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St Edmunds Church, Roundhay, Leeds
Saturday 14th October 2017
6:30pm

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Thoresby Riding Hall, Thoresby Hall, Nottinghamshire
Sunday 15th October 2017
3:00pm

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Article: Ongoing Article

Conductor\'s Diary September 2008

30th Sept

The end of September and it is hard to believe that it has only been a month back at work. The amount of things that have had to be done in the four weeks is incredible. The next month is also busy in every respect but as Leeds College of Music has had to move the timing of the wind group to a Monday night, I can no longer take the rehearsal, which is both a shame and a bonus for me. I have agreed to take it next year if the schedule is different but fitting it in this year will not be possible. I like the students and the atmosphere there and will be happy to put it back in the diary next year. It is a relief not to have to rush about quite so much in the coming months though!

29th Sept

Harlequin had a very successful trip to Holland and they played very well. They accompanied the choirs with skill and patience and they played their own spots with aplomb and flair. I am very proud of them and would take them anywhere. They also enjoyed the social side of things and in this busy world we don\'t get enough time just to sit and take the p*** out of one another.


27th Sept

Toby the dog did not have anything nasty in his spleen. Just a large lump and it has been removed. He is now a wagging barging eating machine who wonders if you ever leave the vets with all the bits you went in with.

He is fine! Good.

17th September

So far so good! Toby has come round from a major operation and is still in the vet\'s care. He has had a growth removed and it needs to be assessed. One day at a time!

16th September

Toby the Hedgehog seeking dog is in doggie hospital for a serious operation. Fingers crossed that he comes through and lives to confuse the hedgehogs another day. I love that dog!

15th September

A full week fo rehearsals and a lot of hard work means that the long break is over and forgotten.

One of the main problems that groups have at this time of year is a lack of dynamic control. There are many reasons for this and they include lack of ensemble awareness from not playing together as much as usual, new players who are not used to the conventions and difficulties of playing in the section and people being so glad to be back blowing again that they get carried away.

It is a fundamental problem in wind orchestras that sections are often too loud. Brass players get the blame sometimes but the problem is more complex than that otherwise it would have been solved by now.

The only solution is to get sections to understand the impact they have on one another.

As an example; bass lines are often doubled in some scores. This could involve tubas, bas clarinets, bassoons, bari sax and aven bass trombone. In that type of score non of the instruments have to work hard to create a lot of sound. It is better to get clarity through articulation and unify the ensemble through balanced and even tone production. This way the bass line of the score achieves a pleasing and controlled effect which other players are able to place their parts into without having to match up to the power. It creates space which is the vital oxygen supply to the music. Should the players simply read the dynamic and blow the way they think it should be, creating a rough and overbearing sound; other sections will instinctively play louder and the domino effect results in not only music that is too loud, but music which is out of proportion within the score, the orchestra and the whole performance.

If control can be achieved and maintained it will because players have bought into the idea of a subtle, musical, balanced ensemble with power in reserve.

How is this done? Well it has to be demonstrated to the whole group in rehearsal that it is more rewarding, more musical, and more likely to create a \"tingle factor\" moment when care and subtlety are uppermost in everyone\'s mind. Conductor\'s must persevere and not shut up until at least the group has succeeded in creating the required sound. Truly the conductor needs to have a mental picture of how this sounds in the first place.

Then it has to get a little more personal! when most players have taken on board the message about balance, there are occasionally player who are clearly not cooperating. This should now be blatantly obvious both to the conductor and anyone listening (ie the players, assuming they listen!).

From then on pressure (constant) must be put on those sections to fall into line. Only when it falls into place AND stays that way in a concert; regardless of the pressure, can you say that the problem has been fixed.

The pay off is that when the group starts to allow space for dynamics it clears space to improve all aspects of music. Tuning! It is easier when the phrasing and balance allows the space to clearly hear the intonation. It is also easier to play in tune when players are not striving or overblowing just to hear clearly what is in their part. Balance! Because players are able to hear across the score, they can make intelligent independent and often musical decisions about priorities. So melody, countermelody, secondary countermelody, accompaniment figures can all be heard, judged and placed carefully.

Tone colour! Always better and more subtle when players can hear it properly.

Level of attack, articulation and phrasing; the life blood of the wind orchestra (any ensemble) the stuff that makes the music talk! Only effective if all the subtleties are linked to careful and musical balance.

11th September

Now that YWO and Harlequin have resumed after the break, all the groups are up and running. Harlequin have a short tour of Holland coming up which will culminate in a concert in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. I am busy doing the arrangements for the choir/brass stuff. It is on the Concertgebouw website with the usual name missing from the programme.

YWO started in a slightly uncertain way but the improvement throughout a tough rehearsal, was extremely good; as you would expect from such players. They will be fine provided all the seats can be filled. They will provide an excellent playday in November and it must be an essential event for any wind player who really wants to move forward.

I\'d forgotten just how tiring a fast-paced well motivated series of rehearsals can be. After about seven hours of such work this week, plus all the arranging, writing UCAS references, attending meetings, teaching and travelling, I\'m knackered already! Well not quite but almost.


7th September

Now all the groups are starting to get back into gear for the new season and it is always interesting to see how the summer break has diminished their cohesion. Phoenix enjoyed their first rehearsal due to trying out some new music and quite a good turn out.

NSWO had a sluggish start but soon proved that they are still on an upward track. The group quickly got into the spirit of the rehearsal and showed why they are a constantly improving group.

It will be interesting to hear YWO tomorrow after a rather busy day at work and a very long break since the concert in Sheffield last season.

6th September

My data has been recovered!

I wonder if I will!


3rd September

Still no sign of a fix for my lost data and the main computer is gone. Classes coming in for lessons and all the stuff is on that hard drive; but am I panicking? A bit! Tonight is the first Harlequin rehearsal of the year and we are preparing for another tour in Holland. That should help this week of ill luck and cock-ups.

Later:

Just arrived back from Barnsley, Could not find the group or my mobile phone. Turns out it was a last minute cancellation and my text did not come through. This week is not improving fast.

2nd September

Well it\'s officially over! What is? The Summer.

Normally at around this time of year, a cold chill can be felt which reminds us that October is on the way and the holidays are over. This has not happened as August was so spectacularly duff weather wise. It was still a nice break before everything swings into action.

I met John Farthing and Simeon Yates on Saturday and had a brief chat with them about orchestras and conducting. It reminded me of how easy it is to forget the networking that things like BASBWE provide at least once a year. I have been working, rehearsing or actually doing a concert during the past three conferences. Heavily involved in wind music but unable to attend. I have not checked the schedule this year but given the amount of clashes I\'m experiencing in late 2008 already, I don\'t hold out much hope. Still at least I\'m doing it and not just talking about it.

Today I found that all my musical resources have been erased from my main computer at school. I found myself actually frozen in anguish and unable to work. It is almost like being in shock! The damage is impossible for even assess myself, never mind explain it to you. Reading this, I actually sound as though I\'m dealing with it well; not really.

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