HelenEdith's Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘ensemble’

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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Entry for December 07, 2008 – Marlowe Ensemble Light Music Concert

Posted by HelenEdith on December 7, 2008

I’m only a week late in posting this: the Marlowe Ensemble did a light music concert in the Holy Redeemer Church Hall at Days Lane, Sidcup last weekend, and I was the bassoonist. I would have been welcome to show up for a few Wednesday rehearsals, but I’ve just been too occupied with my job to be able to do that, so I went along on Saturday afternoon for a rehearsal and went back in the evening for the concert.

Here was the programme:

  • Folk Songs from Somerset (No.3 of English Folk Songs Suite) – Vaughan Williams
  • Last Love – Eric Coates
  • Water Music Suite: Bourree and Hornpipe – Handel – the bassoon part turned out to be quite important in this, so I was glad of the run-through in the afternoon to clue me in on where the important bits were!
  • a) Jazz Pizzicato – Leroy Anderson
    b) A Trumpeter’s Lullaby – Leroy Anderson
  • Songs sung by Arthur: a) On a Januairy Morning
    b) Boys of the Old Brigade
  • Selection: The Mikado – Arthur Sullivan – I got a couple of solo bits to do in this – as with the Handel, I was glad for the afternoon run-through to know what was going to be expected of me!


  • Selection: The Maid of the Mountains – Harold Fraser-Simson, with additional numbers by Jas.W.Tate, who apparently wrote all the best stuff in the selection!
  • a) Valse Bohemienne (No.1 of Four Characteristic Waltzes) – Coleridge-Taylor
    b) Demande et Reponse (No.2 of Petite suite de Concert) – Coleridge-Taylor
  • Songs sung by Arthur: a) I’ve Got a Motter
    b) The Shark
  • Selection: Fiddler on the Roof – Jerry Bock
  • Tik Tak Polka – Strauss – this was surprisingly hard – it had both first and second written on the sheet music and I elected to play second, which was a bit less twiddly. I could keep up with that!

Stephen came along and sat in the audience, and I think he enjoyed the concert. He loves people-watching, and is inclined to take note of and get entertainment out of who visibly counts their bars of rests. He also mouthed a private joke at me when I just had to hitch up my bra strap while onstage!

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Entry for October 22, 2008 – “Extended” Marlowe orchestra evening

Posted by HelenEdith on October 22, 2008

This evening was the occasional meeting of the extended Marlowe Ensemble. We tackle larger works than are possible on a weekly basis, when the orchestra is more of a chamber orchestra.

This evening, we started with the Merry Wives of Windsor Overture to the Opera by Otto Nicolai.

We then progressed on to the first of two Fifth symphonies: this one being the Beethoven one. Of course, I’ve heard it plenty of times, but I’d never played it before. I got taken by surprised on a solo bassoon entry and came in a bar late, and it was deemed to be an important enough bit that we went back so that I could have another go at it.

After our refreshment break, we moved on to Dvorak’s fifth symphony. We didn’t get all the way through, stopping after the third movement. That movement is a navigational nightmare. It’s got a first-time set of bars which don’t lead up to a repeat, but jump over a second-time bar which is actually the fine. Then you play the trio portion of the movement, after which you jump back to the sign near the beginning of the movement, playing through and this time jumping over the first-time bars and going to the fine. We did not get it right in one go!

However, the aim of the evening isn’t to work these pieces up for performance, it’s simply to get them down off the shelf and read through them for our own pleasure, and that aim was certainly fulfilled this evening.

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Entry for August 05, 2008 – Light Music Rehearsal

Posted by HelenEdith on August 5, 2008

This morning’s Marlowe Music Week activity was a rehearsal of light music in preparation for tomorrow’s Coffee Morning, which is a fundraiser for the church whose hall we are using all week.

The first half of the rehearsal was rather Viennese in flavour, without a Strauss in sight though. We moved on in the second half to include Eric Coates, The Pirates of Penzance and The Sound of Music.

I was one of the last to arrive, and Margaret was already seated by the time I got there. All the music seemed to be in one pad, and I commented that it had been a bit of a waste of time to put my music stand up. Then Margaret decided that she needed a drink of water and stood up and we discovered that she was sitting on the second bassoon pad and that we had two copies of all our music!

I’m afraid that I interrupted the rehearsal with a little bit of Von Suppe’s “Light Cavalry” Overture, which is the ring tone on my mobile phone. At least I realised that it was my phone going off, so putting the “Light Cavalry” on there seems to have worked. I switched the phone off. I don’t know who called.

The other disruption to the rehearsal came when Malcolm got a bit too enthusiastic with his conducting and knocked the music off the leader’s stand! Things ground to a halt while sheet music was fielded off the floor, and before recommencing, the two at the front desk moved their chairs back a bit to keep out of Malcolm’s range.

Many people went back to Joyce’s place for lunch, but I came home, where Stephen was waiting for me. I had some seasoned grillsteaks in the fridge and we lunched of those, done in the George Foreman grill, with some sliced potatoes and a can of baked beans. I added a bit of coarse ground pepper to the top of the grillsteaks, but we didn’t think they were as good as peppered grillsteaks, so I’ll have to watch out for those in Asda.

Now I’ve got to do a bit of practising, as I’m attending the String Orchestra With Soloists session this evening and I will be the soloist in Hargrave I. When not being the soloist, there will be cello parts to play, and Malcolm assures me that I’ll be kept busy. I’ve been wondering whether there will be anything to sit out, as I could take my camera along tonight if I think I’ll get the chance to use it.

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Entry for August 03, 2008 – Marlowe Music Week begins

Posted by HelenEdith on August 3, 2008

Marlowe Music Week 2008 kicked off today. I didn’t get to the coffee morning at the Youngs’ place, but I did go along this evening for chamber music, also at the Youngs’ place.

We divided up into two groups. Three violins, two violas, a cello (and their respective players) plus one pianist repaired to the front room downstairs, while six wind players ascended the stairs to Malcolm’s Den (the former back bedroom) where we proceeded to play some quite obscure music arranged for our combination of instruments. We had flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon (me!) and bass clarinet. Much of our music was purchased from Phylloscopus Publications, who specialise in wind chamber music and make the effort to publish lesser-known composers.

One of the most successful pieces we played this evening was by L. J. A. Lefébure-Wély (1817-1869) and was Sortie in Eb arranged for wind quintet with optional bass clarinet. It was arranged by A. R. Cuninghame. It is described as lively music, originally for organ. It had quite a fairground organ feel about it, and we liked it so much that we left it on our stands when we went downstairs for mid-session refreshments and played it again later on. 🙂

I did a bit of reed work before going out this evening, and I’ve brought the least good of the three soft cane reeds I purchased recently up to a playable state. I played on it for a while this evening, but it’s still not as good as the best of the bunch, although a bit more playing on it might improve it even without further work with the scraping knife. I also blew my two remaining plastic reeds and decided that one could stay in my bassoon case but that the other needed turfing out. I need to work on that one to try and bring it up to standard.

Even the playable plastic reed isn’t as good as the one that split recently. That one was very well blown in and had mellowed over the years. (Yes, I did say “years”. That plastic reed and I have been together for a good ten years, maybe longer! Having it split is a disaster.) If I play with a band, I will probably get out the plastic reed that stayed in my case, as it wouldn’t be out of place in a band, and might mellow. It’s a little way off being acceptable for orchestral or chamber music use – unless my lip gets so tired I can’t manage the cane reeds – but that’s an emergency! 🙂

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Entry for August 09, 2007 – Party Pieces

Posted by HelenEdith on August 10, 2007

Thursday evening of Marlowe Music Week saw us all gathered at Joyce’s house for “Party Pieces”.

Folding chairs arrived with some of the audience and were set up in the front room; and the double doors were thrown open between the front and back rooms, exposing our “stage” for the evening. The evening’s programme was taped over a picture frame.

We settled in for the first half, where we heard a polished performance of a trio sonata, a couple of piano solos, one of which was definitely on the light-hearted side; and some singing. Oh, and I think the horn solo was in the first half as well. The horn player arrived from stage left – actually he appeared through the french windows from the garden!

We had a light supper and enjoyed Joyce’s garden as dusk fell. We returned after our “interval” for some more music, plus a monologue performed by Malcolm. It was all about the Battle of Hastings and it was pretty good.

The evening finished in the traditional way with a rendition of the Four Indian Love Lyrics by Amy Woodforde-Finden. Which reminds me: I must remind Stephen that if any copies of them come through the charity shop that he should purchase them for the Marlowe Ensemble, as we still don’t have quite enough copies for every singer to have their own copy. 🙂

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Entry for August 07, 2007 – Light music rehearsal and band rehearsal

Posted by HelenEdith on August 7, 2007

Today’s Marlowe Music Week activity was a rehearsal of the light music to be performed tomorrow at the coffee morning where we have our one and only paying audience for the week. We ran through the whole programme and ironed out a few bumps and wrinkles.

Most of the musicians then headed off for lunch with one of the cellists at her place, but I returned home, where I discovered that Stephen had gone down to his Mum’s, so I was home alone.

I made myself some lunch and sat down with a Greater Than Killer Sudoku (here’s the latest one: http://www.killersudokuonline.com/#gtkweekly) and it didn’t seem long before Stephen was home again. As this week is a holiday, if I spend the afternoons chilling out with a Killer Sudoku, then so be it.

As the Marlowe Activity this evening didn’t require bassoons, I put in an appearance at the Beckenham Concert Band’s rehearsal. We spent the evening working on Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances and Falla’s Ritual Fire Dance. After mostly playing things straight through with the orchestra earlier in the day, it was interesting to sit down with the band and really dissect some quite challenging music.

I took back the purple band jacket I wore on the bandstand in Greenwich Park the other weekend. The band’s next outing is in Surrey and I’m undecided about whether to put my hand up for it. I’ve been on that particular gig for the past two years, and as I’m not a “regular” in the band, I don’t feel that I have to do it if I don’t want to this year. By taking the jacket back, I don’t have it hanging up at home acting as an influence making me do that gig (and travelling there!) but if I change my mind and decide nearer the time that I want to go, the wardrobe department will be happy to lend it to me again. Meanwhile they’re just as happy to have it hanging up in the band’s wardrobe than at my house.

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