Thursday, January 28, 2016

Listen and Learn

by Kevin Price
(Head of Brass and Percussion, 
Royal Welsh College of Music Drama)

Music is my addiction. My role as Head of Brass and Percussion at RWCMD provides many opportunities to listen to live music every day, either in concert or in an exam situation. In addition, my children are all choristers. This means that my life is punctuated with the joy of live music, covering a massive range of styles and genres. This luxurious situation means that my iPod remains mostly unused.

Imagine what it must have been like before recorded music, when live concerts, military occasions and church services were the main ways of hearing an orchestra, choir or band. It must have been like eating Christmas dinner after weeks of living on bread and water. In many ways I imagine that this must have heightened the senses and created permanent musical memories for audiences and for performers. In many ways, this has been lost in our age of recorded sound and online resources. Music has become almost “disposable” and we tend to “snack” on the array of musical treats that are constantly available to us, rather than to “feast” on a rare and wonderful live concert.

A surprising side-effect of our unlimited supply of recorded sound is also emerging; musical hallucinations. I have a colleague called Dr. Victor Aziz, a psychiatrist at St. Cadoc's Hospital in Wales. He belongs to a group of psychiatrists and neurologists who investigate this area. They suspect that over-exposure to recorded sound can result in malfunctioning brain networks that normally allow us to perceive music. Put simply; our brains start to filter the sound as “unwanted noise”. We are all familiar with shopping or eating out whilst “piped” music is being played. Before long, we stop “hearing” the music. This is bad for musicians in exactly the same way that constantly snacking on junk food is bad for your physical health.

Before you throw away your iPod and recycle your headphones in horror, consider trying to balance “recorded” and “live” musical experiences instead. For the price of a CD, you can hear a great orchestra, choir or band. What’s more, you will see real human beings dealing with real nerves, making real mistakes and producing real excitement which cannot be repeated. In addition, it is sociable and a lot of fun.

Concert halls, cathedrals and some churches provide this unique experience which is collective and yet still private. Our interpretation and response to music is totally dependent upon the subjective experience of the listener, coupled with the spontaneity (and sometimes luck!) of the performers. Few experiences in modern society are shared in this way.

Sadly, music is so easily consumed in the privacy of our homes and headphones that it is becoming increasingly difficult to lure an audience to the concert hall. As musicians, we need to safeguard the future, by getting out there and hearing music “for real”. It’s also good for your mental and emotional health. The next time that you are considering buying a CD or downloading a recording, have a little think about the price of a concert ticket and the permanent lessons and memories that will be gained from seeing and hearing real people in a real concert hall. Stop snacking… feasting is a lot more fun!


A useful article on

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Jess Gillam's World

Part 6

“Down to earth, funny and cool...what was not to like?”
– Gramophone Magazine

As the new year begins, I am looking ahead to a busy and exciting 2016 - Happy New Year to everybody! 
I spent most of December preparing for several auditions, so this is just a short blog update. December always seems to be busy with auditions for me! I find that preparing for auditions is a very similar process for preparing for a concert because my end goal is the same - to be able to give the best performance I'm capable of. When I am actually in front of a panel however, I find the experience very different to performing to an audience in a concert. I find the performance so much more intimate and this makes me more nervous in a way. I even find playing in a small concert venue extremely different. I try to forget where I am as soon as I play the opening note and I attempt to totally immerse myself in the music and focus as much as possible and this nearly always helps me.

BBC Young Musician of the Year 2016

One of my auditions in December was for BBC Young Musician of the Year 2016. In 2014, I was a woodwind finalist in the competition and the recipient of the BBC Walter Todds Bursary for showing exceptional promise. I am delighted to have reached the Woodwind Category Finals again and I will be one of five woodwind finalists competing at the Royal Welsh College of Music in Drama in Cardiff. The competition takes place in early March so the coming months will be spent preparing and practising my programme as much as possible. I will also search the repertoire and find out as much as I can about its origins to help me to put the music into context.

'Out of the Cool' by Dave Heath

I am also preparing to perform "Out of the Cool" by Dave Heath with the Junior Royal Northern College of Music Symphony Orchestra in early February so this means that lots of music is stuck on my bedroom wall to be memorised - I will let you know how it goes in my February blog!


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Friday, January 1, 2016

Special Offer

Special Offer - 20% Discount 

during January & February 2016

More Graded Studies for Flute Books 1 & 2
by Sally Adams & Paul Harris
More Graded Studies for Clarinet Books 1 & 2
by Paul Harris

More Graded Studies for Flute & Clarinet brings together study repertoire in four unique collections. Featuring core works from established composers alongside exciting new material not seen before, plus specially composed studies by Paul Harris, Sally Adams and others. Each study lists its key ingredients and invites players to consider additional key elements as well. This enables teachers and students to link the studies to their current repertoire and technical work in a truly Simultaneous Learning way.

This offer is exclusive to June Emerson Wind Music!
Click on the images below to get your copies:

Flute Book 1
Flute Book 2
Clarinet Book 1
Clarinet Book 2

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas Closing

Christmas 2015 & New Year 2016

Our office will be closed from 1pm on Wednesday 23rd December
and will re-open at 9am on Monday 4th January 2016.

You can place orders online during that time,
which will be despatched on Monday 4th or Tuesday 5th January.
N.B. If your order is urgent, please include a message to this effect
when placing your order (in the Instructions/Comments box at Checkout)
and we will ensure a Monday despatch.

All the staff at June Emerson Wind Music 
would like to wish you a very happy Christmas 
and a joyful, peaceful New Year.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Last Posting Dates

To ensure you don't miss the last post before Christmas,
these are the December deadlines that Royal Mail have issued:

Thursday 10th:
Australia, Greece & New Zealand
Friday 11th:
BFPO addresses
Monday 14th:
Czech Republic, Germany, Italy & Poland
Tuesday 15th:
Canada, Finland, Sweden & USA
Wednesday 16th:
Austria, Iceland, Ireland, Portugal & Spain
Thursday 17th:
Friday 18th:
Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia & Switzerland
Monday 21st:
UK First Class
Wednesday 23rd:
UK Special Delivery

N.B. Our office will close at 12pm (midday) on Wednesday 23rd December

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Jess Gillam's World

Part 5

“The sound of the future”
– Melvyn Bragg

What a month November has been - I have had some unforgettable experiences and have enjoyed myself very much.
At the beginning of the month, I performed at the first ever Cumbria Culture Awards at the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick. Melvyn Bragg presented the event as he is a cultural icon who is originally from Cumbria. There were varied performances throughout the evening, both musical and spoken word. I performed ‘The Sky’s the Limit’ by Barbara Thompson; the piece she wrote for me to premiere at the World Saxophone Congress. I also performed one of my own compositions. The piece is inspired by a poem entitled ‘Night’ by John Ruskin – an artist, philanthropist and author who spent much of his life at Brantwood (Coniston), just 10 miles from where I live in Ulverston. The piece is written for alto saxophone and live narrator, and at this event I performed it with a backing track. I am currently working on orchestrating the piece which is a very interesting task! 

Jess performing her composition 'Night' with narrator Ross Baxter

While I performed the piece, I had a watercolour by Ruskin projected onto the screen behind me. I wanted to compose a piece that somehow connects with where I live and where I come from. I am very interested in incorporating and appreciating other art forms and in trying to add extra dimensions to the music and this piece allowed me to do that!
After my performance, Melvyn Bragg said that he felt like he had 'heard the sound of the future'! The Theatre by the Lake was a fantastic venue and perfect for the ceremony. There was a wide range of categories for awards right across the arts – from music to pottery and literature to Arts Venues. I was the youngest of five finalists in the Musician of the Year Category and I am very pleased to say that I won the Award – I was very surprised!

Jess receiving her award from Melvyn Bragg

The night after the awards ceremony, I had organised a concert with John Harle, one of the world’s most distinguished saxophonists. This was a concert I had been looking forward to for quite some time and I am still smiling remembering John’s performance! The reason I am inspired by the playing of John Harle is because he conveys such a huge amount of personality. He can mould the saxophone into his own voice and is unbelievably individual. In Ulverston, he performed a wide range of repertoire from Poulenc to Ellington and Bartok to Phil Woods but every single note he played was instantly recognisable as him!  His stage presence and the way in which he completely commanded the stage (and the room) meant that the audience was utterly captivated.

Jess onstage with John Harle

I performed a support slot before John performed with Steve Lodder and I played the pieces I had commissioned for the World Saxophone Congress – ‘Sopranicity’ by Rob Buckland and ‘The Sky’s the Limit’ by Barbara Thompson as well as my own composition. Then, as an encore, I joined John Harle and Steve Lodder onstage to perform ‘Berlin Tango’. John wrote this piece for the film about the life of Lucian Freud and we performed it with 2 soprano saxes, backing track and piano. I really cannot describe the feeling of performing next to John! It was bursting with energy and felt really quite surreal.
I am very glad that John was able to come and perform in Ulverston; I have wanted him to be a part of my concert series for quite some time and the audience here thought his performance was stunning!
I am now preparing for a busy month in December and looking forward my performances over the festive period. I wish everybody reading this a very Happy Christmas! 


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Thursday, November 26, 2015

How I Stay in Shape

by Bob Ashworth
Principal Horn, Opera North

Whether it’s getting ready for Ein Heldenleben after a six week break, playing such varied repertoire in the same week (Cole Porter’s ‘Kiss Me Kate’, Rossini’s ‘Barber of Seville’, Janacek’s ‘Jenufa’ and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.4) or looking further ahead to SIX – yes, six - Ring cycles(!), it’s important to stay in shape.

What exactly does this mean for horn players (or any musicians)? There can be no doubt that horn playing (as with any musical instrument) is a very physical activity – I still regard myself as an athlete although it’s a while since I’ve done any serious running. After lots of athletics at school I went through the usual fad in my thirties (and I’m not knocking it) of doing 10K runs and marathons and it was certainly physically draining. But looking back now I think I got more from the mental strength behind it and I find more and more that the determination and staying power is so applicable to horn playing. Staying in shape for horn playing doesn’t necessarily mean doing a 5-10K run every weekend or going to the gym – it’s more than that because it’s both mental and physical. For the past few years my physical stuff is what Alfred Brain used to do – a lot of digging – not exactly aerobic fitness but looking after three  allotments is a great escape from the pressures of playing principal horn. But that’s still not the whole answer either. You have to do the 5-10K runs and marathons, but in horn playing terms. It’s the preparation and perseverance that I found from running that are the key elements.

My preparation for each of the Ring operas was to play them from beginning to end, obviously without most of the rests, in a single practice session. For Das Rheingold this probably took slightly over an hour – not too long – but at the end I knew that MENTALLY I could get through it. The same with the others – although possibly slightly longer for each opera. Not sure yet about my preparation for the whole cycle in a week....

My preparation for Ein Heldenleben, throughout my summer holidays, was the same, play it through so it feels familiar and do-able.

For the varied repertoire, as with all of the above, it’s a case of keeping everything on the boil – especially the basics – which comes from a ‘warm up’ (moving into ‘extended practice’) which is constantly being refreshed by tapping into varied material – my own Warm Ups (obviously but constantly re-vamped) plus re-worked elements of Farkas, Schlossberg, Ree Wekre, Kling, Caruso (Carmine not Enrico! – and therefore Julie Landsman too), Yancich, Schantl etc. – all of which, even though seemingly diverse, are coming from the point of using air efficiently, like a singer.

So, for a training regime (both mental and physical):
  • repetitive work – but you must keep the repetition interesting
  • stamina work – push the boundaries BUT don’t overdo it (hard but pragmatic decisions to be made here)
  • gentle work – to relax, ease off and enjoy yourself
  • rest – SO important to all athletes

Have fun!