Thursday, March 7, 2019

Michael Head

Michael Head

Michael Dewar Head (1900 - 1976)

As well as being a composer, singer and pianist, Michael Head was an examiner for the Associated Board. It was when he came to Ampleforth College to examine the music students that we first met him. We knew his lovely songs, and had recently heard Siciliana for oboe on the BBC. As well as offering hospitality we were definitely hoping to get our hands on this lovely piece!
I drove down to Ampleforth College to bring him up to our house. My son Daniel, aged about 9, was in the car with me.
'Now Mr. Head is quite an old man, and may be a bit deaf. When you speak to him try to speak very clearly,' I told him.
Michael got in the car, and I went back to the music department to get his suitcase. When I returned to the car he was roaring with laughter, and so was Daniel. Apparently Daniel had said, extremely distinctly 'I think you are the oldest man I have ever seen.'
Our relationship was very warm from then on (thank you Daniel!) and we not only acquired his lovely Sicilana, but also a very striking song The World is Mad, for voice, clarinet and piano, and three other works including oboe and bassoon.
Geoffrey asked his advice on adjudicating, as he had his first engagement coming up. Michael said that however awful the playing, it was important always to say something nice - even if it was just to compliment them on the way they walked on to the stage.
That first meeting was on March 10th 1976. In April I sent him the Louis MacNeice poem that eventually became The World is Mad. During the following couple of months several other works arrived. On August 3rd he wrote from Bulawayo, South Africa, where he was not only examining for the AB but also singing his songs at recitals, including The World is Mad - ink still wet on the paper.
You can imagine our shock when, on August 24th, we heard that he had died suddenly in Cape Town. It was peritonitis - he had not reached a hospital soon enough.
June Emerson
Siciliana - oboe & piano
Three Hill Songs - oboe & piano
Three Fantastic Pieces - bassoon & piano
Trio - oboe, bassoon & piano
The World is Mad - mezzo, clarinet & piano

Thursday, February 21, 2019

E10 Six Low Solos

Six Low Solos

Eric Hughes 1924 - 2000

Eric Hughes was an electrical engineer, who worked at GEC in Wembley during the 1950s at the time when transistors were first being developed. He was a talented jazz pianist and composer, and used to write a musical show each year for the members of the company to perform. I first met him when I was invited to play in the orchestra for one of their productions.
He decided to study composition more seriously, and enrolled for classes at Hendon Technical College. We sat next to each other for the theory and harmony classes and generally caused a lot of trouble - he was such a joker. Through our friendship he started writing shows for the Ballards Lane Methodist Church in Finchley, North London, which had a thriving dramatic group. Everything was fun. I still have copies of his songs 'I've got a Toothbrush in Kensington' and 'Knitting Sandwiches for Jim' - created for some comedy sketch.

Trying out some songs for a show - please note paper snakes coming out of the recorders.
Left to right: June Emerson, Laurie Hetherington, Eric Hughes, Jean Gunderson,
Ken Gunderson, Sidney the choirmaster.

The composer Alan Bush came to Hendon Tech. to teach the more advanced students and Spike (everyone called Hughes ended up being called 'Spike' of course) developed his style to a much more advanced level. Several of his works have been since been published.
It was at my request, and detailed information about which notes were learned first on the bassoon, that he composed Six Low Solos, which have been a godsend to beginner bassoonists ever since.
He always signed himself E. S. C. O. Hughes, which stood for Eric Spike Consecutive Octaves Hughes.
June Emerson

E6 Six Low Solos - Eric Hughes Grade I/2

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Gordon Jacob and his pigs...


Whenever we visited Gordon Jacob the first thing my children wanted to do was to sit on the big leather pig in his sitting-room. Gordon loved pigs and had an enormous collection: china, wooden, plastic - even a marzipan one that he couldn't bring himself to eat.
He was helping us to build our catalogue of pieces for young wind players, and it was the pigs that reminded him to introduce us to Alan Ridout, one of his ex-students at the Royal College of Music. Alan had written a piece for four bassoons called 'Pigs' as a gift to Gordon to add to his collection. Alan soon became one of our favourite composers.

Pigs eventually became Emerson Edition No.9. With a cover illustration by the legendary Bill Tidy it has remained a favourite since 1973

Thursday, January 24, 2019

The Rehearsal Orchestra - London Weekend Courses


How would you like to play...

Stravinsky - Petrushka & Scherzo a la Russe
Dvorak - Carnaval Overture
Janacek - Sinfonietta (Oooh yes!)
Mahler - Das Lied von der Erde
Strauss - Ein Heldenleben
With a bunch of great players, under an excellent conductor
(with a good sense of humour), for a day of intensive work
with an open rehearsal at the end for your mates to come and listen?


The Rehearsal Orchestra


You'll love it!


Friday, January 11, 2019

British Flute Society Competition

British Flute Society

Competition for Young Flautists 2019



The closing date for entry is 22nd January 2019


School Performer

Open to flute players aged 13 and under on 31 August 2019. They should play a piece, or pieces, of their own choice lasting (including breaks) not more than 5 minutes.
Grade 5 or above

Young Performer

Open to flute players aged 14 - 18 years on 31 August 2019. They should play a piece, or pieces, of their own choice lasting (including breaks) not more than 7 minutes.
Grade 7-8 or above

Young Artist

Open to higher level players aged 19 - 24 years on 31 August 2019. They should play a piece, or pieces, of their own choice lasting (including breaks) not more than 8 minutes.
Grade 8 or above
More detailed information, and an online application form:

Thursday, December 13, 2018

BBC Music Magazine 1

Needle in Haystack

Looking for articles and reviews about music for wind instruments in the BBC Music Magazine is a time-consuming business  Not having much time I was delighted to find the word 'flute' on page 70 of the November issue. It was in a fascinating article about the Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho (b.Helsinki 1952). There was much superfluous stuff about her being female of course - the world of the media can't just call people composers and leave it at that.
I followed the links and listened to Noa Noa for flute and electronics. As the article said, her music is certainly 'imaginative and spellbinding'.

There are four recordings on YouTube. It is possible for the flautist to both play the piece and activate the electronics. Alternatively an assistant can do the activating, leaving the player free to interpret the score. I wonder which is the most satisfying, and would love to hear opinions from performers.
The performance by Jesse Tatum uses an assistant.
Emma Resmini does the whole job herself, seamlessly.
My next thought was 'Do we actually stock this piece?' and - yes - there it is on our website! Satisfaction all round!
June Emerson

Thursday, November 22, 2018

E7 Before and After

Ronald Hanmer

1917 - 1994

It was in the early 1970s that we first made contact with Ronald Hanmer, probably the most prolific composer of light music that has ever lived. "Ronald Hanmer throws tunes around like a man with ten arms" said one of his reviewers. We were looking for good music for young wind players, and we asked him whether he would do something for us. He eventually gave us four works, of which the most memorable was 'Suite for Seven' - which appropriately became Emerson Edition No.7.  It was scored for our Schools Wind Ensemble Series, and comprised four movements: Seven on Parade, a perky little march tune, a lyrical Song for Seven, then Three Plus Four, making it completely painless for youngsters to play in 7/4 time, and a cheerful Finale for Seven.
We met only once, and he was a neat person in a neat grey suit, very proper we thought. When he said he was moving to Australia in 1975 we were devastated, but happily our correspondence continued right through until 1994, the year of his death.

We were delighted to see that the relaxed atmosphere of Australia led to brightly coloured shirts and long hair - he blossomed there, and continued writing tunes to the very end. His most famous of that era was the theme music for the longest-running Australian television serial Blue Hills. Originally composed long before, as 'Pastorale' for the Francis Day and Hunter Mood Music library, he reworked it for the programme:

SUITE FOR SEVEN (score & parts)

E7 Suite for Seven - Ronald Hanmer

2 flutes, oboe, 3 clarinets, bassoon

Grade 3-4