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Conductor\'s Diary January 2008

Conductor\'s Diary January 2008

29th January

Thanks to PT Graphics for the picture taken from well above the group on Sunday. I didn\'t know I was getting so thin on top ( only since I was 23).

Yesterday was the NSWO community workshop and it was a very well organised and important event for the group.

150 players performed Sun Paints Rainbows on the Vast Waves after sectional rehearsals and two full sessions. It was a great opportunity to show the community players what wind playing can be like and will surely show the local musicians that the NSWO means a quality musical experience for all. The workshop was the community part of the earlier workshop for just the main band and the earlier experience could not have been funded without this element being fully completed.

I did hear some grumblings from some of the orchestra that the day was not of the same benefit as the course in October and it is true that the experience was better for the guests than the main band.

It needs to be appreciated fully that the quality of the whole package which is NSWO means being less blinkered in outlook. The workshop in October was a brilliant; almost unique event. It could not have been funded without the community element and that makes everyone a winner. Yes, people had to pay for the day but it was not a lot and it was to subsidise the whole package and there was something to learn for everyone on Sunday.

It is a valued and wonderful thing to be part of a very good orchestra. Not all groups enjoy such a good averall experience for such a prolonged period. To be part of it is to give as well as take and both can be rewarding and uplifting.

So; ask me what is like to conduct 150 players in SPROTVW in that recital hall! Go on ask me......I can see your lips moving....

still can\'t hear you! Eh?

The M1 has another big section reduced to 50mph. From Sheffield to Nottingham is almost all restricted and it not adds ten minutes to the journey.

I met Richard Bissill at the workshop who has written some of Harlequin Brass\' most challenging arrangements. I would like to get him to come and work with the group on those pieces and maybe some of mine to get a bit of alternative input to the group. He seemed keen to do this so I will try to work something out as soon as they feel like doing it.

I also met some of the tutors who were at the RNCM with me and it was great to catch up with their news and views. We were well off for talent on Sunday with some terrific work being done with mixed ability sections and with limited time.

24th January

Monday was a wet and windy start to the week with floods and closed roads as well as cancelled trains and buses. Despite the weather a good turn out made the YWO rehearsal productive and busy. I even forgot to give them a break. The weather did take its toll on the trumpet section which I fear might need some attention in term of personnel. I\'m sure that there are at least ten players on the books but attendance is a condition of membership and that\'s just how it is.

My sore throat returned this week and it made a trip to Harlequin impossible as it was totally wrecked by Wednesday tea time. I don\'t need this again with the amount of rehearsals coming up. Harlequin can be trusted to make full use of the time on their own.


20th January

It was a busy week, running about doing rehearsals around the area. Harlequin had a productive evening although a missing folder meant that only new music could be played.

Phoenix had a good turn out and a lot of new players came along. It is always clear who the new players are because they are in the room before 7.30. Eventually the rehearsal got going and the group worked well. There are huge imbalances in the middle of the band and they are compounded by the players having to overblow to hear themselves. A lot of the problems with recruiting is the over filling of certain sections. This problem can easily be overcome but only with persistent and eventually, insistant instructions to ease back and play with sensitivity.

On Sunday NSWO had a hard-working session with a longish break whilst we checked out the rooming for the workshop next week. We discussed the the issue of concentration when the music seems \"easy\" or easy-listening. There are no easy pieces in terms of amateur performing. Only players who have quality inherently built in to their psyche can sit back and play seemingly with ease. Amateur groups need to concentrate just as much on balance, priorities, tuning, quality of tone, level of attack, ensemble, phrasing, dynamics et al. When all this comes off, the music works. This explains why this group can sound brilliant on complex and difficult scores whilst often sounding ordinary and dull on easier tasks. Good bands concentrate on producing thier best at all times and it is unthinkable to sound less than excellent for any reason. NSWO has the ability to do this well. They need to develop the habit and the pride and the gnu to make it standard procedure.

14th January

Last week Phoenix had the first rehearsal of the year. It got off to a slow start as usual and in the end all the seats were not filled. There were a few new players and I hope the odd missing section didn\'t put them off. We still appear unable to get enough players there at 7.30 and I will not start the rehearsal with six players as it does no good for anyone whether they are there or not. It does no good for me either as I need a quorum to energise me as much as any one else does. As usual the group worked well once the seats were filled and still has untapped potential which I feel I must unleash.

On Sunday it was back to Nottingham to begin work for the concert for a local group who like all things steam and nostalgia. We tried some music that was brought along from Windblowers, some of which I liked. Particularly interesting was Stravinsky\'s Circus Polka which I heard in America in the 80s. The group tends to revert to type a little when sight reading and so in the second half we worked on the First Eb Suite of Holst. They responded better to more detailed rehearsal although I sensed that most groups think that they can already play this piece. It is a classic and deserves (needs) thorough musical attention to unlock its beauty and grace. It will take a lot of care and attention to detail to get the performance I want from this piece. I have in the past abandoned it rather than play it in a mediocre manner but I am sure that NSWO have the ability to do a special performance of this one; we shall try. On the way home I needed to go into Leeds to pick up my mobile phone which is in for repair. They told me to ring a special number to check if it was ready. The automated system just got me into a loop of pressing buttons and numbers then ringing again to talk to a real person, only to be put back in the loop which is never ending. It took a 15 minute stop at the services to try to find out if it was worth going home through Leeds or not. In the end I gave up! The loan phone was not able to use my in-car system so a delay was inevitable but I do hate these automated systems.

Today it is a full day of exams. AS Music now and GCSE Music Mock this afternoon. 2.5 hours this morning (I\'ve been to the loo) and 1.5 this afternoon. It\'s quite relaxing in some ways and the exam looks quite good from what I can see. At least if a pupil has done the study, there are few pitfalls in this paper. Anyway shhhhhhhhhhhh.

10th January

It\'s like there was never a holiday! Everything has hit the ground running and the weather is awful too.

I heard some pupils singing a song called Somewhere over the Rainbowowow. It was the highly stylised version as recorded by Eva Cassidy. The tune is almost never sung as written and it verges on over sentimentality. However these young singers had no knowledge of the original tune and were convinved that a breath has to be taken between the words \"over\" and \"the rainbo-ow-ow\". A lot of young singers try to sing improvisations as they are performed on cds by artists who are creating clever variations of a melody. The difference is that the pro singers have the original tune in their hearts and are expressing themselves by interpreting the music in their unique way. The process of simply having someone mimic that style proves difficult for the young vocalist and frankly useless in their development as singers and musicians. It must be a shock to sit and watch The Wizard of OZ to find that rainbow only has two syllables.

Today it is back to Leeds College for the start of the new term and the first Phoenix rehearsal of the year. I\'ll report on that tomorrow or Saturday as I am on the school residentail out in the Dales tomorrow morning brrrrr.

8th January

Last night was the first YWO rehearsal of 2008. The group continues to show professionalism in attendance and punctuality. Marvelous! They read through the music for the next concert which requires a lively and audience friendly programme. Many players sight read everything and yet the music already had good features. After a little rehearsal the omens seem very good for this concert and I felt that the group was positive and happy to be together.

I was trying to pick up one of the flute section and my phone had run out of charge. As a result even going right to his home, I could not find him. To make matters worse we were in the 4X4 and not the usual car so he would not recognise us. So, apologies to him. He is a good enough player to catch up.


7th January

A grim, wet, windy morning and cold too; also dark. Yes, it\'s back to work and the alarm goes off at 6.30 having finished its work for today and smugly ignores my snooze request. Does anyone actually get up on such a day feeling like a Cornflakes advert and bounce into life? Actually it will be busy with a YWO rehearsal this evening and a full timetable at school, including an hour in the isolation room freezing and bored. Still, there is a lot to get on with so off we go!


Well
Happy New Year to you all!

6th January

The holiday is almost over. The decorations are down and it all begins again tomorrow.

In the coming weeks there are full teaching days, a residential, return to LCM, back to Nottingham for a big workshop day and a lot of concerts, a new era at Phoenix, a YWO rehearsal tomorrow, Harlequin getting ready to record a CD, arrangements to finish for the school production, AS examinations, A2 deadlines, the car needs a service, and probably other things I have not thought of yet.

It was a very good break with a trip up to Scotland for New Year. So many people are suffering from the dreadful cold that went around. It was a terribly difficult virus to shake off and left me feeling weak for weeks. For those who still have it, I hope it gets better soon.

At this time of year the radio and press are full of stories about resolutions and fresh starts. I never feel totally full of enthusiasm in January; it\'s more of a struggle to get things going again. They always do though!

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