Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ulster Principal excerpts

The Ulster principal audition was in October - the excerpts were:-

Beethoven - 9, recit

Brahms - 2, 1st mov bits

Britten - Young persons guide var H

Ginastera - Var Conc solo

Haydn - 31 the post horn, var 7, bass solo

Mahler - 1, you know the bit!

Mozart 39 - last mov, the common excerpt

Prokofiev - Lt Kije solo

Saint Seans - the Elephant

Strauss - Don Juan, four common excerpts

Stravinsky - Pulchinella

Sight reading - nasty 7/8 bit from Holst's The Perfect Fool.

It certainly main a perfect fool of me! I stuffed up the sight reading. Am not sure why we have sight reading - even in the UK surely the days of bands having to read stuff are long gone? If if a piece is put on the stand for a reh before a gig, then surely you have time to look at it and do some preparation before the gig. Or are we saying players need to sightread stuff perfectly for the rehearsal? I dont get it.

I was not offered a trial. One thing I learnt from this audition was that there is little point in doing any audition without adequate preparation, I need to be at 110% to even bother.

And it was good to meet Steve Williams, who was running the auditions in London on behalf of the Ulster Orchestra. The others on the panel with principal cello and concertmaster.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Nov 2011

The WNO tour was in full swing by Nov 2011, with the company in Llandudno, Bristol, Birmingham, Oxford, and Southampton. Am really enjoying my time with WNO, and are a fantastic company.

Earlier in the month I nipped from Llandudno to Manchester/Macclesfield, to work with the Northern Chamber Orchestra, play Brandenberg Concertos no 3, 4 and 6, as well as Stravinsky's Apollo Musagete. NCO are awesome, both musically and socially. If I could have negotiated a few of 2p per note am sure I would be in a position to retire comfortably straight off! A lot of notes and a lot of fun.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Oct gigs - Forest Phil and Opera Project

October 2011 was another busy month. The main course was my WNO trial - the company prepares 3 operas in Cardiff then hits the road on tour, a week in each port. The first was the Empire Liverpool, another first for me to work in that city. The Empire is a wonderful old theatre, huge pit, great sound. Kayta went well, even if the house was only 1/3 full, which is a shame as its a terrific show. I met Danny Hammerton after the Katya show - great bloke and we got talking about old basses. Nothing new there then!!

Forest Phil opened thier symphony series for 11/12 with a concert on 16th October, featuring Vaughan William's "lush" Five Variants on Dives and Lazarus and Rachmaninov Symphony no 2. The latter was a first for me - great tunes. The former I had played before, 20 or so years ago, and a show that will stick in the memory. Nigel Amherst was conducting a chamber group in Cornwall. When we got to the end of the theme section, where the celli and bass gets the tune there a huge thud came from the bass. Nigel and most of the audience looked over in shock. To this day I have never broken a bass string, and I thought to myself, "be cool, a string has gone, just work out which one it is, and carry on". They were all floppy, no break at the bridge, none at the nut......what could it be. Nigel stopped the show, we inspected the bass and found the tailwire had broken, but luckily for me it was a stiff wire, that failed, opened an inch or so but kept its shape, or else the strings and bridge would have flown in all directions. I found a wire dry cleaning clothes hanger in the car, bent it in the interval to make a temporary tailwire and did the second half of the concert on my bass. One for the memoirs. There were no such dramas in Walthamstow, thank goodness.

The last show of the month was with the Scottish Ensemble, a youthful, talented, tight knit hi energy group that remind me for all the world of the Australian Chamber Orchestra - they have in fact worked together in a London prom. Jon Morton, leader/director played Vivaldi's four seasons with style and panache in the first half and Bobby McDuffie directed us thro Philip Glass's American Four Seasons, his violin concerto no 2 in the second half. It was a memorable occasion - SE are fantastic in every way and the result was an electric performance that was a honour to be able to take part in. Nicky and I stayed with Mike and Glynis Calder in Helensboro - Mike was my first bass teacher. I met Terry Darke, ex SNO, so there were lots of bass conversation going on, despite Nickys yawns!!

Scottish Ensemble

Sept 2011 - WNO trial for principal bass


September was all about WNO - the start of my trial for principal bass. There are three bass players on trial - I am one of two based in the UK, and there is a third coming over from the US for a week's work on an orchestral concert in late Oct. Kai Carson West is principal for Don Giovanni, and half of Barber of Seville - I am doing the other half of Barber and all of Janacek's wonderful opera Katya Kabanova.

WNO is a stunning company and orchestra - this is my real view, not just a flimsy attempt at point scoring should one of the band come across this blog! I am seriously impressed with all musicians I haver worked with to date. It has been tough - its a trial in every sense of the word, which is the way I guess it should be.

Lothar Koenigs is WNO's principal conductor - he is passionate, focussed, incredibly well prepared, very clear and consistant among his other talents. There are not many conductors for whom that list of adjectives could be applied. He is also driven - he pushes himself and all those around him to the limit, and sometimes beyond, in his focus in the best possible result. This creates pressure for all of us. The result - a stunning interpretation of Katya, one that should not be missed. I have learnt a lot.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

August News

From one end of the UK to the other

Minehead -
after a hectic, but enjoyable month with the Northern Chamber Orchestra in Buxton, I shot off South to Minehead and yet another festival. MF has been running for 48 years, and Richard Dickens has been conducting the last 30 of them! My desk partner, Nicko, is a relative "newcomer" as he has only been going down for 10 years. Its great fun, good music, wonderful hosts, crochet, local beers, skittles in the pub and joie de vivre.

Up to Scotland -
I was very lucky to be able to use John and Ann Kerrs wonderful flat in the New Town of Edinburgh, for my week with Scottish Chamber Orchestra. What a wonderful band they are. They are so musical, play wonderfully together. It was a great experience to work with them and Sir Roger Norrington. The basses are great blokes - regulars Nikita and Adrian, plus my deskie, Chris Sergeant.
And on the way to Edinburgh I did a Katherine Jenkins gig in Lytham. What an act KJ is - its a special performer who can get thoasands to an outside gig in cold wet weather and pay 40 quid a head to do so. Great fun.

Photo - poster at Usher Hall


Thursday, August 11, 2011

July News

Up North, with Northern Chamber Orchestra

July was a very busy month -
from 27/6 I had 43 calls to the end of July, at an average of over 8 per week. This includes 18 in 10 days at the start of the schedule. The UK bands work VERY hard indeed.

NCO are fantastic -
socially and musically. They are a tight knit bunch of amazing musicians, individually and collectively. And the home made cakes are a traditional going for years!

Gigs -
are coming in thick and fast now. The WNO trial looks like being the Autumn opera season from Sept-Dec 2011. A nice booking with Roger Norrington and Scottish Chamber Orchestra in August has just landed.

Photo             - the final night of the La Boheme season in Melbourne. Christian Badea was fantastic, guiding the cast and orchestra towards a stunning performance. I was principal for this production, shown here sharing a desk with Dennis Vaughan.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Loren's new Tom Martin bass

This bass is a brand new Tom Martin concert 3/4, made for Loren Pugh in Melbourne. I was up in Banbury trying it out for Loren, on the way up to Buxton for a Maria di Rohan gig in the festival.

These basses are fantastic.




Thursday, July 7, 2011

Stuart has a trial for principal bass with Welsh National Opera!!

The week around Wed 1st June was busy. The audition was, of course, the culmination of my practice both in Australia and back in the UK. If they havent been written already, the subject of auditions could fill many books. I am getting better at them - practice makes perfect. David Adams, Rosie Biss, Phillip Heyman, Mikeal Price, Mary Condliffe and the rest of the panel were charming. I could not have asked for a nicer group. And they spared me some of the "shockers"!! I am looking forward to the trial.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Gavin the bass playing gnome!

The photos - feature "Gavin", the Orchestra Victoria bass playing gnome at Albert Park, Melbourne.

While doing the Opera Australia Autumn (er Spring in the Northern Hemisphere) season I was called into a Pearlfishers rehearsal. Dennis went AWOL and Davin is still on leave in NYC, and as I was covering the show I was called in, er 10 mins before the call started. It is custom and practice to sit him on the stool of the player who is missing. Matthew Thorne, Leanda Smith and I could not pretend to have played a flawless rehearsal but Gavin didnt play one wrong note!

Davin Holt loaned me his beautiful Panormo bass - its a George or Joseph.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

WNO principal audition - June 2011

Am busy working on the excerpts for the Welsh National Opera audition in early June. The excerpts are:-
Berg - Wozzeck - Act 3 solo, fig 55
Bach - Vn conc in E - 2nd movement tune in C# min
Britten - Peter Grimes - Fig 34, Molto Allegro, tricky passage
Britten - Peter Grimes - the nasty G flat maj passage with lots of string crossings
Britten - Albert Herring - solo at fig 37
Mozart - Magic Flute - Overture, all of it
Strauss - Adriadne auf Naxos - 104-107, and 129, the latter is tricky
Strauss - Der Rosenkavalier - reh 102 and 154
Verdi - Aida - the slow A maj bit that is often a tuning problem
Verdi - Falstaff - Act III, Parte I, Allegro Agitato, molto staccato passage
Verdi - Otello - Act 4 section solo
Verdi - Rigoletto- fig 3 solo with solo cello, F maj tune
Verdi - La Traviata - stretta del introduzione, the F min passage that goes up a semitone every 2 bars
Verdi - La Traviata - bar 114, off the string passagework
Verdi - La Traviata - bar 213, off the string passagework

The solo pieces are a first movement concerto, plus another. And there is the chance of sightreading!

Its a good list, all opera except for the Bach, and lots of Verdi. No surprise there!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Stuart is off to Melbourne - 23/3/11

I am off for some sunshine and to work with Orchestra Victoria and Opera Australia. Work includes seasons of La Boheme, Pearlfishers and Verdi's Macbeth, as well as chamber music concerts and cello/bass workshops at the VCA. Unfortunately I had to pull out of some work with the Tasmanian Symphony, as there was not enough time to get from Edinburgh on 21/3 to Hobart early on 24/3, not without killing myself.

Scottish Chamber Orchestra - 21/3/11

I did a casual audition on Monday 21/3 - everything about it was wonderful, the SCO people were great including the panel. Nikita and Adrian were very gentle. And I was lucky enough to get through and get on the casual list. Am thrilled.

Mahler 7 - Opera North - 19/3/2011

Jac van Steen conducted:-
Sibelius - Tapiola
Mahler - Symphony no 7

This was a remarkable concert. After playing to 6000 in the Royal Albert Hall, the orchestra of Opera North had to sprint up the M1 for two Mahler rehearals the following day. We were knackered, but recovered to produce a wonderful show - one for the memoirs indeed. Jac is fantastic, great attention to detail as well as see the big picture, and it doesnt get much bigger than Mahler 7

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Philharmonia casual audition - 11 March 2011

My next audition is on 11th March with the Philharmonia. They have set:-
solo piece of choice
Beethoven 9 - recit from last movement
Mozart 40 - first and last movements
Ein Heldenleben Fig 9-11

So, the "usual suspects" and not too many of them. Which is good as the audition is expected to be no more than 10 mins - more than enough time to see if a player is worthy of getting on a casual list.

Forest Phil - Walthamstow, Sunday 27 Feb 2011

Mark Shannahan and Forest Phil tackled a challenging program with gusto. There was no concerto to give the band a break - the replacement was Walton's Henry V suite, with its beaut string movements and full on battle music. Hope that doesnt appear in a bass audition any time soon, but apparently it has in the past!

The bass section sounded great - Jacqui Dosser joined us for the first time along with Nicko, Lesley, Helen and your truly.

Symphonie Fantastique is a piece that polarises people. I really like it but many do not. And it can be a banana skin for under prepared bass players. Most of us will look at the obvious bits in the 4th and 5th movements, but there are plenty of others that can catch us unawares. The exposed pizz passages in the intro to the first movement can be tricky to get together as a section - to rall or not to rall that is the question! The offbeat quaver passage in the middle of the first movement is tricky, individually and collectively. Despite all this, the basses sounded great.

And Arsenal lost to Birmingham in the Carling Cup Final, a great end to a wonderful day!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Brandon Hill Chamber Orchestra, St Georges, Bristol - 12 Feb 2011

A thoroughly wonderful night of music making was enjoyeed by all, including Beethoven 9 and Elgar's wonderful Sea Pictures with the Brandon Hill Chamber Orchestra in Bristols glorious St Georges Hall. BHCO was set up 24 years ago by Graham Appleton, a retired surgeon who is an excellent amateur bass player. I have never met anyone quite that enthusiastic any about anything, let alone the bass. Matthew Coorey did an spectacular job conducting, producing a great show and the punters left with a smile on the dial. Matthew and I worked together in Sydney and Hobart in his previous life as a horn player. BHCO is another example of a community orchestra providing very high quality music. And there were some eye watering costumes among the soloists!

Friday, February 4, 2011

End of an era, er two of them

This photo is the end of an era in two ways. It was my last gig in Australia after 15 years over there, with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, one of my favourite bands. I first worked with TSO in 1997 - this gig was in Launceston on 11/6/2010. The photo includes principal bass Stuart Thomson and ex principal Steve Martin. Steve retired at the end of 2011, after over 30 years with the band. The end of an era indeed.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Minehead Festival - chamber concert 30/1/11

I had a lot of fun down at Minehead, playing chamber music with some of the guys from the Festival Orchestra, in a fund raiser for the main festival in July. We did:-
Mozart Divertimento in F
Rossini Duetto for cello and bass
Mozart Viola 5tet in G min

I was in the first two pieces. The Rossini is always a bit of a show stopper and this was no exception. Cellist Sarah Boxall is a star, and entered into the spirit of the piece wonderfully. The audience seemed to enjoy themselves, and so too did the performers.

Beethoven 9 - First london performance

I came across this wonderful article while searching the web:-

Beethoven 9 was commissioned by the Philharmonic Society in London. Its first performance was on the continent, but the first London performance was 21 March 1825. There is a wonderful account on p16 about the booking of the bass player. Negotiations with Dragonetti stalled when he asked for 10 guineas to do the gig, and Anfossi was booked instead. He played the recit in the last movement as a bass solo!!