Solway Sinfonia Newsletter October 2018
21 years at the SS helm Musical instruments have always attracted me; give me a few minutes and I can probably play a vaguely recognisable “Auld lang syne” on most (a dangerous assertion on which I’ll no doubt be challenged!). It’s really not a very special gift, and it comes nowhere near genuine proficiency, but as a school musical director it has helped me launch a young chamber ensemble or two, making up a brass quartet with some elementary trombone playing, for example. Never having had a lesson on any instrument other than the piano, as a young teenager I nevertheless became fascinated with those that came my way: a leaky military flute, a bugle, later a simple-system clarinet, and then a battered trumpet (alas, no stringed instrument!). My fascination with the pistons and levers of the Age of Steam had begun, together with my future as a performing Jack of all trades – and you know the corollary to that! During my pre-University National Service, running a very undistinguished jazz group, I began to play some clarinet solos, and at Oxford somehow found myself playing second clarinet (only once, I think!) in the University Orchestra. The Queen’s undergraduates are called to dinner, free for the performer, by an ancient trumpet call, and I often deputised in this role for my dear friend, later Music Professor David Greer – who played horn with us before his untimely death. Five or six years later, after some intense practice, I somehow found myself playing 3rd D trumpet in Dr. Paul Steinitz’s Bach Cantata weekends in Dorset. During our five years at Cheadle Hulme School Wally Greenhalgh, a professional bassoon friend, talked me into playing second bassoon with him in the Wilmslow Symphony Orchestra (where I honed the art of ‘edited playing’ in such movements as the finale of Beethoven 4). Then, in my early 40s, running the music at Millfield, I finally bought a really good instrument – the French horn I had longed to play for many years. I practised hard, earning my third grade 8 distinction about 30 years after my first, and found myself playing in various orchestras around Dorset. Alas, the ear problems which prompted my retirement at the age of 50 also forced me to give up pressurised blowing. I miss the instrument still. During the next few years loud music gradually ceased to make me nauseous (well, perhaps not entirely!), and when a young lady named Sarah asked me to conduct her Caerlaverock Suite in 1997 I was ready to ‘face the music’ once again. You know the rest, except perhaps that my interest in jazz was also rekindled, and one more Age of Steam machine, the alto saxophone, came into my life. It was fairly easy to apply my small clarinet skills to the new instrument, and our Gentle Jazz Quintet programmes now regularly feature a couple of sax solos. Writing for the virtuoso tuba ensemble “Tubalate” didn’t draw me towards performing at the bottom end of the brass spectrum, and I’ve totally neglected my trombone skills since playing chorales with those children so many years ago. When you hear just what Dávur Juul Magnussen is required to play in Gordon Jacob’s wonderful trombone concerto, however, you’ll understand that I’m content to leave that instrument to the virtuoso. It’s thanks to the generosity of our Sponsors and Patrons that we are able to present our November 25th concert at the Easterbrook Hall, with Dávur as soloist. We are immensely grateful for their continued support.
Message from the Editor Welcome to our BRASS SPECIAL EDITION of the Solway Sinfonia 2018 NEWSLETTER. (You may recall the Violin Special Edition two years ago.) We look forward to hearing Dávur Magnussen our trombone soloist in Gordon Jacob’s Trombone Concerto in the Easterbrook Hall on 25 November 2018. Geoff, after 21 years commitment at the SS helm introduces us (above) to this theme, with a reminiscence of his brass playing years ...
w w w. s o l wa y s i n f o n i a . o rg . u k Cathy Tyler: Editor Ken Smyth: Design & Printing
Susan Beeby Susan Beeby died after a courageous, long struggle with cancer, early on New Year’s Day, 2018. She ably led the Solway Sinfonia cello section for 20 years, always encouraging and supporting those playing with her. La Calinda, from Koanga (Delius), will be played by the orchestra in her memory on 25 November 2018, in the Easterbrook Hall. Her friend (and Solway Sinfonia Patron) Maxine Windsor has drawn together these contributions in Susan’s memory: David Potter says: I first met Susan at the formation of the Solway Sinfonia, although I knew of her as a highly regarded cello teacher. Susan led the cellos from the beginning, creating a section that was always strong musically and fun and rewarding to be in. Her love of the cello was infectious, and her competence unquestioned. We always knew that she would manage the impossible bits, while the rest of us bluffed! I can remember joining Susan on the front desk with some trepidation, feeling inadequate alongside her. But she soon put me at my ease, and was unfailingly generous in her support. It was so enjoyable and musically enriching to have played alongside Susan for all those years. Her enthusiasm went far beyond the Sinfonia. She was always encouraging cellists to get together, to play in groups and explore the repertoire, whether for Threave or a fun cello day in Annan. Susan was also an enthusiastic and sought-after chamber music player, playing with many local musicians in string quartets, piano trios and mixed ensembles across Dumfries and Galloway and Cumbria. And she was a keen supporter of Robert Thurlow’s ‘Holywood Nights’ when we get together to play all sorts of music from scratch. Playing a Brandenburg at breakneck speed alongside Susan was always a thrill! It was so sad when Susan’s health meant she could no longer lead the section, although she did still play when she could. It just didn’t feel right sitting up there without her. It never will. She gave so much to our musical world. Irreplaceable. Hildred Younie says: apart from being a very good musician she was a very loyal, reliable person as an orchestral player, chamber musician, teacher and friend. She was quite reticent, but not slow to say what she thought. One of my lasting memories will be of a few of her pupils taking part in a ‘masterclass’ tutored by her ex-pupil Alex McQuiston. They clearly respected her, but she too respected them, and their confidence and enjoyment, playing in public, perceptibly increased. She was very brave as her health failed. I once visited her in Edinburgh where she was receiving treatment, but she could go into town between sessions We met in the Royal Mile for a coffee and she seemed happy and relaxed. I did admire her: never a complaint. I also have happy memories of her coming to Moffat for dog walks. Maxine Windsor says: I first met Susan when she brought her sons for piano lessons, and we very soon got on to playing cello sonatas together, I couldn’t believe my luck in having such a good soloist to accompany! Chopin, Rachmaninov, Beethoven: we had many happy years of duos and trios, first with a professional clarinettist and then with Hildred on violin. Accompanying her pupils, I learnt a lot and got a first-hand experience of her passion for putting the music first and everything else second. She was so modest that I only lately discovered what a good pianist she was, and that she also played the church organ in Lockerbie for years. I miss her.
In conversation with trombonist Dávur Magnussen Dávur Magnussen will be soloist with the Solway Sinfonia at the Easterbrook Hall on 25 November 2018, in the Jacob Trombone Concerto. When did you join the RSNO? I joined the RSNO in August 2008. Where are you from? I am from Tórshavn, the capital of the Faroe Islands. Where did you study? I studied at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow. What do you enjoy most about being in the RSNO? It is a dream job, or rather MY dream job. To get paid for something you love might sound like a cliché, but it is actually true. The danger with that though, is that when your hobby becomes your job, you can fall out of love with it. Luckily my colleagues at the RSNO make that an impossibility. You
do also get to meet many interesting people from outwith the RSNO. What do you enjoy doing when you’re not playing with the Orchestra? I have with time got an interest for sailing. It is a great way to explore Scotland. Now, I have not done much sailing here yet, but endeavour to do much more. Do you have any hidden talents? Does playing the saxophone count? Probably not! I’m really good at tossing pancakes in the air, and I have apparently got a knack for sheep-shearing. I discovered that during my last summer holiday back home on the Faroe Islands. If you could have dinner with anyone (alive or dead) who would it be, and why? Gustav Holst. It would be great to hear if he had any funny stories from his time in the RSNO trombone section.
You’re stranded on a desert island. You’re allowed 2 CDs and 1 book. What would they be? 1. Porgy and Bess, Miles Davis 2. Shostakovich 5th Symphony with Neemi Jarvi and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. I would also like to have a book about how to make a CD player and speakers, only using things you find on a desert island.
Trumpet Talk With Alex Lewis
(First trumpet Solway Sinfonia)
Why did you take the trumpet up? My mum (herself a pianist) encouraged me to play the piano, but I struggled. At 13, I transferred (my mum’s idea) to try for better luck with the trumpet. At 18 went to King’s College London, to read music, and the Royal Academy of Music to specialise in trumpet. Your best experience? Playing at 18, the Hummel trumpet concerto at the Edinburgh Festival with The Durham County Youth Orchestra. Your worst experiences? •Turning up at a rehearsal without my instrument! •At no notice, being asked to play the introductory trumpet solo fanfare to the last movement of Dvorak’s 8th symphony. I went over it in my head travelling to the performance, but wrongly transposed. In the concert, following the trumpet solo fanfare, when the orchestra came in, it was in a different key from me by a semitone! What would you most like to do? I took the brave, but hugely successful, move three years ago, to leave head of music in a Northumbrian high school, for freelance work. I would love to set myself the challenge of compiling a portfolio of my professional experience, to apply for a Fellowship of the Royal School of Music.
History of the trombone: Val and David Ott They all seem to go together, don’t they - krumhorns, and viols, and rauschpfeifen, and sackbuts? And the thing that seems to unite them is that nobody plays them any more, except period instrument enthusiasts. But there’s a good case for arguing that one of those instruments - the sackbut - is really still alive and well and appearing occasionally in the Solway Sinfonia in the guise of the trombone, as we will hear at the November concert. This is a remarkable career for an instrument that was first represented in art by Filippo Lippi about 1490 in a fresco showing an angel playing a sackbut. The sackbut was illustrated and discussed in some detail by Michael Praetorius in his Syntagma Musicum of 1614, and at first glance those Renaissance illustrations of musical ensembles seem to be showing trombones in the brass section. Certainly the sackbuts they are actually depicting are in essence constructed on the same principles as a trombone. Indeed the term “trombone” was apparently in use before the name “sackbut”, and referred originally to a large slide trumpet, a long straight tube with a bell flare and a single slide joint. The great innovation of the sackbut was to have a double slide joint, with the bore (the width of the main tube) gradually widening over time into that of the modern trombone. The use of the slider gave the sackbut/trombone a key advantage over other early brass instruments in having the possibility of a continuously variable pitch, which made it easier to play chromatic scales and glissandos. With other technical improvements and the development of a more sophisticated playing technique, the sackbut came to distinguish itself from the trumpet by the delicacy of its tone, with the great French musicologist Marin Mersenne writing in 1636: “It should be blown by a skilful musician so that it may not imitate the sounds of the trumpet, but rather assimilate itself to the sweetness of the human voice, lest it should emit a warlike rather than a peaceful sound.” How times have changed! The impetus for the change seems to have been the same development that prompted the enlargement of the piano: performance venues got bigger, composers got more ambitious, and larger and more powerful instruments were needed. As with his use of the piano, Beethoven led the way in the orchestral use of the trombone, notably in his Symphony No. 9. From that point on there was no stopping the trombone and over the last two hundred years it has played an ever more prominent rôle, not only in orchestral music but in the great development of brass bands and the flowering of jazz. We’ve come a long way from Filippo Lippi’s angel! Val and David Ott have been keen supporters of the Solway Sinfonia for many years, and have enjoyed many excellent concerts with wonderful soloists.
Your new Patrons & Sponsors Secretary This time last year I was content with my lot, playing flute in the Solway Sinfonia and being a member of the committee, happy to attend meetings as often as I could and to participate in discussions when I felt strongly about something. Then, out of the blue, I was asked if I would take over the newly-vacant role of Patrons and Sponsors Secretary. Why me? I thought. Because I appear to be organised? Because I’m good at spelling? Don’t have enough to do? Gullible...? Whatever the reason, I agreed to take on the task and, with a lot of help and guidance from other members of the committee and the former post-holder Robert, I’ve managed to negotiate my way through renewal letters, a Spring concert and the annual Musical Party at Threave. Not to mention the dreaded Data Protection Regulations! The most important part of the role is getting to know our patrons and sponsors personally. It was particularly satisfying to meet many of you at Threave and to be able to put faces to the names on my list. I hope I’ll be able to welcome as many of you as possible to our special concert on 25 November which will be a culmination and a celebration of Geoff’s 21 years at the helm. Geoff will be a hard act to follow, but the orchestra must build on his firm foundation and I will keep you fully informed as we progress to the point of appointing a successor. Thank you all for your continued support of the Solway Sinfonia - we appreciate you! Christina Montgomery
MUSIDOKU - The Musical Sudoku Level: Rigoroso Moderato The rules are simple: just complete the empty boxes in the grid so that every row, every column and every 3 x 3 box contains one of each of the following musical symbols:
If you enjoyed these puzzles, why not buy the book containing 44 puzzles to tickle and tackle your musical brain cells - just £4.00 from all good music shops. ISBN 978-0-85249-897-2
Copyright © www.musidoku.com. Reproduced by permission. If you enjoyed these puzzles, why not buy the book containing 44 puzzles to tickle and tackle your musical brain cells - just £4.00 from all good music shops. Solutions in the Patrons and Sponsors section of the Solway Sinfonia website.
Dates for your Diary
Easterbrook Hall Dumfries 25 November 2018 Fanfare for a Special Occasion Schubert: Rosamunde Overture Borodin: In the Steppes of Central Asia Gordon Jacob: Trombone Concerto, soloist Dávur Magnussen Delius: La Calinda (In particular memory of Susan Beeby) Delius: Walk to Paradise Garden Kalinnikov: Symphony 1 Dumfries Baptist Church 23 March 2019 (Gillbrae Road, DG1 4EJ), ‘Bird Concert’ in aid of RSPB
Sarah Berker: Caerlaverock Suite Vivaldi: Goldfinch flute Concerto Beethoven: Symphony 6, 2nd movement Pauline Roe (arr): The Lark in the Clear Air Delius: On hearing the first Cuckoo in Spring Haydn: Symphony 83 ‘The Hen’
WINNER: Roger Windsor ‘Quartet in Sea’. RUNNERS-UP: Bob Sproat ‘Well I don’t care, the GPS says the concert hall is here!’ David Howdle: ‘If one of these things floats we can get off this island’.
The annual newsletter of the Solway Sinfonia orchestra, based in Dumfries and Galloway in south-west Scotland.