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