This article is part of our On The Record series focusing on amazing musicians that have set a Guinness World Record. We discuss their record attempt, musical careers and current events.
Philip Palmer has a love of music, and the lungs to support it. He currently holds the record for the Longest Sustained Note On A Wind or Brass Instrument at 1 minute, 13.38 seconds set on November 27, 2006 in Wolverhampton, UK, smashing the previous record by over 25 seconds. There are many serial record breakers out there looking for a record to break, so it’s impressive that he’s been able to hold onto this record for almost 15 years!
Palmer was in the Parachute Regiment, or PARA’s as they’re endearingly called, which is Britain’s elite airborne Infantry unit, for 12 years where he had his own trio in the band as his job. “I loved it. I performed for Prince Charles twice and played all over the globe,” he says. To reach those accolades, though, he first got acquainted with music as a young boy by using his ears. “When I first heard a clarinet playing, I thought That’s for me. I was only about 9 years old. Clarinets in those days were very expensive. I waited for 2 years before my parents bought me a secondhand one.”
Years of practice and performance ultimately led to his time in the PARA’s and subsequently his name in the record books. He set out with grit and determination on his side to crush the existing record. “I was looking through the Guinness book and the record was only about 45 seconds, I knew I could beat that,” says Palmer. He enjoys music a lot and that makes it easy to play every day, when possible. That helped him tremendously when it came time for the record-setting event to take place. In practice, his best time was 1 minute 45 seconds, which is a solid 30 seconds past the official record of 1 minute 13.38 seconds.
That doesn’t necessarily mean it was an easy attempt, though. “The hardest part of it was setting the whole thing up. The entry forms were about 15 pages. They wanted media, a timekeeper, other musicians, a decibel reader, a well-known person, and a venue to do it. It wasn’t easy.” He managed to pull off all the logistics that were needed to make it official and the rest is history. He doesn’t plan to attempt any other records but is not terribly surprised that his record still stands. “The [logistics involved of] setting up the record in many ways will put people off trying to do this record.”
“Having the record has not made any difference to my music,” says Palmer. He found his instrument of choice early on in his life and he thinks he holds the key to finding yours. “Find the right instrument. You will know what it is because you will practice it without anyone telling you to practice it.”
And the magical note he played for 1 minute 13.38 seconds? It was a concert B♭.
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I'm the co-owner of The Music Box and a lifelong musician as a euphonium player. The son of a band director, alumnus of the University of Alabama and father of 3, I keep busy on my Peloton and managing multiple businesses.