Friday, November 23, 2012

In Tasmania

I love Tazzie. I have been working as a casual with the Tasmaina Symphony Orchestra for over 15 years. They are wonderful in every way. Last night was Chirelles leaving do, after 37 years in the orchestra. And Rob has been there longer! I have seen many functions like this over the years. They are like a big family, but one that plays fantastically well.

Last week was remarkable, my first chance to work with Ashkenzy. Lovely bloke, great musician. There was a real buzz on stage and in the audience.

I will play my last gig on the Kennedy this weekend, in Launceston. The last time I played there in mid 2010 was my last gig on another English bass, my Tarr.

Before the TSO work I was lucky enough to work with Firebird Trio and Caroline Henbest, performing the Trout in the Salon, at Melbourne's Recital Centre. Wow, great fun working with such talented musos, it was a blast. Josie Vains plays a Kennedy cello, and the photos shows us comparing Kennedys just before going on stage. Trust a cellist to jump straight into thumb position!! Her cellos makes the same sound as my bass, rich dark English heaven.

My fixed bookings for 2013 are on the Gigs page - some great stuff coming up with MSO and TSO. The "gaps" kin the diary are filling.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Its raining on Melbourne Cup day... surprises there. It can be 30 degrees and baking, or howling with rain. Green Moon won the race, if you are interested.

I have just finished one of the most intense working periods of my career. Lots of great stuff, but am tired. The Impossible Orchestra (see photo) was both those things, intense and tiring. The project was to raise awareness of 24 hour carers, in behalf of Care Aware. Brett Kelly masterminded an orchestral performance that ran for 24 hours from 5pm on Sat 27th Oct and ran none stop thro until 5pm Sunday, split into 8 x 3 hour gigs. I did the first and last, then had to chisel myself out of bed for the 5am and then 8am gigs, which meant I played 9 out of the lst 12 hours. Wonderful show, great comeradery, and memories that will stay with me forever.

Next was the 50th Gala of the Australian Ballet. We were blessed with amazing international soloists from Tokyo, Stuttgart, San Fransisco, China, as well as the full force of TAB. Another amazing show.

I have sold the Kennedy - so am down to only two basses once more. Nicky will be happy! Steve Newton is the new custodian of one of the best basses I have ever had the pleasure to play. I wish them both a long and fruitful partnership.

Contracts are starting to come in for 2013. Its looking like 3 months with the Tasmanian Symphony starting in Jan and 2 months with the Melbourne Symphony in July/Aug. The gaps are likely to be filled with Orchestra Victoria.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Lots of gigs in Melbourne

Its mid October and I have been back in Melbourne six weeks already, half way thro my stint here.

After Swan Lake it was a chamber orchestra program with Orchestra Victoria (OV) directed by the amazing Adam Chalabi. Mozart 38, the Prague, always great to play, and amazing it only has 3 movements. Bach's concerto for two violin, known as the Bach Double, or perhaps the Dark Bubble, was wonderful. And some Handel plus Battalia by Biber, a quirky piece of baroque program music rounded of a cool program in the recital hall and on tour in Hamilton.

Last weekend I was a tutor, playing in the Melbourne Youth Orchestra. In a section of 6 there was only only one student! It was fun, if loud. I had forgotten how excited young brass players can get, and Alexander Nevsky is a very noisy work. Fun though.

The photo shows me at Atelier Puglisi, trying out Ben's Panormo model in the white. It sounded great, a few days later after it had been varnished also. Its off to the US for a makers competition - good luck Ben.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Swan Lake


We are well into rehearsal for Swan Lake. I am on the front desk, sat by the outer pit wall, so get a good view of the the rests of course, otherwise my eyes would be glued to Nicolette Fraillon!! Its a classical production, a tutu-fest, and its just wonderful. I would strongly recommend that everyone go and see it, but the whole seaosn is sold out before opening night. Plenty of good tunes to whistle on the tram home!!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Conductor workshops with Christopher Seaman

My first gigs in Melbourne were three conductor workshops with teenagers, one of whom was Loren Pugh, one of my bass students. She did very well.

Christopher is wonderful - am sure the conductors learnt a great deal, I certainly did. Its fascinating going back into the pro world and seeing some high profile conductors making basic error that CS was urging his students to avoid.

And he is full of great stories. He told me of a concert he did with the Queensland Orchestra, with a big bit for the basses. He looked up to cue the, and only one of the section was looking at him. When he brought this to thier attention, principal bass John Fardon commented, "which one of you bastards was that"!! CS loved it!!

Monday, September 3, 2012

From Edinburgh to Melbourne


St Columb Festival was as wonderful as ever. I am of the opinion that the bass in not a solo instrument, really, so the ultimate repertoire for us is chamber music. I get the chance to play the greats as well as some of the not-so-well known pieces, thanks to Harmoniemusik. We have been doing a week festival with three programs since 1992 - but I did have a small sabbatical in Australia for 15 years. Its great to be back. The Trout quintet is always joy - I have performed it 8 times since 1988 and my 9th is coming up in Melbourne in November with the Firebird Trio. That should be very special indeed. Am sure I will never tire of it.

My week with Scottish Chamber Orchestra was amazing. The combination of one of the worlds best small groups, Robin Ticciati and Alina Pogostkina was to die for. Words alone cannot do justice to this performance. Alina is beautiful, in every way. A real superstar, surely to be acknowledged on the world stage, if she hasnt achieved that already. The bass section was Lynda Houghton, Adrian Bornet, Lynette Eaton and me. I have worked with Adrian a good few times, lovely bloke. It was great to work with Lynda, who I have tried to capture in the arty shot to the Right. And Lynette and I go back to our London days, in the 1990s. Wonderful section, both musically and socially.

And ACO were in town, doing a gig on the same day as SCO. I got to spend some quality time with Maxime Bibeau and many of the other guys, while they struggled with jet lag, having just landed from Australia.

Am typing this from a hotel in Doha, on route to Melbourne. I missed my connection to Australia, so am in a hotel looking out at an airport in the desert in 38 degrees.

Olympics, cream teas and Australian visitors


August is festival season in the UK. The last two years I have done Festivals in Buxton, Minehead, Edinburgh and St Columb, and this year can add St Endelion. The two cornish St's this year will lead to a lot of cream teas and pressure on my belt....again.

There was an amazing coincidence at the Soldiers Tale concert at St Endelion on 6th August. I was drafted in at short notice, possibly on the basis that I had played it before. Which is true, but it was 30 years ago in 1982, as a student at Birmingham. Remarkably, Robin Tebbutt was in the audience in St Endelion, who was the Narrator in the 1982 performance - I have not seen Robin since 1983. What a small world.

Steve Martin (ex Principal bass with the Tasmanian SO) and Dennis Vaughan (Associate Principal bass with Orchestra Victoria) are both visiting in August, along with significant others Diane and Joan respectively. It should be fun - we have promised to keep the talk of machine heads and tailwires to a minimum.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Die Walkure

I would have to admit to not being a 100% wagnerite, but Walkure is just awesome. Like many German composers, Wagner really could write well for the bass. Its a great play, Opera North sound just awesome. We had 16 rehearsals, so conductor Richard Farnes was able to work on lots of detail and its really paying off. The travelling is killing me, but its very fulfilling to do this project

We are doing semi staged concert performances of it, as the photo from Leeds Town Hall shows, to the right. I am in there somewhere, stage Right, just to the Left of the 4 harps. Yes, there are four of them, and they sound awesome.

After Walkure its back on the audition trial, starting with a casual audition with Bournemouth Symphony on 25/6.

July 2012

Rain rain go away...
What an awful summer. Thanks to the Gulf Stream we are having abnormally wet weather, even by UK standards.Thank goodness for the roof on centre court at Wimbledon, or else we were be at the 3rd round right now, rather than the ladies finals later today. Another casualty of the weather is my Northern Chamber Orchestra open air gig at Hoghton Towers nr Blackburn, scheduled for later today, but cancelled, for obvious reasons. The brits call these shows "muddy field" gigs. One in Huddersfield last month was just that! At least I am being paid for this one, without having to do the show - which makes it the best muddy field gig EVER!!
Walkure is still going strong - its a fantastic production that is being well attended and very enthusiastically received. I brought Stephen and Esther (my hosts at the Colton Hilton) along to one of the Leeds gigs - they are relatively new to the opera world, and Wagner is probably not the best place to start. I would recommend the some of the Puccini's or Mozart's, at the "shallow end" first, before tackling Wagner in the deep end from the top diving board, but they loved it and Stephen has downloaded it and is listening to it in the car.
I popped down to Poole to do a casual audition with the Bournemouth Symphony on 25th June. They are a lovely section, who put my on the extra list (so they are even lovlier), so with any luck I will get the chance to go and work with them later in the year.
So in a 10 day period I worked in Gateshead, Leeds, Birmingham, London and Poole, nipping back to Bristol in between!

My Australia trip is all fixed up - I leave on 2nd Sept for three months. Most of my work will be with Orchestra Victoria, Swan Lake, a 50th celebration of the Australian Ballet and a number of other orchestral concerts. Next its the Trout with the Firebird Trio in the Melbourne Recital Hall, followed by two weeks with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra in November. It should be fun.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Musician humour

Musos are a funny bunch, with a specific humour. Many none musos might not know alternative names for famous classical pieces, such as:-

Smetana - The Bartered Bride, is often known as the Battered Bride. Yes, policital correctness has not got too far in our business just yet

Lehar - The Merry Widow, is affectionately know as the Weary Meadow

Schubert - Symphony no 9, the "Great C Major", is better known as the Great Sea Monster, due its length and challenging nature. I feel significantly older that the end of a performance of this piece than in the first bar

Opera North trial

I just heard I have a trial for no2 with Opera North. Yay! That will be over the summer, so many of those blank spots in the diary look like being filled.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Goodbye Liverpool, hello Scotland

Last week was a lot of fun with the Royal Liverpool Phil. We did two programs, John Wilson conducting some British film music, must of which was from houshold names such as Vaughan Williams, Malcolm Arnold, Walton, Constant Lambert, Arthur Benjamin etc. Good fun, great music.
Then on sunday there was a wonderful romantic program (see below).

This week I am preparing for the Opera North no2 audition on 14/5 and then...

... up to Edinburgh with SCO (see below)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


I am a sucker for good quotes. Heres a few of my favourites:-

"A man should try everything once, except incest and morris dancing" - Sir Arnold Bax

"I can't listen to that much Wagner. I start getting the urge to conquer Poland" - Woody Allen

"Never look at the trombones, it only encourages them" - Richard Wagner

"After Rossini dies, who will there be to promote his music?” - Richard Wagner

"Wagner is a compoer who as beautiful moments but awful quarter hours" - Gioacchino Rossini

"One can't judge Wagner's opera Lohengrin after a first hearing, and I certainly don't intend to hear it a second time" - Gioacchino Rossini

Spring has sprung, and life getting busier

The music scene in the UK is often quiet in January, but I think its been much worse this year. Many musos have been talking of empty diaries, worse than normal. A sign of the economic times I guess. I had only 2 paid calls in Jan, and another two in March, so plenty of time to practice for auditions!

I have started a trial period with the Royal Liverpool Phil. A pair of concerts with Carl Davis playing sporting themes in the Philharmonic Hall and Blackburn's St Georges was my introduction to the band. And a jolly friendly talented band they are too.

And then its back to to Liverpool to do two programs - a concert of British film music with John Wilson then the orchestra accompanies films with some great music, including Night on a Mare Mountain and Janacek's wonderful Cunning Little Vixen.

In May I have a week in Edinburgh doing Beethoven's 9th with Scottish Chamber Orchestra then a month of Walkure with Opera North. So I hope the fuel tanker drivers to not go on strike as I will need plenty of fuel between now and July. Now what was the famous Woody Allen quote......

Websites are funny things. The creator posts stuff up and doesnt really know if anyone is reading it, and if so who. I recently got some feedback that at least one person has logged on and read some of my ramblings. But this means I might need to be more careful what I write. The person will remain nameless, but I would just like to say that Ashley Frampton is a great bloke and amazing bass player!

Did you know? That in my time in the UK two orchestras has asked for a deposit to be paid before being granted an audition, which would be returned if the candidate showed up. I dont have a problem with this as I guess there are quite a few people who fail to show up at little or no notice and this must waste hours of time for the panel, and possibly deny others a chance to play instead. But I just pulled out of one audition that was to be held over two days, one of which I could not do, and I was asked for a cheque without a guarantee of a slot on the only day I could do! So on top of all the preparation work, travel, accomodation etc we put in free for auditions, it looks like we might now be charged a fee for the process.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Lots of auditions

The Liverpool Phil audition was in Feb. That went well and I am about to do 3 small chunks of work on trial in April. Next was the Northern Sinfonia in March - I thought I played well, but the panel didnt agree. And its thier view that counts. The next one was Tuesday, principal audition for the BBC National Orchestra of Wales on April 17th.

It is fascinating how different orchestras run auditions. In 2012 to date:-

Liverpool Phil - only one person on the panel

Northern Sinfonia - listened to my solo stuff, then excerpts (can you believe there was no Beethoven on the list!) then they all got up and joined me for some chamber music, in the audition!

The Philharmonia - I didnt even get an audition for a tutti job. I am about to do my 5th audition for front desk jobs in the "provinces", to date the 4 I have done have resulted in 2 trials and I dont even make it to an audition with the Phil.

BBC National Orchestra of Wales - no Mozart on the list
And Opera North have just advertised a no2 job.....yet another front desk job in the UK.

Friday, March 30, 2012

It never rains, but when it does... pours. After one of the quietest months of my professional life in Jan, I am fresh back from a crazy schedule. From Mon 6/2 I did over 1700 miles in 10 days covering Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Helensborough, Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol and London.

SCO were magnificent, as ever. Andrew Manze is a wonderful conductor, so musical, and lets the players sing, he guides a talented group of musos to bring the best out of them. I will think very differently of Erioca in future. It was wonderful meeting Peter Palotai

The Liverpool bit of the tour was for an audition for no2 with the Liverpool Phil - I have been lucky enough to win a trial. Thanks Marcel. No dates yet, but am looking forward to going in and meeting the section and rest of the orchestra.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Harmoniemusik - Conway Hall, 15/2/12

I have had the pleasure of playing with Harmoniemusik since around 1992. The group is a wind quintet plus piano, all of whom have been friends for 20 years or so. They resurrected St Columb festival in Cornwall after it fell into a hole in the late 80s, and set up a chamber music festival in the last week of August, which is quite nice for Nicky as I as our wedding anniversary lands in that week. So I have no excuses for forgetting!! Since 92 the group has performed 3 concerts a week. My first St C was 93 or 94, am not sure. I had a brief break of 15 years when I was in Australia, but was allowed back in 2010.

The Conway Hall concert is a sort of "highlights" of the 3 St Columb shows the previous August. I was in 3 works:-

Nielsen - Serenata Invano. I have done this piece a number of times over the years, at least 5 times, but it never gets tired. Its a quintet for cello, bass, clarinet, horn and bassoon. An odd mix, but it works. Its programmatic, in 3 sections based on a group of musos who spend the first disjointed section warming up and tuning. The next section is a serenade to a beautiful woman. The piece ends with a disgruntled march, as the object of the serenade is not impressed enough. Hence the title, which means Serenade In Vain. Its fun, with lots of solo link passages for the bass.

Vaughan Williams - Piano Quintet. I really must apologise for boring my family and friends about how much I love this piece. It is just magnificent. Its an early work that VW was unhappy with and was not published in his lifetime. Fortunately Ursula was persuaded to publish it when he fell off the perch. Paul Guinery believes there are signs of the mature composer - I am not so sure. It very approachable and a great play for all. I have to thank my in-laws Liz Kilpatrick, Kay Sobey and Howard Jones for introducing me to wonderful piece - Kay and Howard were at the concert.

Telemann - Concerto in E min for flute, violin and oboe d'Amore. Having enjoyed a slushy romantic piece to end the first half it was time to ditch the vibrato and make a cleaner, clearer sound for the Telemann continuo. Janna, Jo and Sarah played beautifully, and I followed Alec for my life!!

It was good fun, music, company, wine and nibbles. What more could you want??

Thursday, February 16, 2012

After a quiet January, its back to running around the UK...

January is "dead" in the music world here in the UK. Promotors do not put gigs on, as audiences dont turn up, due to shortages of cash after Xmas. The session scene is drying up in London, the WE shows are toey about how long they will run...doom...gloom. As I result I have one gig in Jan, but it was a ripper, see below.

I have a 12 day period where I am in London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Liverpool, London before returning to Bristol. And my accoutant just asked me for my business milage - 90%!!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


I failed my trial with WNO. Onto the next auditions - there are no 2 jobs with the Royal Liverpool Phil (tutti and no2 - I have an audition for the latter in Feb) and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales (waiting to hear from them). The Northern Sinfonia have just readvertised their principal bass job. Have thrown my hat in the ring, lets see what happens...

Jan is a very quiet month - good for practicing.