HelenEdith's Blog

The minutiae of my life, plus website updates and book reviews

Royal Academy of Music Bassoon Ensemble – Friday 24th April 2009 – David Josefowitz Recital Hall

Posted by HelenEdith on June 30, 2009

St Marylebone Parish Church, opposite the Royal Academy of Music

St Marylebone Parish Church, opposite the Royal Academy of Music

Once again time has flown by, and something I meant to review in April is still unreviewed at the wrong end of June – which I’m rectifying right now!

I attended a short concert given by the Royal Academy of Music Bassoon Ensemble in which the students showcased their talents. Such concerts are open to the general public, and many of them (including this one) are free.

I hadn’t been to a student concert like this before, but was lucky enough to hear about this one via a contact on FaceBook, and now I know that by visiting the Royal Academy of Music website, I can download a diary of such events.

I had thought that most of the audience members would be students, but this turned out not to be the case at all. There are dedicated concert-goers who attend such performances and appreciate the chance to listen to good music on a budget – and good music it is. If you think that the talented teenagers who appear on Young Musician of the Year are good, well these students take talent to the next level. In fact, these are the musicians who will be joining our professional orchestras and generally gracing our concert platforms on more than an occasional basis within a very short time.

They opened their concert with Horn Bluff by Alan Civil (1928-1989) and as the name of the piece suggests, this was originally written for eight French horns (plus a tuba), but it works amazingly well on eight bassoons and a contra bassoon. If you ever get a chance to hear this piece, do so.

The ensemble then worked its way through pieces by Richard Bissell, George Gershwin (arranged by their professor, John Orford), Leonard Bernstein, John Addison, Geoffrey Hartley, John Addison and even Abba!

The ensemble expanded and contracted according to the instrumentation required for each piece; the players took turns at playing the upper parts and the harmony parts; and the contra bassoon changed hands with each piece.

I was particularly interested to hear Suite for Three Bassoons by Geoffrey Hartley (1906-1992) as this is a piece for which I own the sheet music; and which I usually attempt once a year. These players had no problems at all with the chromatic run at the end of the piece which invariably gives my own trio trouble, and it was satisfying to hear it as it should be heard. 🙂

The concert ended with Toccata by Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937) arranged by Sarah Jackson for eight bassoons and a contra bassoon. Before playing it, they put out a plea to the audience for anybody with a contra to join them on stage (that plea had previously gone out on FaceBook 🙂 so there was every likelihood that someone would just happen to have a contra with them) and one audience member took up the call. I wasn’t totally convinced by the bassoon rendition of the upper keyboard parts of this organ Toccata, and wonder whether those parts would play better on clarinets, if a bit of cross-department co-operation could be arranged, but the pedal notes played on the contra bassoons were absolutely wonderful and it was well worth listening to this arrangement just to hear the contra bassoons playing those long low notes.

The members of the Academy Bassoon Ensemble are:

  • Debbie Barnes
  • Georgina Eliot
  • Sophie Fox
  • Karen Geoghegan
  • Rhonwen Jones
  • Éanna Monaghan
  • Hayley Pullen
  • Joanna Stark
  • Dominic Tyler

The fact that seven of these nine students are female is interesting, but the problem of encouraging male bassoon students is worthy of its own article and I won’t go into it at length here.

I took my camera up to town with me and after the concert I indulged in a spot of photography. The St Marylebone Parish Church which I have pictured at the top of this article is handily placed for organ scholars at the Academy, while Regents Park, where I photographed the tulips included at the bottom of this article, is just around the corner from the Academy, and is deserving of a longer visit when I have more time. Maybe I should find a summer concert to attend when the daylight hours are longer!

Tulips in Regents Park, a short walk from the Royal Academy of Music

Tulips in Regents Park, a short walk from the Royal Academy of Music

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