Thursday, March 29, 2018

The story of E1

It was 1972 and I had been supplying music to young wind players and their teachers for about a year. Teaching wind instruments in schools was still a fairly new thing, and there was very little music written that was suitable for young beginners. I paid a visit to the British Music Information Centre and looked through random boxes of manuscripts, searching for a style that looked fairly easy. That was how I discovered the name Raymond Parfrey. He seemed to have written several pieces that were tuneful and uncomplicated, so I got in touch with him. He was very interested, but at that precise moment he was doing a commission for alto flute. How interesting! Not exactly suitable for young beginners, but there was very little published for alto flute. Why not take it on?

I had been listening to advice from established music publishers for a while, with the idea of doing some publishing myself. The first sensible thing to do of course would be to publish something that would be popular and sell well. Another suggestion was to number your publications with a numerical prefix of some sort, so that it looked as if you had been publishing a large quantity for years.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I'm not very good at taking advice. This is why I began with E1 - Lyric Moment for alto flute.

Innocent and undaunted I took a copy into London and started calling in to some of the major music shops to see if they would buy one. On the whole they were encouraging and gentlemanly (yes, all the buyers were blokes then), patting me on the head and taking a copy. I was a music publisher, and over the moon!

Raymond Parfrey 1928 - 2008

Thursday, March 22, 2018


Gordon Jacob 1895 - 1983
It was in 1974 that a concert was given in Hertfordshire by a clarinet choir. That was a relatively unknown combination in those days, but Gordon Jacob had written a piece Introduction and Rondo that was to receive its first performance that day. We were asked whether we could give him a lift to the venue, and I sat behind him in the car. He confided to us that he had never actually heard a clarinet choir, but he was such a master of orchestration that it was a great piece, and the players and audience loved it.
My music business (JEWM) had been running for three years, and we were beginning to publish new works for young players. The repertoire for beginners at that time was very limited, as learning wind instruments in schools was still a new venture. I was particularly annoyed that beginner brass players were usually asked to play a brass band part as their exam piece. It would be unaccompanied, and make very little sense without the rest of the band, but there was not much else suitable.
As we drove along I went into a bit of a soap-box speech about the fact that young players needed good music when they were learning, not just simple ditties written 'down to their level'. They need to be taught with well-written music of stature and quality.
Very soon after, through the post, came Four Little Pieces for trumpet or cornet and piano - from Gordon Jacob. It soon went on to the AB exam syllabus and has remained there on and off ever since. Many other pieces followed, and through that chance transport problem a long friendship was established. Isn't life wonderful?

Cover illustration by Timothy Macpherson aged 12.


Thursday, March 1, 2018

A Near Death Experience

Jane Marshall - cor anglais

The trouble with recording sessions is that you never know what you're going to be in for until the moment you walk through the studio door…
Imagine my delight, on arriving at Air Studios in NW3, to find that we were doing a new album for the great Michel Legrand (remember Windmills of your Mind from The Thomas Crown Affair?) with the man himself conducting. It was to be called Between Yesterday and Tomorrow and was a series of songs telling the story of a woman's life from birth, through childhood and motherhood to old age and ultimately, death. The piece was originally written for Barbra Streisand but after a couple of initial sessions was abandoned, until the French Opera star Natalie Dessay heard about it and was desperate to record it.
As usual, I had a quick look through the part after warming up and there did seem to be a couple of Cor Anglais solos but nothing too onerous I thought…

Ha! How wrong can you be?

When it came to it, the two solos were to be played segue, constituting one of the longest and loneliest solos I've ever had to play, even after twenty odd years in a symphony orchestra. Inevitably (for the Cor Anglais) it was in the last song called, rather aptly, 'Last Breath' and so I started playing in what I thought was a suitably sombre and discreetly dying sort of style.

'NON NON NON NON NON NON NON!!!!!' shouted M. Legrand from the podium, followed by one of those ghastly silences in a room when nobody dares to breathe.  He may be small and in his mid 80s but my goodness he can be fierce!
Clearly I had totally misinterpreted Michel’s feelings about death. He wanted the voice he had given to me to rail against death, passionately, powerfully and with anguish, only then to mellow and eventually fade away.

From a technical point of view this was a huge challenge; a long, lonely continuous solo with limited breathing opportunities, screeching at full volume up the top of the range and then gradually getting lower and quieter, all those things you'd rather not have to do on the Cor Anglais. Michel made me dig incredibly deep to give him the emotional intensity that he wanted, but we got there. He was delighted with the end result and I had had an extraordinarily fulfilling experience, even if my heart had nearly stopped in the process!

All over now!

Jane Marshall is a freelance London musician and Professor of Cor Anglais at both the Royal College of Music and Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She was formerly Principal Cor Anglais of the Philharmonia Orchestra for 16 years and prior to that, the BBC Symphony Orchestra.