Thursday, August 27, 2015

Launchpad Prize Winner's Profile No.2: Seren Winds


Katie Lower - flute

Eric Wolfe-Gordon - oboe

Laura Potter - clarinet

Bartosz Kwasecki - bassoon

Michael Gibbs - horn


Seren Winds is a Cardiff-based wind quintet comprised of postgraduate students and graduates from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. They regularly perform in and around Cardiff, including engagements in the Wales Millennium Centre and St David’s Hall as pre- and post-concert recitals.
In 2015 so far they have taken part in the Carl Nielsen International Chamber Music Competition and the June Emerson Wind Music Launchpad Prize.
The Quintet enjoyed a tour to Quiberon, France, this summer, to introduce a new music festival, 'Les Musicales de Quiberon', by invitation from Pascal Gallois.
Seren Winds are also available to play at public and private events, weddings and corporate events. They perform a variety of works from the classical period through to the twentieth century and are able to arrange lighter pieces upon request.

June Emerson Wind Music would like to thank Kevin Price for organising 
the awarding of the Launchpad Prize at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama.


Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Intonation... it’s not just about the tuning

by Celia Craig
 Principal Oboe, Adelaide Symphony Orchestra

Intonation - a particularly hot topic for wind players. Good intonation makes the difference between audition and trial success or failure – and is a skill that sometimes passes unnoticed, because one is often only aware of the absence of intonation! Here are eight tools which can be kept in the intonation ‘toolkit’…

1. Know your instrument

It’s important to start off perfectly in tune - playing comfortably at A440. Warm up properly, allowing for temperature differences, to make sure you’ve really ‘nailed’ your own pitch. It makes life so much easier when everyone really is in tune from the start! Play in tune with yourself - be aware of your instrument and its intonation strengths and weaknesses. Practice intervals at home and check tuning with that most ‘unforgiving’ of instruments, piano.  Try not to let difficult notes on your own instrument be an excuse while practicing. Arpeggios are the best! Support the high notes! Make middle and low range super reliable. Do work on intonation itself in your personal practice.

2. Know the tonic

Most works (except the most modern) have a pitch centre/key. Feel the tonic- practice identifying it, remember it throughout. The key will change throughout episodes in the piece. You need to know what the current tonic is, in order to know what degree of the scale you are playing, and to be aware when you are ‘home’… (i.e. returning to the original tonic). If everyone does this, intonation is easy! The harmony is the truth of the music, whether it is properly grounded or not, and a stable pitch is its foundation. Try to stay constant during the piece (especially as your embouchure gets tired), as we can sometimes gradually go out of tune. Tuners are good, essential even, but know their limitations and keep using your ears and brain. Oboists have a particular responsibility for intonation- and not only because the conductor is likely to refer back to you for a reference without warning: don’t be caught off guard! Practice pays many dividends when you know your instrument really well.

3. Feel the harmony

Not just the tonic: acknowledging which degree of the scale you are on and tuning intervals accordingly, e.g. wide fifths, low major thirds and so on. Get into the habit of checking every note as you play for whether you are consonant or dissonant. This eventually becomes second nature and really influences the way you can phrase.  My favourite thing! In a wind section, some keys can be particularly hard -  A and E major for example, as the number of instruments playing crucial major thirds on difficult notes often make these keys harder to tune and as a trap for the unwary, easy to let intonation slip as the piece goes on. It takes some discipline and team work for entire sections to play consistently in tune. Second players often find themselves playing at an interval of a third with their respective firsts, one example when intonation is really crucial for the thirds to stay in tune, and when both second players are a long way apart, making it harder for them to hear each other than for the principals. This is when personal intonation discipline becomes really vital. If you can get to know your colleagues, this is a luxury and what makes regular wind sections sound unified, as everyone grows to know everyone else’s playing (and instruments).

4. Voice the chords - to hide or not to hide?

When tuning a larger chord, vital work for wind sections, be aware of the relative importance of your note within the chord, or a wrong balance could mean that the chord may never sound in tune. The tonic needs to be heard - not necessarily the loudest - but everyone needs to be aware what it is. It’s vital that every note is focussed, that the player is aiming for a pitch which is in their head. It’s great to work in a wind section where everyone is thinking. Don’t be afraid to experiment with balance as this has often solved chords that were proving really hard to tune.

Tancibudek Wind Quintet

5. Listen actively without blame

Sounds obvious, but do keep listening all the time and on every note. Try switching your attention from yourself to everyone else and back again. It’s important to be able to listen in an active sense, analytically, and adjust but without judging or blame. If it’s out of tune, don’t panic, keep your head and if it’s balanced, nicely voiced, matching vibrato, and musical, nothing will sound too bad! Positive mind set, clear and active observation: great skills to develop.

6. Immerse yourself in the music

It’s a mistake to focus solely on intonation. Even if something is perfectly in tune, it won’t sound good if the players have worked entirely on tuning and expression has gone out of the equation. Tuning a tricky octave or interval or chord also entails matching sounds, vibrato, balance and expression, and not being afraid. If all else fails, think of the music, articulation, expression and vibrato and perhaps the intonation will solve itself. Immersing oneself in the music solves many issues, including nerves. You’re only acting - if it’s a scary quiet bit for example - think of acting scared but not being scared. It’s a performance. You did your homework. Trust yourself.

7. Good ensemble playing

Employ all the skills: ensemble, expression,  matching sound and articulation, being led by your principal - and being aware of the ensemble style of the whole orchestra. Really good ensemble players are good team members and can support each other discreetly; a little shuffle or quiet acknowledgement after a tricky part,  voicing the octaves so that the lower one is slightly louder for hearing intonation… tiny variations can make things easier and more successful and the really switched on players can predict what might be useful through their active listening. Being aware of the breathing of the section helps you to match articulation and expression - follow body language and in-breaths, which indicate how loud, how to articulate, etc. This is something you will probably have learnt in youth orchestra training at various levels. It’s likely you are already doing all of these things to some degree, if so; great stuff, keep it up!

Onstage with Boulez & the BBCSO -
80th birthday celebrations

8. Finally - Enjoy!

A great team effort can make the difference between agony and fun! Remember that it’s great to relish the challenges of your work, and develop skills to conquer them. Relax, use your intonation toolkit and enjoy overcoming the challenges!


Celia Craig's website

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Launchpad Prize Winner's Profile No.1: Elysium Brass

Ollie Haines - trumpet

Kaitlin Wild - trumpet

Alex Willett - horn

Ian Sankey - trombone

Chris Claxton - tuba


Elysium Brass is a brass quintet formed from students currently studying at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. Formed in 2013 the individual players have a vast amount of experience in many different genres and styles of music and have played in venues such as the Royal Albert Hall, Barbican and Bridgewater Hall as well abroad in France, Hong Kong, Germany, India, Luxembourg to name a few.

As well as concerts, Elysium Brass have performed in a number of interactive educational workshops to primary schools in and outside of London inspired by our participation in the 'Decoda Project' 2014.

Elysium Brass were the Guildhall's winner of the June Emerson Wind Music Launchpad Competition 2015 and have since been fortunate to be guest artists at Festival de Torella de Montrí in Girona, Spain and guest artists at the Stogumber Festival 2015.


Ollie Haines is a trumpeter, pianist, composer, arranger and teacher based in the South West but living in the heart of central London. In 2012 he was awarded a DfE scholarship to study at specialist music school Wells Cathedral School. After two fruitful years studying all styles of music he was awarded a place at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and now studies with Anne McAneney (LPO), Noel Langley (Jazz Freelance), Stephen Keavy (Natural trumpet and historical performance).

Kaitlin Wild started learning the cornet age 5, and went on to study the trumpet aged 11, when she was awarded a music scholarship to Rugby School. She gained entry into the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain aged 13, during which she was awarded the McCann cornet award in 2012, and gained a scholarship to study at The Guildhall in 2013 where she studies with Anne McAneney (LPO) and Paul Beniston (LPO). Kaitlin currently plays with many London Orchestras, including Arch Sinfonia and Orion Orchestra.

Alex Willett started playing the horn aged 16 and quickly progressed gaining a place at Guildhall in 2013. Alex now studies with Jonathon Lipton (LSO) and is a busy performer with some of London's top student orchestras including the London International Orchestra and Arch Sinfonia.

Ian Sankey studied trombone at St. Marys Music School in Edinburgh with John Kenny where his passion for music grew. After deciding to pursue a career in music he auditioned to music college and began his studies at Guildhall where he now a student of Eric Crees and Simon Wills.

Chris Claxton started playing tuba at the age of 12 and after progressing quickly went to study at Wells Cathedral School under the tuition of Sam Elliot (BBC SO) and Alan Hutt. While at Wells he performed with the National Youth Wind Orchestra and European Union Youth Wind Orchestra both in the principal tuba seat. In 2013 Chris was awarded a full scholarship to  Guildhall School of Music and Drama and currently studies with Patrick Harrild (LSO).


Listen to Elysium Brass on Youtube playing 'A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square'

Tickets for Elysium Brass at Stogumber Festival
Saturday 12 September, St Mary’s Church, TA4 3TA at 11am

Elysium Brass at Open House London,
the capital's largest annual festival of architecture and design.
Sunday 20th September, Milton Court, EC2Y 9BH at 12:15pm
(a free, open rehearsal in Milton Court concert hall)

June Emerson Wind Music would like to thank Richard Benjafield for organising the 
awarding of the Launchpad Prize at Guildhall School of Music & Drama.

Guildhall School of Music & Drama

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Jess Gillam's World - Part 1

Jess Gillam - Welcome to my world!

“One of the best young saxophonists in the UK” 
-Snake Davis

Hello everybody, I am delighted to have been asked to write a blog for June Emerson Wind Music about music from a young person's perspective! I am a 17 year old saxophonist from Ulverston in Cumbria and I study at the Junior Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. Each month, I will write a little about performances and musical events I have been involved with and my life as a young musician.
July has been an exciting month and I have had some musical experiences I will never forget. One of these was performing a solo recital at SaxOpen (the World Saxophone Congress) in Strasbourg. I was the youngest of 2,600 delegates and performing to a room of saxophonists was a challenging task. Usually, I know that most of the audience will be unaware of details about saxophone technique and simply want to hear good music, but when performing to a room of people who know everything about the saxophone, it is quite nerve-wracking! However, I think emotions that music can convey and the power that music has is the most important thing to capture in a performance, so I tried to play just as I would if I was in front of a typical concert audience. 
My recital consisted of world premières of commissions from leading saxophonists: Barbara Thompson, Rob Buckland and John Harle, as well as one of my own compositions. All the pieces were written for saxophone with backing tracks. The whole experience of commissioning new works and working with the composers was very interesting and I really enjoyed performing the premières. My concert was on Day Two of the Congress which was the perfect time as I felt truly inspired by some of the performances I had seen the night before. Barbara Thompson's Concerto for Three Saxophones was performed with the Strasbourg Symphony Orchestra and soloists Rob Buckland, Francesco Cafiso and Michael Alizon each performed a movement. The third movement was performed by Rob Buckland on soprano saxophone - the connection he had with the music was very apparent and the rapport with the orchestra made the music come alive and really sing. It was a remarkable performance and a fantastic composition - I felt proud to have pieces written for me by Barbara and Rob and lucky to know them both and be taught by Rob. 
The Congress was the perfect place to meet saxophonists from around the world and to catch up with others. I met Mr Yanagisawa and, as I am a Yanagisawa Artist, I was very pleased to be able to meet him and thank him. I also met Hidemasa Sato who made part of the new Alto WO that I play, and it was lovely to be able to thank him for his skilled craftsmanship. 
After returning home from the Congress, I performed with the National Youth Jazz Collective Creative Leadership Ensemble at the Benslow Music Centre and then started planning and practising repertoire for what promises to be a very busy Autumn! 

Follow Jess Gillam on Facebook
Follow @jessgillamsax on Twitter


Yanagisawa Saxophones UK

Vandoren UK

Saturday, August 1, 2015

June Emerson Wind Music - Launchpad Prize 2015

About the Prize

The Launchpad Prize was an idea that began as a desire to help young musicians in some significant way. With our limited financial resources it was difficult to come up with something that would make enough of a difference to make it worthwhile. The idea of sponsoring a prize at one of the UK music colleges was something we just couldn’t afford, and we also felt that we’d like to be able to offer something to more than just one college and be a little more ‘hands on’. We eventually decided that we would assist one predominantly final year wind ensemble from each of the major UK music colleges to launch themselves onto the professional circuit.

First awarded in 2009, the Launchpad Prize consists of practical help, including:
a substantial JEWM music voucher; dedicated space on the JEWM website; publicity at any time through our online media channels (JEWM blog, Twitter, Facebook etc); editorial coverage wherever possible; unlimited free advertising flyers in JEWM music orders in order to publicise themselves; exclusive access to the JEWM shop with use of all music and facilities; complimentary copies of any existing and future Emerson Edition publications which fit their instrumental line-up, and anything else we can think of.

The Winners!

Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama
Seren Winds

Trinity College of Music
The Risatina Quintet

Royal College of Music
Hestia Saxophone Quartet

Guildhall School of Music & Drama
Elysium Brass

Profiles of each of this year's winners will appear on this blog over the coming weeks...