From September 1995 to July 2003 the most time-consuming of my current activities was Newbury College Late Starters' Orchestra. I was the conductor, and I organised all the music for whatever unusual combination of instruments turned up each term. As members enrolled for only one term at a time I couldn't plan in detail more than three months ahead. It was a challenge, but a very enjoyable one, and it was great to watch people making progress and growing in musical confidence.
Since September 2003 I have been running a similar orchestra independently. It's called Do All Come and Play Orchestra (DA CAPO) . In music DA CAPO means entirely appropriately "from the beginning". The "da" could also stand for "Dedicated Amateurs", or ? Anyway, the important bit is for people to come and play! It aims to be as inclusive as possible.
There's not much published for 9 flutes, 2 oboes, 5 clarinets (any of whom can double on bass clarinet), 3 alto saxophones, bassoon, 1 trumpet, 1 tenor horn, 1 trombone, 1 euphonium, 5 violins, 3 violas and 5 'cellos! That was the combination of instruments in the term ending December 2003. I either arrange the music from scratch, perhaps starting with a piano piece or something choral, or adapt parts for one instrument (e.g. French horn) to be playable by another (e.g. alto saxophone). At the moment I need to provide simplified parts for several less experienced players.
The orchestra is my main regular musical activity. In addition, I sing with Reading Festival Chorus and play the viola (not very well) in the Saturday Morning Orchestra.
On a fairly regular basis I work as rehearsal pianist for Anne Todd Howarth, a professional soprano, helping with repertoire-building, recital programme planning etc. I've particularly enjoyed widening my knowledge of the song repertoire with Anne, recently including music by Obradors, Pfitzner and Turina alongside the more familiar names of Debussy, Fauré (a great favourite with both of us) and Mahler.
On a completely irregular basis I accompany individuals (most often children) taking music exams, and sometimes also accompany them for auditions or at concerts. I've enjoyed accompanying since I was in my teens. I grab any opportunity to play chamber music, including piano duets, and have recently started playing the viola again, which I've never done to a very high standard but have dipped into since just before I left school. I'm a great enthusiast for social music at all levels and not really interested in playing the piano as a solo instrument.
My main instrument at college (Guildhall School of Music and Drama) was the flute, which I have taught and still play intermittently. I had the good fortune to study with the late great Geoffrey Gilbert. My experience of playing the flute in orchestras has been very helpful in teaching people about orchestral playing.
Ken and I also both enjoy playing recorders, which have a wide repertoire both ancient and modern. I'm a member of the Society of Recorder Players (SRP), which has branches around the country and a special membership rate for Country and Overseas Members who don't live near a branch. A couple of years ago I spent an interesting afternoon introducing members of the North London branch of the SRP to some of the unbarred Renaissance repertoire which I publish.
In 1993 I heard about a new summer school being organised by COMA (Contemporary Music Making for Amateurs), and am now a member. If you think COMA is a silly name try looking the word up in the dictionary. You will probably be surprised! I had only missed the 1994 summer school, and have found the week each summer very stimulating and stretching. However, last year I decided to go instead to the string summer school run by ELLSO (East London Late Starters' Orchestra), the organisation which initiated COMA, and had a week of intensive viola playing of various sorts. I have played quite a lot of 20th century music, but the exciting thing about COMA is that there are always new works commissioned specially for the summer courses, so we are involved in realising them for their first performances. Many of the summer school participants are part-time composers, so there's also the chance to try out new pieces as they happen, which I really enjoy. Increasingly there are also COMA ensembles around the country playing new music including members' own compositions, and professional Musical Directors have now being appointed to lead some of these developing ensembles.
The annual COMA and ELLSO residential courses are held in the beautiful surroundings of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, with an interesting mixture of workshops and public concerts. As alternatives to going for the full COMA week students can now opt for either a one-day or a weekend summer school within that week.
The following states COMA's aims briefly.
COMA aims to encourage musicians of all abilities to take part in contemporary music-making by providing opportunities for the creation and performance of new music, creating a high quality, contemporary repertoire technically accessible to amateurs, and building a network of amateur and professional musicians working to further these aims. Visit its music library, and listing of events and music-making opportunities.
For a number of years I worked as second pianist for the Grand Opera course at Canford Summer School of Music (held in Dorset, England), which now has the use of the school's purpose built small theatre complete with computer controlled lighting and an orchestra pit. The students prepare a fully staged and costumed performance between Sunday, when they meet for the first time, and the following Saturday! Musical Director is Peter Clarke of Riverside Opera, with his wife Joyce as repetiteur. In 2001 I decided to go back to being a student at Canford, and enjoyed a week on the course called The Art of Choral Direction, tutored by David Lawrence and Julian Wilkins. It was a very enjoyable and stimulating week, and I enjoyed the same course again in 2002. In 2003, I decided to reduce the hard work and late nights by enrolling as a singer rather than as a conductor! It's always possible to learn a huge amount by watching the other conductors as they learn by doing. I shall do the same this year.
I have a particular affection for Canford, having gone there first as a schoolgirl and later met Ken there when he first went as a student. By that time I was on the administrative staff. Over the years I've been many times as a student on a variety of courses including choirs, orchestras, wind band and percussion.
Full details of the many courses available during the
three weeks of the Summer School from: Canford Summer School of
Music, 5 Bushey Close, Old Barn Lane, Kenley, Surrey, CR8 5AU, UK.
Tel: 0181 660 4766. Fax: 0181 868 5273. Send
e-mail to Canford Summer School of Music. Canford Summer School
has a Web site now www.canfordsummerschool.co.uk The prospectus for
2004 should be available around the turn of the year and the
excellent orchestral conducting course in particular tends to fill up
very quickly. Ken (who has been a participant) has written about the
orchestral Conducting Courses
I like to go to as many as possible of the participatory events organised by Thames Valley Early Music Forum. Some are for instruments alone, some for voices alone and some for both. Ken doesn't think of himself as a singer these days (though he still sings pretty accurately at sight), but we go to some of the instrumental and mixed ones together.
You can see more about the new Come And Play Orchestra (DA CAPO) and The Purely for Pleasure Orchestra which I used to organise.
own home page | Patsy & Ken's home
page | Purely for Pleasure Orchestra
| Come And Play Orchestra |
Conducting at Canford