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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 March 2008

19th March

A very busy rehearsal on Monday with YWO which had a real pace and endeavour about it from start to finish. The music required a big effort and it simply cannot be played, on our schedule, without it. It is a time of year when empty seats can be an issue. Easter; to early. Everyone trying to get things done before it and finding that there is not enough time. With our minimal rehearsal time it is better if people are all there for every one. Otherwise we should just consult the waiting lists.

18th March

On Sunday the Nottingham rehearsal was quite a revelation. From the outset the group read through a piece of music that soem had and some had not played about 2 years ago. The playing was musical and full of understanding of the phrasing and style. The dynamics and ensemble were good and yet the tuning was not all that good. It was odd to have a group play in such a mature and cultured manner whilst not managing the basics in terms of intonation. It shows that groups may well improve rapidly as this one has done over the last 27 months but not all aspects of the playing make the same rate of progress. Tuning is really a personal issue as well as an ensemble one. It is about being in control of the breathing and the instrument sufficiently to meet the tuning demands of the music. It is up to individuals to work hard to ensure that their playing is constantly improving as well as the conductor to remind players of the elements of intonation that need attention. The sound of this group will take massive strides forward when the tuning becomes as \"second nature\" as the other aspects of the performance are generally. It should be said that the tuning is not badly out; just enough to warrant attention by a high calibre ensemble.

14th March

Yesterday was again a busy Thursday with full timetables and Leeds College of Music where the students worked hard during their rehearsal.

Later at Phoenix there were a few missing players but to be honest the band worked very well and the imbalances in the sax section were not so difficult as half of them were missing. The group worked very hard to get the phrasing right in the Benny Goodman piece whilst at least half of the players were sight reading which is an indication of how many new players are arriving. Some good new flute players have come and the new clarinets are working out well.

It is clear that very soon it will be a requirement for me to audition some sections to sort out who plays where. Saxophones clarinets and flute are becoming a real issue as they are popular positions and we need to have the best and most reliable and commited players in the key positions.

Oh well tomorrow is Saturday 15th March. My last free day was Saturday 16th Feb. so I can just chill for a bit. Walk the dogs, listen to the football and relax before it all starts again on Sunday.

10th March

Yesterday was quite a full rehearsal in Nottingham and we realise that the next concert is not far away in terms of rehearsals. The group is playing very well at present although the minimalist concepts of Canons and Cadenzas is still eluding them. The rest of the programme shows great promise and it looks like being a great concert. The group is allowing their musicality to shine now, even when sight reading a work and that is a sure sign of progress. The next concert is dedicated to Tony who played percussion and was very welcoming to me when I first arrived over two years ago. I would like to think that this will be a special evening in his memory.

I was so tired at the end of the rehearsal. Perhaps 5/6 hours of conducting and all that driving in the space of twelve hours took its toll. Fought home through the traffic and looked at the front of the car. Well, this morning Toby the dog had been out nibbling at the car as he thought some cat or other had spent the night on it. He has actually bitten and scratched the bonnet. How many people can say \"The dog ate my car\" Oh well that\'s Crufts out then.

9th March

YWO played a very good programme at the NCM in Barnsley which in the end was quite well attended. The room was full of curtains and carpets causing the sound to be rather dead but YWO are made of strong stuff and made the very best use of the space. The Grainger was so delightfully played that the audience were all smiles when I turned to talk to them after it. The Holst was a dignified and spacious reading and the Woolfenden was probably one of the most mature and complete readings of that work for a long time. The room was most challenging for the solioists and they all showed great experience and mental fortitude to produce an excellent concert. One day we\'ll have a full house, a nice room, good light, the right temperature, a flying pig..........

7th March

Last night was my first Phoenix rehearsal for three weeks and the band seems to have survived well in Brian\'s hands. The programme is out for the concerts in a few weeks and it is all popular and fairly easy compared to Festivo etc. The group has to rehearse in the church on occasion and compete with the bell ringers rehearsal. Unbelievable really! It is a constant drain on the concentration but I think we are used to it. It beats loads of kids running around; which used to happen when I took it over four years ago. The band has evolved since then. They used to be very rehearsal shy and prefered just playing stuff through, they had no sense of balance and phrasing and artidulation was a distant concept. They had no cohesion and very bad intonation. Some pieces even had wrong notes rehearsed into them. They also had Eb horns (aaah).
Now there are full sections, a good work ethic, slightly better punctuality and much fuller attendance. The band has three french horns, two bassoons, three trombones and is only in need of some trumpets and percussion. The rehearsals are energetic and hard-working whilst retaining a light atmosphere. Bands need to work towards constant improvement. To stagnate is to fail and players will not want to join something that is just a good blow on a Thursday. I have high hopes for them. The challenge now is to temper the influx of players to the needs of sections. At the moment some sections are over-subscribed, too heavy and overpowering. Perhaps some auditions will be the solution!

5th March

Still struggling to talk. Harlequin should have an easy time of it tonight!

4th March

Yesterday was a full day with a YWO rehearsal in the evening. My throat hurts! It is raw and painful and worn out. Two year 9 classes seemed to notice my proplem and were quite quiet and diligent.

At the rehearsal I told the group that I\'d play through the whole programme without commenting much, which caused a great deal of ironic laughter. I did however, have to do that, due to my useless voice and the pressures of time. The programme ran smoothly largely although trumpets had many problems due to inconsistancy of members attendance. They will have to be on top form to get the concert to work.

Knowing this group, I think that next week will produce some fine wind playing in a concert not to be missed!

Nothing seems to relieve a sore throat. Honey, lemon, paracetamol, aspirin, nurofen, whisky, ribena, strepsils, benilyn, the lot. In the end everytime sleep starts to approach, the pain wakes you up. I gargled with TCP ugh! Feels great for about 5 minutes then you just feel as bad but smell like a disinfectant sheep dip for the next four hours. I\'m sure there\'s a fortune to be made for the one who comes up with an effective symptomatic cure. Still, it will shut me up for a bit; never a bad thing!

3rd March

Saturday was a busy day, not helped by the strong winds buffeting that lorry around. I got it home and arrived in Nottingham for the concert.

NSWO played in a musical, mature manner ensuring that their loyal audience was rewarded with an evening of delightful playing and good music. If anything Radio Days was the least succesful piece. I wonder if I sometimes neglect rehearsal on it so it doesn\'t look like I\'m promoting my own piece too much.

The group played the Holst and found the music in it so well that audience members came up and commented on it.

Sunday morning was less succesful with a lot of empty seats and those that were full were occupied by tired musicians. Nevertheless we worked well and achieved a lot. This will all have to be repeated in future rehearsals due to the absent players.

Home through the traffic with a really sore throat. Fantastic! That\'s really going to help this week.

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