lisa has the ability not only to demonstrate playing the horn to her students but to inspire them by her own beauty of musicianship. Testimony to her abilities is found in the quadrupling of horn-student enrollment since her arrival at Penn State.
As a sixth grader anxious to join the band, Lisa was introduced to the horn by a music retailer. By her senior year in high school, she was principal horn of the Michigan All-State Band, a member of the World Youth Symphony Orchestra at Interlochen’s national music camp and had begun private lessons with Louis Stout.
“I love the velvety, warm sound of the H105. It is flexible in the low register as well as centered and focused; it makes passages so clean. Being versatile is the name of the game in my performance/ teaching job at Penn State. My H105 enables me to project a warm, full sound for solo engagements and deliver powerful, big tones for my orchestral playing.”
Besides her performing and academic duties, Lisa serves on the advisory council for the International Horn Society and is an active endorser/clinician for Frank Holton Company.
Holton H105 Professional French Horn
Holton’s flagship model.
The world’s finest French horn just got better; the new H105 replaces Holton’s previous H104 flagship model.
The pursuit of perfection has yielded a new-generation French horn of superior performance and superb intonation. The H105’s technological and acoustical flexibility enables the artist to perform in a wide variety of playing situations. Its 2 interchangeable mouthpipes with newly developed tapers make it easy to switch between work in small chamber ensembles and large symphony orchestras. The specially tempered red brass bell produces a rich, dark sound capable of great volume without getting brassy.
Holton horns offer an alternative in design that creates a great experience for the young or advanced players. This kruspe model is the top model that holton makes offering a sound like no other with its bronze construction and interchangeable mouthpipe mechanism.
This Farkas Wrap horn offers a large throat bronze bell and branch with a nickel silver body. In addition, it has an interchangeable leadpipe system for orchestral or chamber brass settings. Holton horns also feature tapered rotors which create longevity for the instrument.
|A445, with reversible 4th valve to “Bb-F” with independent Bb tuning
|11.89 mm (.468")
|Newly developed tapers
#3 is .306 venturi
#6 is .310 venturi
|Tapered hand-lapped brass with nickel silver outside casings.
|Solid nickel silver.
|Both inside and outside are hand-lapped nickel silver with rolled beads; short-length recessed slides for quick removal.
|Large-throated hand-hammered specially annealed and tempered bronze, detachable, 12¼” diameter.
|Genuine Holton medium-deep cup.
|On each mouthpipe for quick water removal.
|Ultra compact wood shell case with dual handles and brass hardware.
|Noiseless string action, short stroke with stainless steel springs.
Holton H379 Intermediate French Horn
An artist-quality instrument at a popular price.
An intermediate Kruspe wrap horn, this horn offers a great value for an intermediate horn.
The Holton H379 Series Double Horn is an artist-quality instrument at a popular price. With playing characteristics similar to the Farkas H179 Horn, the Holton H379 features a .468-inch bore combined with a 12.25-inch large throat nickel silver bell for a dark sound with a centered tone and projection. The Holton H379 Series Double Horn includes a case and mouthpiece and is available in nickel silver (H379) finish.
It has playing characteristics similar to the H179 Farkas, but with a darker sound with a good center and projection. Harder nickel silver material responds quickly and sounds brighter up close. Hand-fitted rotary valves are manufactured to precise tolerances to provide quick and effortless response.
The Holton H379 Intermediate French Horn offers the quality and elegance of a truly artistic instrument while remaining a great value for the amateur or aspiring musician. The dark sound and excellent projection of the H379 sets it apart from the similar H179 Farkas French Horn. The hard nickel silver of the instrument gives it a bright sound and makes it a highly responsive instrument. Hand-fitted rotary valves create quick and smooth playing. The Holton H379 also features a Kruspe wrap, a .468” bore, and a 12-1/4” large throat bell. Silver inner and outer slides are also key components of this horn. Enjoy the deep, dark sounds of the Holton H3790 Intermediate French Horn in a nickel silver finish. Mouthpiece and case included.
The Holton H379 Intermediate Double French Horn has a good center and projection. It has hard nickel silver material which responds quickly together with a large throatproviding an open, dark sound. Hand-fitted rotary valves are manufactured to precise tolerances to provide quick and effortless response.
All Holton French Horns, including the single and double models, feature valve rotors that are tapered. This is so that as the valve wears, it automatically seats itself. This includes the bearing surfaces axles on each end of the valve and the bearing plates.
All Holton French Horn bells are made with overlapped seams. This is much more durable than one made with a butt seam. It also produces a better tone and timbre. This is one of the outstanding characteristics on which Holton USA French Horns developed its reputation.
|468" bore (11,89 mm)
|12.25" Nickel Silver, large throat
|Solid Nickel Silver Inner and Outer Slides.
|Holton Farkas MC.
|Nickel silver inner and outer slides
|Silver Farkas MC.
|Lightweight Nickel Silver valves, string action
Holton H179 Farkas Series Fixed Bell Double Horn
The inimitable Holton Farkas.
Holton horns offer an alternative in design that creates a great experience for the young or advanced players. This Farkas model offers independent tuning for convenience allowing the player to tune the Bb side of the horn seperately from the F side. This Farkas Wrap horn offers a medium throat bell with all nickel silver construction. In addition, the Holton Farkas horns all feature an independent tuning slide for the Bb side of the instrument for convenience. Holton horns also feature tapered rotors which create longevity for the instrument.
The Holton H179 Professional Farkas French Horn is regarded among working professionals and leading academics as the flagship of the Holton line. It produces the centered tone sought by all players. True temper makes it a delight to fly over even the most difficult passages. The solid nickel silver edition of the model H179 French Horn has especially good center and projection. This free-blowing Farkas horn features a rich, dark sound designed especially for the “big horn” artist. The tapered tubing and throat of the bell are larger for a bigger, darker tone. The bell flare produces a mellow, velvety tone plus a little overtone of a ringing quality. Hard nickel silver responds quickly and sounds brighter up close.
Holton- Bb/F double French horn, Farkas The solid nickel silver edition of the H178, model H179 has especially good center and projection. This free-blowing horn features a rich, dark sound designed especially for the big horn artist the tapered tubing and throat of the bell are larger for a bigger, darker tone. The bell flare produces a mellow, velvety tone plus a little overtone of a ringing quality. Hard nickel silver responds quickly and sounds brighter up close.
The solid nickel silver edition of the H178, model H179 has especially good center and projection. This free-blowing horn features a rich, dark sound designed especially for the “big horn” artist; the tapered tubing and throat of the bell are larger for a bigger, darker tone. The bell flare produces a mellow, velvety tone plus a little overtone of a ringing quality. Hard nickel silver responds quickly and sounds brighter up close. The most popular Farkas model.
The lowdown: Key of Bb/F double, .468″ bore; 12-1/4″ bell of hand-hammered nickel silver; large-throated .310 venturi of nickel silver; noiseless string action, short stroke with stainless steel spring; solid nickel silver slides inside and out; tapered hand-lapped brass valve rotors; nickel silver finish.
|Key of F/Bb double.
|A445 with independent Bb tuning.
|11.89 mm (.468")
|.310 venturi of yellow brass.
|Tapered brass Branches, bows and ferrules: Nickel silver. Both inside and out are solid nickel silver.
|Noiseless string action, short stroke with stainless steel springs.
|Tapered hand-lapped brass.
|12.25" diameter large-throated hand-hammered nickel silver. Fixed.
|Farkas Medium Deep Cup.
|Extra-long main and Bb tuning slides, detachable bell and flat case available as model H279.
Holton French horns are a popular brand of musical instrument known for their high-quality construction and excellent sound. Many professional musicians and music educators consider Holton French horns to be among the best in the industry. In addition to their excellent craftsmanship, Holton French horns are known for their durability and ability to produce a wide range of tones and sounds, making them a versatile choice for musicians of all skill levels. Overall, it is safe to say that Holton French horns are generally considered to be excellent instruments.