I’ve spent some time reflecting on my wonderful visit to Lárisa for the Sixth Greek Saxophone Festival. What an amazing and inspirational experience.
We’ve just arrived in Larissa ready for the annual saxophone festival that begins tomorrow in the conservatory of music. We arrived in Greece a couple of days ago and have spent an amazing couple of days discovering Athens.
The new Acropolis museum is fantastic, designed to mimic the proportions of the Parthenon. The manager of the hotel we stayed at recommended we visit the museum first and then walk around the site which was a great idea. We were able to imagine what it would have looked like when it was built two and a half thousand years ago. Wandering around Athens we saw loads of street sellers, artists, and buskers playing all kinds of music including a jazz guitarist who played with great simplicity and amazing feel. We joined in a group photo after being beckoned by some incredibly happy people from Taiwan, only to slowly realise we might have accidentally joined some kind of Taiwanese sect! After promising to meet them the next day we hurriedly left...
Our host for the festival, Stathis Mavrommatis, was kind enough to drive us north from Athens to Larissa. The festival starts tomorrow and I’ll be adjudicating one of the saxophone competitions and also meeting my pianist and will have a chance to rehearse. On Sunday I’ll be giving a master class, and performing in a concert along with the other international guests, Nino Dimov and Mimmo Malandra. We will then form the jury of the highest level competition.
This annual festival sees the whole saxophone community from Greece getting together. I’m excited to see and hear what’s going on in this welcoming country.
Yesterday was a tough day for me. I really hated that for the first time in 15 years of teaching at the Royal College of Music Junior Department I was prevented from teaching because of the weather. A combination of icy roads in my area, and the East Coast mainline advising people not to travel made it the only sensible decision.
I don't like my students missing their regular lessons and had a bit of a brainwave. Sometimes when students can't meet me, I give a lesson using Skype or FaceTime. The sound quality is quite good over FaceTime and Skype and it is the next best thing to a regular lesson. From my home in Huddersfield I decided that this might work for the students at the Royal College of Music in London. Many of my students live close to London and did make it in, so I was delighted that I was able to give some of them Skype lessons yesterday. The salsa section of Catherine McMichael's Sapphire was transported to my music studio in Huddersfield effortlessly.
In a few days time I'll be back at the beautiful Knuston Hall in Northamptonshire working on the Saxophone Course for adult players with Kenneth Wilkinson and Sarah Hind. I look forward to teaching on this course every year, but I'm usually to be found there in August. We've taken on this course at rather short notice so there have been some late nights making sure we have everything ready for the course. Kenneth and Sarah will be there from Sunday, looking after 24 saxophonists playing in ensembles from trio and quartet through to octets and a mighty saxophone ensemble. I'm arriving later in the week as I have some other things to juggle, namely my son on half term holiday and my usual university teaching (it's nearly saxophone day!) There are a couple of workshops in the week too, Kenneth has written a great jazz tune for his, and I'll be talking about how to prepare for a concert with some top practising tips and also how to control those performance nerves.
I’ve been teaching at the Royal College of Music junior department today as usual, but unusually I’m staying in London for the weekend. That’s because one of my talented students, Teddy Humphrey, is performing a recital in the Elgar Room at the Royal Albert Hall tomorrow morning as part of the classical coffee morning concert series. Teddy is a former student of James Rae and he will be playing the Sonata James wrote for me and my pianist Paul Turner for my 40th birthday concert. Teddy will be joined by two of his fellow students, Matthew and Josephine as well as me to play Iturralde’s Suite Hellanique for saxophone quartet. Teddy will also be playing pieces by Demersseman and Jolivet, pieces that helped him win his place to study at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama later this year. Teddy also studies jazz saxophone at the RCM junior department with Mornington Lockett, and he’ll be playing a arrangement by Mornington of a Sonny Stitt tune.
It was great working with Teddy and his pianist, Tony earlier today. It’s going to be a fantastic concert in the morning. https://www.royalalberthall.com/tickets/events/2018/classical-coffee-mornings-teddy-humphrey/
I'm finalising details of my fifth annual saxophone day at the University of Huddersfield. All the details and the day's programme of events can be found here.
It's great to have Richard Ingham as my featured guest, he was my first specialist saxophone teacher. We've known each other since he began teaching me in 1987. We've worked together many times, including in the Northern Saxophone Quartet. We've performed many times as a duo, including performing Lauba's Ars at the World Saxophone Congress in Slovenia. The saxophone day will include a rare performance of Dialogue de l’Ombre Double (Boulez) by Richard, alongside Pete Stollery (sound diffusion). My saxophone quartet Quirk will also be performing, and helping run the workshops.
We have finally settled in our new home. The acoustic window for our music room was finished last week. We didn't want to annoy the neighbours, especially when we rehearse our saxophone duo, and so we came up with a brilliant idea. We got a double-glazing firm to make a window designed to keep traffic and airport noise out, but glaze it in reverse, so it bounces our noise in rather than keep external noise out. This was fitted on the inside of the window frame, with the original double-glazed window still in situ on the outside; so quadruple-glazing with acoustic laminate too. We've taken turns to stand outside the window while the other plays as loud and high as possible inside, you can hardly hear a saxophone! It's a great place to restart my private teaching practice.
I have been invited to perform an arrangement of the Glazunov Concerto for Saxophone for soloist and woodwind orchestra, conducted by Shea Lolin. Shea is the music director of the Bloomsbury Woodwind Ensemble, City Wind Orchestra and the East London Clarinet Choir. He has conducted several world premieres, having secured funding from all the major awarding bodies. He is also the artistic director of the ‘Woodwind Orchestra Play Day’ hosted at premiere venues throughout the country, providing amateur musicians with valuable playing opportunities.
I'll be performing the Glazunov with the Bloomsbury Woodwind Ensemble on Saturday 12th May 2018, 7:30 pm, at St James's Church, Paddington W2 3UD. This will be part of a concert titled 'Russian Fire', "a dramatic, eloquent and powerful concert of Russian scores". Here's a link to the details.
Stathis Mavrommatis, the president of the Greek Saxophone Association, has invited me to be an honoured guest of the 6th Greek Saxophone Convention. I'll be giving a performance, masterclass and on the jury of the saxophone competition. The details are here, it is all in Greek! Thank you Yamaha for your sponsorship.