HelenEdith's Blog

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Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

All things pertaining to music

Beckenham Concert Band at Hever Castle

Posted by HelenEdith on December 20, 2009

Hever Castle at Christmas

Today the Beckenham Concert Band performed at Hever Castle as part of their “Magic of Christmas” festivities. We had a marquee to play in, and it contained a heater and some lighting, but it was still pretty cold. I was rather glad that I wore two pairs of trousers. 🙂

The music requested by Hever Castle was Christmas music, but we also slipped in some numbers from “Oliver” in addition to the various Christmas carols and other assorted Christmas pieces like Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride”.

We expected our audience to be transitory as people visited the various attractions around the Castle, but there was one group of dedicated blanket-clad ladies who stayed for the whole performance! They jumped up and down whenever we played anything lively, which is probably all that kept them from being frozen to the spot, as there was real snow on the ground with the temperature to match. 😀

When we finished playing, there was still a little bit of light left and I put my camera up on my tripod for a few shots. I’ve included a picture of Hever Castle with a Christmas tree in front of it, but I got several other very pretty pictures and might even feel motivated to put them up on my website when I get a spare hour or two.

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Old but good: The hazards of outdoor playing

Posted by HelenEdith on August 25, 2009

I’ve been looking back through the contents of my Writings Page and found this:

4th May, 1998

I thought that I would share what happened to me today with you all, as you will probably get a smile out of it.

I have just been playing with the Beckenham Concert Band at a church fete. The band was set up under some trees. Part way through our performance, something wet landed on my arm. I hoped against hope that it was a drip of water off one of the trees, but when we got to the end of the number we were playing, and I had a chance to look, alas, it was not water which had landed upon my sleeve. I was in the direct firing line of a bird. 😯 Just what I wanted to fall foul of. 😉 The saxophone player sitting to my right said that she saw what landed on me go by her at an angle, and counted herself lucky that she didn’t lean forward at that moment! I was relieved that it landed on me and not my instrument.

I suppose that this is the ideal time to share an old schoolyard ditty with you:

A little birdie flying high
Once dropped a message from the sky.
And as it fell upon my eye
I thanked the Lord that cows can’t fly!

Helen (off to do some washing)

Just as well we didn’t have the purple jackets back in those days: it might have meant a trip to the dry cleaner…

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Beckenham Concert Band: Horniman Gardens Bandstand

Posted by HelenEdith on August 16, 2009

Horniman Gardens Bandstand being prepared for a Beckenham Concert Band performance

Horniman Gardens Bandstand being prepared for a Beckenham Concert Band performance

This afternoon I had an outing with the Beckenham Concert Band. We played on the bandstand in the Horniman Gardens, where there are 16 acres of formal and natural landscapes. The bandstand is tucked in among them, and didn’t look very large from a distance, but it accommodated our whole band, so I think that its appearance was deceptive.

Here is our programme:

  • 001 Blaze Away
  • 044 Swingin’ Safari
  • 032 Teddy bears’ picnic
  • 014 Oklahoma
  • 070 Bandology
  • 216 Instant Concert
  • 376 King Cotton
  • 718 Jesus Christ Superstar


  • 128 Semper Fidelis
  • 275 Costa Brava
  • 432 Wizard of Oz Fantasy
  • 538 Raiders March
  • 243 Blue Tango
  • 060 Aces High
  • 066 Hootenanny
  • 337 High School Cadets
  • 658 The Symphonic Beatles

This is a bandstand which I’d never previously had occasion to perform on, and it is in a beautiful setting. We plan on going back one day when I’m not performing to look properly at the gardens and the museum. I think I might bring my tripod: there’s a view from by the bandstand which encompasses the Battersea Power Station and the arch of the new Wembley Stadium, but even with shake reduction activated on my camera, I didn’t get a good picture.

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Marlowe Music Week 2009: A few pictures

Posted by HelenEdith on August 15, 2009

Stephen took loads of pictures on the two occasions when he attended a Marlowe Music Week activity. I need to put everything that’s in focus up, but here I’ve selected out a few pictures of me in my pink floral outfit from the Coffee morning; and a couple of pictures trimmed out of the group photos taken prior to the final Full Orchestra session, when I was wearing my red t-shirt.

Me in my pink floral outfit at the Coffee Morning - with Jerry's clarinets visible in the foreground!

Me in my pink floral outfit at the Coffee Morning - with Jerry's clarinets visible in the foreground!

Me in my pink floral outfit at the Coffee Morning

Me in my pink floral outfit at the Coffee Morning

Me in my pink floral outfit at the Coffee Morning

Me in my pink floral outfit at the Coffee Morning

Me in my pink floral outfit at the Coffee Morning

Me in my pink floral outfit at the Coffee Morning

Me in my red t-shirt before Full Orchestra

Me in my red t-shirt before Full Orchestra

Margaret Fernandez and me before playing in the Full Orchestra

Margaret Fernandez and me before playing in the Full Orchestra

I seem to be having a bad hair day in some of these. Maybe it’s time to seek professional help and visit a hairdresser… 😕

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Marlowe Music Week 2009: Friday Full Orchestra

Posted by HelenEdith on August 14, 2009

The playing part of Marlowe Music Week came to an end this evening with a full orchestra session. We were missing trombones this year and the call has gone out to see if some can be recruited. I think that the trombonists from past years have relocated and are therefore no longer available.

We had an interesting programme of music on our stands to read through:

  • Beethoven – Egmont Overture
  • Schumannn – Symphony No.4 in D minor
  • Wagner – Flying Dutchman Overture
  • Bizet – L’Arlesienne Suites Nos 1&2

We played our way through the Beethoven and Schumann before stopping for a refreshment break. Most people went outside, where it was cooler. We really have been blessed with summer weather this week.

After the break, we played the Wagner and all of L’Arlesienne Suite No.1 plus the Intermezzo and Farandole from Suite No.2 before Nick put his baton down for the night and Jim stood up to offer this thanks to Malcolm and Sheila for organising the week and also to present them with theatre tokens as a token 🙂 of our gratitude. The hosts and hostesses who provided lunch during the week; and those who opened their homes and hosted musical events were also thanked.

There is one remaining social event: Sunday tea in the garden of one of the Marlowe Ensemble members. I can’t attend, as it clashes with my appointment on the bandstand at Horniman Gardens.

If you have been following my blog, you will know that I have attended a lot of musical events over the past week. It has been a thoroughly enjoyable holiday, and what’s more, it didn’t break the bank, as this year’s contribution was a mere £10! I’m also pleased to report that my lip has survived and I didn’t have to have recourse to the Bonjela! 😀

Now I’ve just got to stay in practice…

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Marlowe Music Week 2009: Friday chamber music

Posted by HelenEdith on August 14, 2009

I went out for four nights in a row, but stayed in last night, missing “Party Pieces” at Joyce’s place. In fact, I decided to watch some tennis on the TV and next thing I knew, I woke up just as the match was over. 😳

Earlier in the week, I had asked Malcolm if there was any chance of playing some music for bassoon and strings, and he said that there would be a string quartet at his place this morning and suggested that they were starting at 10:30 and to give them time to play some quartets and to come along a bit later.

That gave me the chance to get my bassoon out at home and have a look at the music that I was interested in playing. Then I went over to Malcolm’s place at about 11:30, just as they were stopping for their refreshment break. That gave me a chance to get my bassoon assembled and then I joined the other musicians in the garden and enjoyed a glass of apple juice.

When we reconvened, we started with Three Arias from Mozart’s Don Giovanni, transcribed for bassoon and string quartet by Michael Campbell. I had looked at these at home earlier in the day and only the third of the three was familiar to me, but as soon as the music arrived on peoples’ stands, they commented that we really needed a mandolin! It turned out that the whole of Deh, viene alla finestra was played pizzicato! Not having studied the score in much depth, I hadn’t realised that, so it came as quite a surprise to me. However, it was a nice surprise. 🙂 Then five string players (because we had two violas sharing a part) picked up their bows to play Dalla sua pace and Il mio tesoro intanto.

Then I got out Henry Hargrave’s Concerto No.IV in B flat. Henry Hargrave was an English composer who was active in the second half of the 18th Century and his set of five wind concertos (three for bassoon; and two for oboe and bassoon) are available from Phylloscopus Publications. Concerto No.IV has five movements: con spirito, allegro, siciliana, gavotta and minuet – allegro. It was nice and lively with all of those dance movements, but not too difficult for the string players to read through, although I’d had a quick look at the bassoon part ahead of time. 🙂

We had a little bit of time left, so I got out Henry Hargrave’s Concerto No.I in B flat. I played that last year with three different groups, but haven’t touched it since, so I had a little look at it this morning, too. 🙂 It has a more conventional Allegro – Adagio – Vivace concerto structure and is a typical baroque concerto where soloist and strings converse. It really doesn’t work well with a piano reduction, so I greatly appreciated the opportunity to play it through with strings.

The string players said that they enjoyed it too, as it was something fresh for them to play; and some different music is always welcome.

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Marlowe Music Week 2009: Thursday classical orchestra

Posted by HelenEdith on August 13, 2009

The Marlowe Ensemble gathered this morning for a classical orchestra session. This music does not require clarinets, so one clarinettist stayed home to get the BBQ hot for those people who were adjourning for a BBQ after the orchestra session, while the other clarinettist brought his double bass instead.

We commenced with Schubert’s Symphony No.5 in B major. I think I may have played it before, as it seemed familiar. As one who took up orchestral playing relatively late in life (in my mid-thirties) there are large gaps in my orchestral playing experience which the “old hands” who have been playing since their childhoods don’t have. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed playing the Schubert.

Then we stopped for a refreshment break – and also to allow the first oboe to nip back to his house as he’d taken his parts home to study and had arrived with only two of the three pieces that we were intending to play. 😳 Malcolm’s comment was that he should never lend parts from a set! At least we knew where the first oboe part was and reunited it with the rest of the set, which is more than can be said for the stray bassoon part I came across tucked inside one of my other pieces of sheet music. I asked Malcolm if he’d put it there intentionally, but he hadn’t. We just hope it came from the same library as the bassoon part it was tucked inside of, or it might be very difficult to reunite it with the rest of its set of parts.

After tea, coffee and biscuits had been consumed, we reconvened, and with all the music present, we played through Mozart’s Symphony No.36 and then Haydn’s Symphony No.98. This latter piece gave me a couple of interesting moments, as the first bassoon part had a cigar burn through it and I had some rather charred notes to decipher!

Now I’m having the afternoon to chill out in; and possibly to look at some music for tomorrow. I finished my diced turkey, having yet another “compost heap”, but reverting to sweet chilli sauce; and tomorrow I will probably move on to beef sausages for lunch, as I have a pack of them waiting in the fridge.

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Marlowe Music Week 2009: Wednesday chamber music

Posted by HelenEdith on August 12, 2009

Today’s evening activity for Marlowe Music Week was a wind dectet session. (I expect that there was string chamber music going on somewhere else.) We gathered at the home of one of the participants and worked our way through a set of short dances, the theme from Delius’ Koanga, a Tchaikovsky arrangement, and the Souza Washington Post march, among other things. We were a horn short, but we managed. We also had a conductor. She would have loved to have been playing, but a recent broken wrist had made that impossible. Her skills as a conductor were much appreciated, though. Keeping a group that size together is much easier with someone out the front to direct matters. 🙂

Margaret and I shared out the first and second bassoon parts, although I think I ended up with more first than Margaret did. She reckons that I sight-read the tenor clef better than she does, so anything with tenor clef on it comes my way. I expect that turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy, but I still have to admit to not reading every note I saw on a tenor clef this evening. (I left a few quavers out in the interests of staying with the beat. 🙂 )

I’ve got two reeds going this week. I tried out my new reeds on Sunday afternoon and got an idea of how they played, picked the worst one and scraped it and decided that it was much improved afterwards; and have been playing chamber music and orchestra on it ever since. One of the reeds is very free-blowing and loud. That one I’ve reserved for band use. I used it on Tuesday evening, and it will come out next Sunday when I’m on the Horniman Gardens Bandstand. I think it might overpower an orchestra or chamber group, but it’s great for holding one’s own when in the company of euphoniums and other heavy brass.

I’ve put my plastic reed away and not had recourse to it at all. Unlike my late lamented one which split last year, this one has not yet mellowed to the point where I would choose to use it for orchestral playing or for chamber music, although I have used it for orchestra when I didn’t have a cane reed that worked. I quite like the plastic reed. Maybe it is because it has such a long life and I can become more attuned to it, but when the plastic reed is on the end of my bassoon, I can feel as if the whole instrument becomes one with me. I don’t quite get that feeling with cane reeds, but I think that it’s a state that I should aspire to, as the feeling that my instrument is an extension of myself is a truly satisfying experience.

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Marlowe Music Week 2009: Wednesday coffee morning concert

Posted by HelenEdith on August 12, 2009

This morning we gave the concert that we rehearsed for yesterday. The rear part of the church hall was set out with tables and chairs and our audience enjoyed tea or coffee and biscuits while being entertained by our light music programme.

I meant to bring the playlist home with me, but Stephen needed to get back home to grab his vehicle and get to the charity shop, so I packed up in rather a hurry and forget to grab the playlist, so I won’t mention everything that we played, but just say that during the first half we performed a Stephen Foster medley, and I thought of my friend Jeanie when we got to the “I dream of Jeanie with the light brown hair” tune. 🙂 The second half ended with a medley of tunes from the Gilbert & Sullivan light opera HMS Pinafore.

We had a somewhat unusual seating arrangement for the orchestra. As mentioned, the audience were at the rear of the hall. The string players occupied the front of the hall, while the wind players were up on stage, with one long line of woodwind at the front and another long line of brass behind them. Bassoonists don’t usually get to occupy the front row, so it’s nice to be in a prominent position. However, it does mean that one’s attire needs some thought. I have any number of pretty summer outfits, but unless they have a long skirt, they’re just not suitable for sitting at the front of a raised stage. 🙂

For this reason, I sometimes choose to wear trousers when playing in an orchestra configured in this way; but today I enjoyed the opportunity to wear an outfit I bought on eBay last year but thus far hadn’t had an occasion to wear. It’s a pink two-piece outfit with a large lace and rose print over it; and crucially, the skirt is ankle length. 🙂

Stephen was in a rush to go to the charity shop this afternoon, but I’ll have to see if he’ll let me have his memory card later, as he took quite a few pictures at this morning’s concert. I might post one of my outfit – and if Stephen asks me nicely, I might upload the contents of his memory card to PhotoBucket or some other location of his choice so that the rest of the orchestra – or at least the ones with access to an Internet connection – can have a look, too.

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Beckenham Concert Band: last rehearsal before Horniman Gardens Bandstand

Posted by HelenEdith on August 11, 2009

This evening, I took some time off from Marlowe Music Week and went to the Beckenham Concert Band rehearsal. The Marlowe activity was string orchestra with soloists, and I wasn’t involved with that this year. Last year I played Henry Hargrave’s Bassoon Concerto No.1 with the string orchestra, but I didn’t practise anything for this year – and Malcolm turned out to have plenty of would-be soloists, so my absence wasn’t a problem. 🙂

The Beckenham Concert Band are performing on the bandstand in the Horniman Gardens next Sunday, so attendance at their rehearsal was a good thing. I got to sort out both the Bassoon 1 and Bassoon 2 pads, as the other bassoonist couldn’t make it this evening, although he will be there on Sunday. I’ve brought both pads home with me, so I have the option of practising in the next few days. Maybe I should do so: there’s an exposed bit in Jesus Christ Superstar involving a tricky D flat!

I had my mobile phone switched on, which was a bit naughty of me, and it went off during the rehearsal. I answered it before anybody recognised the Light Cavalry Overture (my ringtone) and it was Stephen to say that he’d come home without his house keys and could I please not be too late home. When the last rehearsal piece was announced as The Symphonic Beatles, I took the opportunity to pack up and go home a bit early. I can play the piece, so I didn’t really need to rehearse it, but it’s not a piece I would play from choice, as I don’t like The Beatles. I think that a harmony used by Paul McCartney offends my ears.

With my head start on packing up, I left the rehearsal just before 10pm and was home shortly after ten past ten. Stephen emerged from his car and I let him in. He took his diabetic pills, emptied the washing machine for me, and went straight up to bed. Now that I’ve hung up my washing and written this piece, I’d better follow him. I’ve got a concert tomorrow morning!

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