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Phoenix Concert Band

Autumn Concert

Phoenix Concert Band
St George's Church, Great George Street, Leeds LS1 3BR
Saturday 14th November 2020

Leeds College of Music Wind Ensemble


Leeds College of Music Wind Ensemble
Monday 30th November 2020

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Article: Ongoing Article

Conductor\'s Diary (February 2007)

28th Feb: Arrive at work to find the car park empty. Oh no has my alarm gone off six hours early or is it Saturday? No, the Royal visit requires no parking in the grounds just at a local hotel.
Lovely new flowers in the foyer, cleaners everywhere, sniffer dogs, police vans. The programmes for the show are being done and the song lyrics are being ommited from the Royal programme because the 1890 deputy head sings about spanking bottoms. What happens when they attend a film premiere? Do they edit a special version I wonder? The Whacking Song is satire; we can\'t have that can we?

Oh well T-minus 64 minutes, stand by everyone, anything can happen in the next.........

26th Feb: Started the day by picking up 5 radio mics from Pudsey, setting them up at school as well as setting up the music stands with lights for the rehearsal today. A quick meeting concerning the Royal visit on Wednesday and a discussion about the programmes. Then a quick set up followed by a dire dress rehearsal of the show.

If we had managed to run the finale on Saturday we would have managed better, but the coaches arrived to take the cast back to Ilkley whilst we were in the middle of the rehearsal. I was hassled to get the rehearsal finishes which I certainly was not going to do. I\'m fed up with artistic endeavour being wrecked by jobsworths and box tickers. However the North Yorkshire weather intervened and when I saw it begin to rain I decided to get everything packed and leave the finale until today. I have to be pragmatic. I don\'t care about bus companies, janitors, managers etc. but if the electrical equipment gets damaged the show will be compromised. When all is said and done, I am responsible for the quality of the performances, not the deputy heads, caretakers, jobsworths and gnus.

I cannot seem to shake off the cold now that it is more bronchial and chesty. It gets worse when it\'s time to sleep and I do want to shake it off before my Mother comes down from Aberdeen. She wants to see the show and has always supported my playing, conducting and composing. She is brutally honest too. Once on the Ocean Princess I had to sing as my singer was ill.\" Did you like the songs?\" I enquired over a drink in the interval, \"Well,\" she said \" Your brother was always the singer.\" I got the message.

25th Feb: I returned from the residential on Saturday at around 2.00pm. The course was hectic but productive and I have to say that the kids and the staff worked very hard to turn the music and text into a good show. I am confident that the performances next week will have the audiences laughing and crying and generally getting their money\'s worth. On returning to the school I find that the art department have made a great job of the set. We are a team; one of which I am proud.

My cold has crept into my chest causing sleep disruption and unexpected coughing and shoulder movement when conducting. Phoenix had a rehearsal and concert on Saturday evening. I was worried in case a cough would cause disruption but instead the box I was standing on (can\'t imagine why they thought I needed a box) collapsed during the final piece. I managed to keep balanced as only one half went through.

Phoenix played very nicely and the band had a quiet assurance. Perhaps it was due to there being a few missing players, I cannot be sure.

On Sunday NSWO had a very constructive rehearsal which confirmed to me that they are really making progress. It was rather a repeat of last week\'s rehearsal (Groundhog Day), but there were players away so the whole thing worked really.

Magaret had ordered me some new batons as I had left one at Leed College of Music and it got (g)nicked. The Mollard batons are so good that I cannot blame anyone for pinching it. (I hope it takes his eye out ((not really)),

Anyway she got me the perfect stick and it is wonderfully balanced. light, perfect length, reassuringly expensive and I love it. In the end she rather gave me it. I am unworthy!!

Home to a hot bath and more Benelyn yuk! I need to get clear of this cold soon, I am avoiding my daughter as she has a vocal audition next week and I don\'t want to spoil it by giving her my cold.

21st Feb: Difficult morning, packing for school and the residential with equipment, domestic stuff, clothes, music, keyboard, amplifier, leads etc. Have I forgotten anything?

Yes; a towel! Never go anywhere without a towel, except a towel shop maybe.

20th Feb: Only one day to go until the residential for the school show. I listened to the finale sung by the cast at lunchtime and they did well. The music is lively and heartening at the end but I am aware that the tonality is largely minor and they will really have to sell it to get the \"feel-good factor into the last scenes.

I have already rehearsed for 10 hours this week with four groups and from tomorrow there will be at least 20 more hours of rehearsal this week and a Phoenix Band concert; not to mention the NSWO on Sunday. That\'s around 35 hours, I should get my pilots licence soon.

Probably the site will not be updated until I return from Ingleborough, Leeds, Nottingham so if anything interesting happens I will write it up then. Yes, I know, nothing interesting so far so why should it change. Stick with it!!

19th Feb: A teachers\' training day and I am running it as a workshop on music technology. I sent out a lot of information to the schools involved so that they could have some input. No one replied, no one came to the meeting so I just had to go with my instincts. Some people enjoyed the session and said that it was useful. One guy turned up 90 minutes late, had a sullen attitude and didn\'t join in with the tasks. He must be a real expert, or just a dick head, I wonder which one.

In the evening a YWO reheasal, organised to perfection by Amanda and John. They were caught on the hop by some people crying off at the last minute but I know that players won\'t get away with it too often, as Muoso will simply strive to replace them. My throat did not quite hold up through the rehearsal and I\'m sure that the orchestra were glad not to hear the odd criticism. I reverted to, \"It\'s all on the website!\" as they can practise their parts from there. The group is improving; although there are still some nasty moments, there are some magical ones too.

18th Feb: Up after a dodgy night\'s sleep and off to Nottingham. Throat still raw and sore but I have some strepsils. The rehearsal goes well enough with quite a few empty seats. Intonation seems a bit slipshod but I might just be grumpy and sensitive to it all.

Then off to Birmingham for the NSC rehearsal. I fight my way through the Chinese New Year celebrations and traffic to find them a little short of players. After 4 hours I slip away whilst they are dealing with the dress for the concert and busking in Grimsby. No voice left now! I drink lots of water; keep hydrated they say for a cold. I have to stop twice on the way back. Nose to tail traffic on the M1 as it is the end of half term. So am I fully refreshed for the new term? No; so what\'s gnu?

17th Feb: Back from a few days in North Yorkshire. Very nice, but I managed to get a cold. Oh No!

Six hours of rehearsal tomorrow with a sore throat.

13th Feb: Half term and time to get my breath back. I have written a fanfare today for a special performance coming up in a few weeks. Good old Sibelius 4; it is by no means perfect but it can get things done really quickly and the parts will be easy to print out for the next rehearsal. It is so good to have the time to catch up with such things although I do have a rehearsal at Leeds College of Music tomorrow; no half term there!

In the evening I try to get some organisation into planning the year. I ring Anne Clarke who is the organiser for NYWES. I think she is great and so do all of the players who attend the course. Anyway she told me that Charlie Maynes wants to conduct the course this year. No one has put more musical time and effort into Nywes than Charlie and I am happy to see him take over the baton this year. I will miss it and I don\'t mind saying that I\'d be miffed if it were anyone else, but Charlie has done so much for the musical scene in Scotland that he should have his way on this one. He and Brian were the heart and soul of NYWES for years and it is hard without Brian. I may even offer to do his upper brass for him. There is no one better in wind bands to have a few nips with!!

Having praised Amanda\'s hospitality this week, I must also praise her fundraising skills; securing money for a tam-tam to add to the YWO percussion section. Money is like that; here today, gong tomorrow!

11th Feb: Having stayed over with Amanda and John; and been well looked after and fed, (well done Amanda\'s Mum. You really taught her to cook!)
I head off through more bad weather to conduct NSWO. I was expecting missing players but the band had swapped around to fill the seats and we had a great rehearsal. It sounded pretty good, which will not be good news for those players who are away!

I enjoyed taking the group through Danceries by Hesketh and they quickly catch on to the transparency required by this score. Well done people, you made the journey worth while.

10th Feb: I get up and drive to Birmingham. Snow is still a problem on high ground but on the M1 it is torrential rain and standing water. Nightmare!

I get to the Bimingham venue, which is the Sir Adrian Boult Hall and the NSC are ready to begin recording. We work for 6 hours to get the music recorded and this time they have heeded my advice and are going to edit the performances together. This takes the pressure off the players a little although the people in the box are rather inexperienced.

The problems that they encounter are never very sophisticated. If players can play..1) Below mf. 2) Variable attack with control. 3) IN TUNE!! There would be little trouble in recording this programme. The group has really improved but there is still a frightening lack of focus and basic skill at times. I think that some players stay within their comfort zones and avoid dealing with the painful basics which sorely need individual attention. If players can focus on bringing their techniques up to the required level, develop the stamina to keep their instruments in tune and PRACTISE PLAYING SOFTLY the group would really improve.

The early part of the session was quite productive but when fatigue set in later on, little was gained.

NSC Recording

I do hope that NSC can produce a decent CD from their efforts and one way or another they should listen to it every day with honesty and think how each individual can contribute to improving the issues exposed. When all said and done, there are some fabulous players and lovely people in NSC. They deserve to succeed.

9th Feb: Half term begins after a long day and a game of 5-a-side football. It ended up being 4-a- side then 3 against four when one of our team left early because of snow. I scored! Amazing!

I get home to find snow falling and I have to go to Birmingham for the NSC recording in the morning. I look out and it does not bode well!

The Weather

8th Feb: Another busy day with a Y9 parents evening followed by the Phoenix Band. I arrive at band a tiny bit late but by the time they all arrive it is almost 8.00pm.

They have a concert coming up which seemed to materialise rather suddenly. As a result several players cannot be there. I have to miss some rehearsals due to the residential and show coming up in the last weeks of February. So last night it was a case of ensuring that everything is run through. Nightmare! So many things needed rehearsal and yet no time to stop and start. Some key players were missing and there was much insecurity in ensemble and intonation. A lot of Phoenix players only play their instruments at the rehearsal so it won\'t improve much without practice.

A conductor needs a lot of patience and the ability to shield his ears occasionally when working with community groups. There will always be nights like last night but at least there was no need to travel far. No M1!

I have been told that NSWO will have empty seats for the next two rehearsals due to half term. That is so depressing. I just hate empty seats; especially after a 90 minute drive. I have some empty chairs in my kitchen, which I could conduct without leaving the house! Still, it is no fault of those who remain so I must try to make the best of it for the moment.

NSC are recording all day on Saturday in Birmingham; snow permitting! I hope the individuals have worked on their music because there really is no hiding place when the red light goes on!

Yesterday the South was brought to a standstill by a little snow. After my last new year gig I drove across West Yorkshire taking people home and picking people up and there was at least a foot of snow on some roads. I had little trouble as my Jeep Grand Cherokee just eats those kind of conditions. It is an insurance policy in this area if the weather gets snowy and yet the moaners criticise these cars and give them a bad name. It is the only legal vehical for towing Anne\'s horses. (try that with a Smart car) and as a diesel it isn\'t that greedy fuel wise. So there!

7th Feb: A busy day, with a full timetable, a show coming up, lots of deadlines, a rehearsal at Leeds College of Music and Harlequin Brass in the evening.

All goes well and I get quite a good turn out at LCM, which is not always the case. The group is mixed ability with HE and FE players; very nice students. A lot of basic work needs to be done to make them sound any good.

A quick tea in the Cactus Lounge with my daughter then off to Harlequin. At J38 of the M1 I get a call to say that four players are stuck in a huge traffic jam at J31 and the rehearsal is to be cancelled so I turn and head North. The M1 beats me yet again!

Home in time to watch the football; Spain 1 England 0, Motorway 2 Keiron 0.

5th Feb: YWO rehearsal in Wakefield. This rehearsal showed that some sections of the orchestra are becoming more unified and confident. Trumpets and Horns were particularly good at times and the woodwind section has become a little more streamlined. There are still players who do not do appear to do enough high level playing regularly and are not match-fit in terms of being able to control their sound and technique. This orchestra will place demands on all sections to be able to handle any dynamic situation and ensemble variation. I will be pressing people to be able to produce clean pianissimos with deft articulations in their sections and as soloists. It can only be good for the players in the end.

It should be noted that although I spend the most part of the rehearsal being quite critical, I have the utmost respect and admiration for all of the players. I would be letting everyone down if I did not demand the highest standards at all times.

4th Feb: NSWO rehearsal and a very good turn out. The group is in good form after a concert the night before and this is reflected in the progress made. We work on new music which is quick to take shape and I decide to try out the original wind score of Allerseelen. This terrific piece looks very easy and is a good test of a wind group. This work needs careful attention to dynamics and phrasing, it is not enough to follow the directions on the parts, listening and making judgements is essential. A group who know their business will make it sound brilliant, a group who simply play it as written will wonder what the fuss is all about.

A musician in Scotland described it as being like sex; if you\'re not enjoying it you\'re not doing it right!

If a group does make this piece live, you can be assured that they are an excellent orchestra. They will be in control of tuning, balance, tonal issues and sectional understanding. They will be flexible and alert to interpretation. They will be able to sustain the length of the phases and still have the strength and power to bring the harmony to life. They will be in control at all times and they would get ten out of ten.

NSWO looked a little bewildered by it at times and scored a creditable six out of ten and they will certainly improve on that.

The M1 was busy on the way back but no real delays. Got home in time to sleep through the footy match I wanted to see. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz Thank goodness for Sky+.

3rd Feb: NSWO play a very good concert in Long Eaton to a capacity audience. The programme is light for the audience but challenging for the players. For the most part the orchestra rose to the challenge and it was a successful evening all round.

NSWO in Concert

A more detailed report will follow.

The M1 was down to one lane on the way south delaying me by a full half hour. Nightmare.

1st Feb: The new month begins and from now on, each day will appear above the last entry. I hope.

Tonight is the Phoenix AGM. These things are not easy for me as I am always keen to get the band playing. I leave the running of groups to the appointed officials and seldom interfere. I know some conductors who like to control everything but in the end it does not help the group to learn how to survive as an institution in itself. This way if a conductor moves on, the group simply reappoints and no harm is done.

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