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

Thursday, November 8, 2018

E6 Valse des Fleurs

Wye & Bennett - Doppler & Doppler

Spot the deliberate mistake?
It was on one of those extraordinary Canterbury music courses that I heard Trevor Wye and William Bennett play the delicious 'Valse des Fleurs' by Ernesto Kohler for two flutes and piano. We just had to re-publish it. It was then we found out that it was often played by the brothers Karl and Franz Doppler. They were a popular double-act, not only for their virtuoso playing but visually. As Karl was left-handed he played the flute in reverse...

Hence the cover design of E6

The joy of this piece is that, unlike many flute concert pieces of that period, it isn't too difficult, and can be played by Grade 5 students. They love it.

E6 Ernesto Kohler - Valse des Fleurs

Thursday, October 25, 2018

E5 and Notaset

Do you remember Notaset?

Back in the 1970s, when we first started publishing, we used the transfer system Notaset. Each note on the transfer sheet was placed on its correct line or space and then rubbed with a pencil (or a dead biro). Each symbol stuck itself on to the manuscript paper. It took hours...
The first, and last, work that I undertook was Emerson Edition No.5 Variations on a Dorian Theme for saxophone & piano by Gordon Jacob. Dear Gordon said it looked lovely, but I knew the spacings were extremely dodgy. After that we contracted the work out to professionals. You can imagine how happy we were when Sibelius was invented.
(E5 has been professionally re-engraved since then, by the way!)
June Emerson

Fortunately the piece proved popular and has been on various examination syllabus lists over the years.

E5 Variations on a Dorian Theme - Gordon Jacob

Gordon Jacob (1895-1984)

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Francis Baines


It was early in the 1970s that we received this little note:

"I heard my comic variations the other day for the first time and liked them and have accordingly sent the enclosed. Will you publish it? I don't want any money. Yours sincerely Francis Baines"

At the time, as well as looking for good music for young players, we were looking for pieces that were fun to play. It was still the era of Hoffnung cartoons and Fritz Spiegl broadcasts - classical music fun was in the air.
We decided to push our luck even further and ask the famous cartoonist Bill Tidy whether he would illustrate the cover for us. He produced the above, accompanied by a very modest bill. "I'll charge you  more when you're in Tin Pan Alley" he said.

Needless to say we did send him money, and the Comic Variations have been earning their keep, and making people laugh, ever since.

E4 Francis Baines - Comic Variations for clarinet & bassoon

Thursday, September 13, 2018


Alexandr Manukyan - Professor of Saxophone
Conservatoire, Yerevan, Armenia

Alexandr (Sasha) Manukyan has been teaching at the Conservatoire in Yerevan for many years. At the moment he has 39 students, and the level of their accomplishment is astounding. The Alma Saxophone Quartet is named after the first letters of his name, and 'my boys' can be seen and heard on the following links:

Rimsky Korsakov - Flight of the Bumblebee

Bach - Italian Concerto

Thierry Escaich - Tango Virtuoso

Alexandr is often on the juries of international saxophone events, particularly the Selmer Paris Saxophone Competition. He enjoys friendships with saxophone specialists worldwide, and is always interested to hear what other people are doing. He was  particularly impressed recently with the playing of our own Young Artist Jess Gillam, seen here rehearsing for the BBC Young Musician competition last year:

Jess Gillam 2017

Alexandr Manukyan is on Facebook

Thursday, August 9, 2018

2018 Launchpad Prize Winners #2


Festivo Winds

(Royal Northern College of Music)

The Players

Leila Marshall - flute
Adam Bowman - oboe
Andy Mellor - clarinet
Sara Erb - bassoon
Thomas Edwards - horn


Festivo Winds are a dynamic group of young musicians from around the world who formed at the RNCM in December 2017. They are a strong group - each member has numerous personal accolades - and together they create a palpable sense of energy and fun. 

The ensemble specialise in the core quintet repertoire, whilst maintaining an interest in arrangements and new works. 

Festivo Winds are the winners of the 2018 Fewkes Woodwind Competition and the June Emerson Wind Music Launchpad Prize. The members are very excited to see what the future holds.

June Emerson Wind Music would like to thank Suzy Stonefield for organising 
the awarding of the Launchpad Prize at the Royal Northern College of Music.


Festivo Winds

Royal Northern College of Music

Thursday, August 2, 2018

2018 Launchpad Prize Winners #1


Rosewood Clarinet Quartet

(Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama)

The Players

Joanna James
Carwyn Thomas
Katherine Nunn
Jason Hill


Based in Cardiff, the Rosewood Clarinet Quartet was formed in September 2017 by Joanna James, Carwyn Thomas, Katherine Nunn and Jason Hill, four Master's students at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. Within its first year alone, the quartet has already gone from strength to strength, securing the Wind Plus Chamber Music Prize, being highly commended in the McGrenery Chamber Music Prize, and most recently winning the June Emerson Wind Music Ensemble (Launchpad) Prize 2018. The Quartet have raised money for charity, regularly working with Music in Hospitals and Care, and have most recently played for the College's Open Day. Some pieces the Quartet have played over the past few months include Uhl's Divertimento for Clarinet Quartet, Lenny Sayers' "Bute" and Clare Grundman's Caprice for Clarinet Quartet.
In 2018 they won the June Emerson Wind Music Launchpad Prize.

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.


Rosewood Clarinet Quartet
Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama

Thursday, July 26, 2018


Jack Brymer (1915 - 2003)

In the winter in the United States there is a problem in concert halls which become so dry with the excessive heating.  In my bassoon case I would put a humidifier,  a sort of rubber tube soaked in water. 'A London Symphony’ of Vaughan Williams has some very pianissimo sections.  In one of these, with Previn conducting on an LSO tour, one of the double basses literally exploded.  It was an amazing noise, followed by the Mancunian voice of Stuart Knussen (father of Oliver, the composer and solo double bass), ‘git off the platform, Robin!’, to Robin McGee, the owner of the ruined instrument.  Previn really enjoyed that.

Once in the Royal Festival Hall we had just finished the first movement of a symphony when Jack Brymer, sitting next to me,  got up and walked off the platform through the violins.  I think Previn must have suspected what was the trouble for he just stood on the podium and waited.  Sure enough, after probably not more than two minutes, back comes Jack, who says in his marvellous, sonorous voice ‘Sorry, André!’ and goes back to his seat to complete the performance of the symphony.

Roger Birnstingl

Thursday, July 12, 2018


The British Flute Society - Summer Flute Festival

Friday August 17th - Sunday August 19th

This year the theme of the festival is all things new in the flute world

The instrument

Its technique

Its music

There will be celebrity recitals, workshops, a flute choir, trade stands
and opportunities to meet players, teachers and composers.

To book a place contact
To join the British Flute Society contact:

The Future Flute Fest 2018 is for everyone who loves the flute.

Thursday, July 5, 2018



Four playing days open to clarinet players of all ages from Grade 5 to Diploma level.

Stephanie Reeve will direct rehearsals focusing on ensemble skills, technique and sight-reading, using a wide variety of repertoire and the full range of clarinets from Eb to contrabass. An informal performance will be given at the end of the four sessions.

Further information from:

Stapleford Granary, Bury Road, Stapleford, Cambridge CB22 5BP





Gill and David Johnston have masterminded Musicale Holidays since 1977. Their passion is to involve children in meaningful and, above all, enjoyable music-making through a series of fun but structured programmes.
Many of their staff grew up attending a Summer Musicale, and now they are passing on their enthusiasm to the next generation of young musicians.
The courses are run by a dedicated and enthusiastic team of professional players and teachers, whose aim is always to get the best out of the players. At the same time they ensure that everyone has a great time.

COURSES for 2018





For all details contact or telephone 01582 713333

Friday, June 29, 2018

Something to remember about a bassoon's bottom?

Roger Birnstingl remembers...

Cecil James was the solo bassoonist of the Philharmonia Orchestra. He was the nephew of Edwin James who had been 1st bassoon of the LSO and gave the first performance of Elgar’s Romance in 1911. Cecil was a superb musician and played on the Buffet with the lovely nutty tone so difficult to achieve on ‘the mumblephone’, which is what Cecil called the German bassoon.
In 1955 the Philharmonia played at the Lucerne Festival with Fritz Reiner conducting. In the overture to Die Meistersinger there are two bassoon parts. Reiner wanted them doubled, so I was the 3rd bassoon with the 1st bassoon part. We had got through the first part of the overture and I was doubling all the forte passages. We were approaching the Apprentice Music, which uses oboes and clarinets with an important part for the bassoon. I did not know Cecil very well at that time, so when I noticed that he seemed to be having trouble with his bassoon, I thought ‘Goodness, I think I better play’ which is what I did. As I was playing, Cecil put his bassoon on the floor and sat back with his arms crossed.

Reiner looked up, stopped the orchestra and said
‘Vas is with bassoon?’, to which Cecil replied
‘If the young man wishes to play my part, perhaps I should go home.’
Reiner to Manoug Parikian, the leader
‘Vat he say?’
‘Don’t worry, Maestro, just start again from letter B and it will all be alright’.

Alright it was, but I later learned that the Buffet has a cork at the bottom of the butt joint which can be used to adjust the intonation and this is what Cecil had been doing.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Something to remember about a bassoon's bottom?

Roger Birnstingl remembers...

Cecil James was the solo bassoonist of the Philharmonia Orchestra. He was the nephew of Edwin James who had been 1st bassoon of the LSO and gave the first performance of Elgar’s Romance in 1911. Cecil was a superb musician and played on the Buffet with the lovely nutty tone so difficult to achieve on ‘the mumblephone’, which is what Cecil called the German bassoon.
In 1955 the Philharmonia played at the Lucerne Festival with Fritz Reiner conducting. In the rehearsal of the Meistersingers overture there are two bassoon parts. Reiner wanted them doubled so that I was the 3rd bassoon with the 1st bassoon part. We had got through the first part of the overture when I was doubling all the forte passages and we approached the apprentice music on oboes and clarinets with an important part for the bassoon. I did not know Cecil very well at that time, so when I noticed that he seemed to be having trouble with his bassoon, I thought ‘goodness, I think I better play’ which is what I did. As I was playing, Cecil put his bassoon on the floor and sat back with his arms crossed.

Reiner looked up, stopped the orchestra and said:
‘Vas is with bassoon?’, to which Cecil replied:
‘If the young man wishes to play my part, perhaps I should go home.’
Reiner to Manoug Parikian, the leader:
‘Vat he say?’
‘Don’t worry, Maestro, just start again from letter B and it will all be alright’.

Alright it was, but I later learned that the Buffet has a cork at the bottom of the butt joint which can be used to adjust the intonation and this is what Cecil had been doing.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Bruckner- oops!

Jascha Horenstein (1898 - 1973)
Jascha Horenstein was marvellous conductor, particularly of Mahler and Bruckner.   He was one of the rare conductors who was really admired by orchestral musicians.  The recordings we did of Mahler’s 1st and 2nd symphonies in Barking Town Hall were really outstanding.
However, one memory stands out of a performance in the Royal Festival Hall of Bruckner’s 7th symphony  (the one with the beautiful slow movement of Wagner tubas).  This symphony has a long scherzo followed by a long trio and then returns to the long scherzo.   During the evening performance,  as we arrived at the end of the first scherzo it was clear that Horenstein thought the movement was ended. Somehow the entire orchestra sensed that he had forgotten the trio, so that with his next down-beat we started the finale.  After a few seconds Horenstein’s face showed absolute shock as he realised that he was set to do the shortest performance ever of that symphony.  Poor man.
Roger Birnstingl 

Thursday, May 31, 2018


Expressive violin concertos by three unfamiliar names have recently made a well-deserved break into the recording world. The most dramatic of these three scintillating works is that from the seasoned Great War composer Gordon Jacob. His concerto, composed 30 years after that conflict's conclusion, is still an abject reflection of that period and its haunting memories.
The three movements move from a contemplative opening through a prayer-like andante and finally to a reflective but optimistic allegro finale.

Gordon Jacob (1897 - 1996) was taken prisoner during the First World War. While in the camp, with several other musicians, he formed an orchestra and composed and arranged for the oddly balanced forces available. This gave him a valuable insight into how to write for each instrument so that the notes 'lie well' for the fingers, and to understand unusual instrumental combinations. Later in life this expertise made him much sought-after by several more famous names, for help with their orchestration. His book 'Orchestral Technique' is still a much valued reference book.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Early Years - getting the right sound

When we started publishing, we were also teaching wind instruments. We agreed that the most important thing for our students to get right at the beginning was the sound.

'It doesn't matter how fast and fancy you can play - if your  sound isn't good, people won't invite you to play more than once!' we told them.
The trouble with putting beginners into a wind band is that they are playing in a LOUD environment, and the quality of their sound gets little attention. This is why we created the Schools Wind Series.
Emerson Edition No.2, the first of the series, was a simple Bach Sarabande, arranged to our recipe by Lamont Kennaway. The instrumentation reflected what was generally available in schools at the time: plenty of flutes and clarinets, and an oboe and bassoon if you were lucky. The occasional horn was a bonus.
Although the piece is short there are plenty of opportunities to learn how to listen to each other, match phrasing, allow another instrument to be heard above one's own, and give attention to accents, dynamics and all the other good musical grammar that is often drowned out in a wind band. Careful rehearsal, with different pairs of instruments matching their tone and phrasing - then coming together with the whole group - holds the pupils' interest. They find it more rewarding than just galloping through a sequence of loud, jolly stuff.
The sound made by our groups of students was a balanced chamber music sound. Some of them are still making a beautiful sound - in the music profession.

Schools Wind Series

E2     Bach/Kennaway - Sarabande (2fl. ob. 3cl. bn.) Grade 3/4
E47   Bach/Emerson - Three Sarabandes (2fl. ob. 3cl. bn.) Grade 3/4
E172 Geoffrey Emerson arr. - Christmas Pieces (2fl. ob. 3cl. bn. hn.) Grade 3/4
E7    Ronald Hanmer - Suite for Seven (2fl. ob. 3cl. bn.) Grade 3/4
E52  Ronald Hanmer - Serenade for Seven (2fl. ob. 3cl. bn.) Grade 3/4
E22  Thomas Lowe - Suite of Dances (2fl. ob. 3cl. bn. 2hn.) Grade 5
E23  Schubert/Emerson - Scherzo & Trio in F (2fl. ob. 3cl. (2cl. hn.) bn.) Grade 3/4
E61  Schubert/Emerson - Scherzo & Trio in g minor (2fl. ob. 3cl. bn) Grade 3/4
E24  Whitlock/Emerson - Folk Tune (2fl. ob. 3cl. bn. hn.) Grade 3/4

Find them on the Advanced Search - Series Title - SCHOOLS WIND SERIES

Thursday, May 3, 2018


André Previn - conductor (     )

One good thing about André Previn was that he had a good sense of humour so that when the following happened he nearly fell off the podium laughing.  It was a performance in the Flanders Festival in Bruges of Berlioz Fantastic Symphony. In the 'March to the Scaffold' the Dies Irae is played. The tubular bells join in at one point,  but on this occasion some joker had stuffed a duster up one of the bells.  The result was a boom, boom, boom, pshut  at which point the poor percussionist fell on his knees trying to extract the duster.  It was with the greatest difficulty that Previn could continue the performance.
Roger Birnstingl


Thursday, April 12, 2018

THOSE FOUR NOTES - Tchaikovsky Symphony No.6
the bassoonist's nightmare

 by Roger Birnstingl

is very puzzlinIt g why Tchaikovsky didn’t put those four notes on the bass clarinet, an instrument he used quite a lot, particularly in his ballet music, the Manfred Symphony and more. There must have been some technical reason why he chose the bassoon and this we shall never know. It is the only occasion that I have seen a bassoon part of any work with four pppp, so he must have known that he was asking a lot.
He conducted the first performance  himelf, shortly before his death. It's impossible to know whether the bassoonist played this passage on that occasion. My guess is that he did, and it was a disaster so that from then on it was played on the bass clarinet. Interestingly it remains in the  bassoon part and in the printed score. 
I have only had to play this bit on two occasions. The first was at the RFH with Markevitch conducting the LSO. I had got through the opening solo and was feeling relieved that the worst was over. Jack Brymer was in the middle of his long solo when I became aware that the bass clarinettist was looking at me with a desperate expression indicating that his instrument was not working. No choice for me but to play the notes for him, and with the reed I had on which was not the one I had used for the opening.
Jack, being a real pro, made a subtle crescendo towards my entry so that I could play fairly comfortably thinking ‘better too loud than not at all’. Amazingly, Markevitch gave me a bow at the end although I am sure that most of the audience had no idea why he had got me to stand up.
The other time was when the bass clarinettist of the Suisse Romande, a friend of mine, asked me to do this because he would have had a completely free week and wanted to go away. This concert was right in the middle so of course I agreed and worked out some tricks with a duster in the bell and the Bb key closed with a rubber band.

Roger Birnstingl started playing the bassoon at age 14. He was educated at Bedales School and later studied with Archie Camden at the Royal College of Music in London.
He has served as principal bassoonist of the London Philharmonic (1956–1958), the Royal Philharmonic (1961–1964) and the London Symphony Orchestra (1964–1977). He later served as principal bassoonist with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande until his retirement in 1997. He is currently professor of bassoon at the Geneva Conservatoire. He is also a joint president of the British Double Reed Society.

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.