And so to the final day of the MfE Summer School 2016. For the choir, full and string orchestras and windband, today was a day of polishing in readiness for the evening showcase concert. The saxophones were in for a added treat.
The Equinox Saxophone Ensemble, led by Alistair Parnell and founded by him in 2005, gave an open rehearsal masterclass. There were many similarities with the points made in Owen and friends’ string quartet rehearsal – listening, discussing, resolving and settling on a way to perform a piece and convey it to an audience. Alistair spoke of the time needed to warm an instrument properly, how the duration of that period increases with the size of the instrument. This is key to tuning and intonation, both of which are notoriously difficult with the saxophone. We marvelled at the six sizes of sax played – two other sizes exist, the contrabass (very low) and soprillo (very high).
After a quick change, Equinox entertained us with a concert that both astonished and inpsired. It converted saxophones sceptics to huge admirers. The ensemble showed the versitility of the instrument through their wonderful playing of arrangements of music from Mozart to Ravel to Oscar Peterson, arrangements made by Alistair and other members of the ensemble.
Members of the group then led a workshop with the saxophone delegates of the Summer School. They provided the players with either the Ensemble’s normal parts or simpler parts. A hugely inclusive approach that led to a rich sound in a very short space of time. Later, the combined ensemble performed to an appreciative audience – the rest of the Summer School.
“If you like an instrument that sings, play the saxophone. At its best it’s like the human voice.” Stan Getz