And the MfE Summer School 2021 (9 – 11 August 2021) is now open for enrolments!
Trent College, Long Eaton
The MfE Summer School is your opportunity to immerse yourself in three days of wonderful music making. The outstanding facilities of Trent College, Long Eaton provide the perfect location for this inspiring musical experience. Workshop sessions will be led by MfE’s artistic team plus nationally recognised guest artists and conductors: Hilary Campbell, Richard Cox, Chris Swann, Sam Sweeney and Martin van der Brugge. Click here for further details or download the attached PDF.
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There was a buzz in the air all day in anticipation of the evening’s performance. Morning and afternoon, instrumental and choral pieces were given a final polish in both the individual and combined groups.
The lunchtime recital was a real treat, given by professional guitarists Saki Kato and Hugh Milington – the Miyabi Duo. Their performance of music spanning several centuries revealed the variety of styles and sounds possible from the guitar, including the use of both body and strings as percussive elements. Like other performers at previous Summer Schools, Hugh had participated in MfE activities as a youngster, though not as a player but a singer!
As you can imagine, arranging a hall to accomodate 150+ performers in wind band, string orchestra, full orchestra and choir formation, with three conducting points, four conductors, two pianos, an organ, two sets of timpani, lots of percussion and a table for tuned wine glasses, while still leaving space for a solist and audience of family and friends, takes some time and is no mean feat, but we did it.
The performance of music reflecting this year’s theme of ‘Voyages of Discovery’ – both in space (Now you understand this blog post’s title!) and at sea – was well received. Everyone sang and played with great enthusism. It’s amazing how much can be accomplished in three days of intensive rehearsal with great tutors and conductors. Of course there were a few wrong notes, but there was always the right spirit in the music and the opportunity to perform, which is what Music for Everyone is all about.
The String Orchestra enjoyed a rare opportunity for an amateur group – playing a concerto with a professional soloist. Conductor Abi Smith and leader Isobel Bounford ensured a wonderful balance between orchestra and soloist, Hugh Millington, leading to a beautiful performance of Vivaldi’s Guitar Concerto.
The concert ended with a mighty fine I vow to thee my country by all performers and audience – this was within the full orchestra’s rendition of Holst’s Jupiter, which included particularly splendid horn playing.
At every great event, much goes on behind the scenes to ensure everything runs smoothly and each participant has a great experience. MfE office staff Amy and Kirstie packed away the urns after the final break having made and served several thousand cups of coffee and tea. (Not forgetting putting out hundreds of biscuits that always disappeared within a few minutes.) They then turned their hands to playing percussion in the evening concert, alongside ‘Events’ Anne tootling her flute and Executive Director Robin compering the evening. And somehow, inbetween and after all that, they collected, set up and served the farewell buffet, then cleared EVERYTHING away until the High School was as though we had never been there.
Huge thanks go to them all, and to conductors Hilary Campbell, Gill Henshaw, Angela Kay and Abi Smith, recitalists and workshop leaders, Richard Cox – THE most amazing accompanist, Nottingham High School for being such fab hosts, and to every participant. We hope you had a great time.
Hilary encouraged the choir to ‘be more Hollywood, less British’, so it seems fitting to say ‘It’s a wrap’ for Summer School 2019! We’ll be back next year with Summer School 2020.
Rehearsals for all groups continued throughout the day. Hilary Campbell had the singers drawing the Z of Zorro with imaginery swords – one swiped line for each triplet note to ensure the perfect rhythm of three against two.
Hilary also rehearsed the string orchestra for the works accompanying the choir, with MfE’s Abi Smith taking and inspiring the group’s other rehearsals.
Today’s recital, given by Zephyr Winds – five professional players with national and international careers – was a virtuosic display of the colour and versatility of flute, clarinet, obe, horn and bassoon. The playing was by turn dramatic, tender and comical – particularly superb were the animal sounds in Jim Parker’s Les Animeaux. Director Chris Swann dazzled on clarinet in the world premier of an arrangment by Matthew Lax (MfE’s Treasurer and Trustee) of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Flight of the Bumble Bee. Phew!
Each member of the quintet led a workshop for small groups of Summer School players – brass, oboes, bassoons, flutes, clarinets and saxophones. These groups then performed their workshopped pieces to each other. This was in addition to the players rehearsing as a windband with MfE’s Gill Henshaw, and then with the strings in the full orchestra.
The visiting professionals offer Summer School participants unique access to leading players, singers and conductors. There are opportunities to ask them for advice about individual issues or technique in general. But the days are not all work – there are refreshment breaks morning and afternoon, and today’s sunshine meant outdoor lunch for many. There is time to chat with friends, meet new people and browse the stalls, including Windblowers’ array of instruments.
You can hear the improvement all the tuition and rehearsing is bringing about. Players and singers are developing confidence in performing their own lines, listening more carefully to each other to create a blended sound, and adding in not only the dynamic and expressive effects written into the score, but the emotion that turns notes into music and a collection of individuals into a band, orchestra or choir. Tomorrow’s concert audience is in for a treat.
Today’s interesting fact: Oboes are not automatically always in tune! An oboe gives the note for the band or orchestra to tune to because its sound is clear and carries. To enure the note given is spot on, the responsible oboist must first warm their instrument and tune to a perfect A by using a tuning fork.
This morning Music for Everyone’s three-day Summer School got underway once more, but at a new venue – Nottingham High School. About 150 instrumentalists and singers arrived looking cheery, pleased to have overcome the absence of trams and the road closures. Or perhaps at the prospect of fresh coffee and pastries…
The day was filled with a rich variety of rehearsals and workshops in preparation for Wednesday’s concert performance. The repertoire for all groups has been themed to complement the 50th anniversaries of both the moon landing and Sir Robin Knox-Johnson’s circumnavigation of the globe.
More about the wind band and strings tomorrow – today’s focus is on the choir. Angela Kay, Music for Everyone’s founder and artistic director, led the singers through warm ups and into Ola Gjeilo’s Across the Vast Eternal Sky (one of her favourites, apparently). Then she had everyone swinging Fly me to the Moon before ending the morning with a first go at Handel’s Let their celestial concerts, superbly accompanied by Richard Cox.
Lunch was followed by a recital and workshop with mens’ vocal quartet Scaramella. They entertained us with snatches and glees from 18th century gentlemen’s clubs – as you might imagine, the lyrics featured much wine and were at times on the naughty side! The workshop stretched the singers physically and vocally, and everyone enjoyed exploring Pearsall’s poignant Lay a Garland.
After a cuppa, Jane McDouall, fresh from the south, returned to a warm welcome and led a singing technique session followed by a Q+A. Everyone will be breathing (inhaling, Jane prefers) with shoulders down and the right muscles in play tomorrow. ‘Basically,’ Jane said, ‘there’s no point trying to hold your tummy in and look good if you want to have breath for singing!’ The choir is looking forward to Tuesday’s arrival of visiting conductor and choral director, Hilary Campbell.
The third and final day of the Summer School saw all groups putting finishing touches to the pieces they would be playing in the evening Showcase Concert, open to friends, family and members of the public. This meant some joint rehearsals with choir and orchestra; percussion, piano and choir; orchestra and soloist etc. Brass, as requested by players attending previous Summer Schools, was also a feature of the day. Many music groups and organizations run Summer Schools but we think ours has a pretty unique offering. Not only do we ask top professionals along to give short concerts, but we also ask them to give workshops or masterclasses for appropriate delegates, today being the brass section. Any delegate can come along and listen in, and delegates often say they learn aspects of performance or about music that they can apply to their own but different instrument or voice.
Tim Thorpe (horn) and Simon Baker (trombone) have played in more professional orchestras than we have space to mention. Simon is currently playing in the West End show Kinky Boots! Each of them performed several pieces in the showcase concert, admirably and sensitively accompanied by our répétiteur for the School, Richard Cox. Simon opened with Kenny’s Fanfare and then spoke about his Nottingham roots, being a trombonist, the types of music he enjoys playing, and his friendship (and golfing rivalry) with Tim. Tim’s varied selection included a beautiful arrangement of Erik Satie’s Gymnopedie No 1. In both performances we were treated to the colours, ranges of sound and technical expertise of two wonderful performers.
The School’s brass section was joined by a few other players, including youngsters, for a workshop that led to a performance in the Showcase Concert. The importance of listening while playing (or singing) has been a thread running through all the workshops this year. Simon talked about the need for each player to listen out for when they had the tune, bring it out but ease the sound back when the tune passes to a different instrument. His top tip: Play confidently when sight-reading – blow through the notes – and don’t worry about the odd wrong one! He and Tim discussed the difficulties of finding a balanced the sound in a brass group given the different directions instrument bells point in – up the tuba and baritone etc, behind for the French horn, in front for trombones and trumpets.
We discovered on YouTube that Tim had performed an arrangement of Bernstein’s Somewhere from West Side Story. He very kindly supplied the orchestral parts and performed it with the orchestra in the Showcase Concert, picking up this year’s theme of Music from the Americas. And what a showcase it was of music spanning north and south America, from the 1600s right up to the present! Two of our young volunteers joined the party that was the percussion section in Sparkling Samba, conducted by Gill Henshaw. The Amercian theme opened the concert with a lively and fun performance of The Liberty Bell and closed it with the choir and orchestra thrilling the audience with a chorus from Bernstein’s Candide, conducted by MfE’s artistic director, Angela Kay MBE. There was much applause and appreciation from both audience and Trent College staff.
We were sorry to say goodbye to two tutors who have been very much part of the MfE family but are now moving on to pastures new – Victoria Barlow (choral) and Ann-Marie Shaw (strings). Thank you so much, and all the very best!
This year’s School came to a close with a social time over a hot buffet cooked by College staff. Trent College made us feel so welcome and facilitated what we hope was a great experience for all.
Instrumental players are members two groups at the Summer School – windband and full orchestra or string orchestra and full orchestra. This gives instrumentalists the chance to experience both a wider range of music and the expertise of several different tutors and guests. We were delighted to welcome young conductor Devon Bonelli today, who rehearsed Rhapsody in Blue, by his fellow American George Gershwin, with the full orchestra. Devon is studying for a music degree at the University of Nottingham, quite some way from his Arizona home!
The choir was also treated to three different tutors throughout the day, each guiding them through a range of techniques and pieces in preparation for tomorrow’s showcase concert. Late in the afternoon they went to hear the orchestra and Devon perform Rhapsody, with one of the delegates playing that famous clarinet solo opening.
After lunch violinist Owen Cox and pianist Hilary Suckling gave a much anticipated workshop. They demonstrated their rehearsal process, and Owen highlighted some of the differences for a violinist when playing with a pianist rather than with other stringed instruments in say a string quartet. The piano’s tuning is, at the moment of playing fixed and ‘tempered’, whereas string players can adjust the pitch of a note by a tiny fraction with a slight movement of a finger. This might be done to suit either the mood of a solo piece or the ensemble of a group of stringed instruments, but it can’t be employed when playing with a piano. He also discussed the challenges of slow works and long notes for a stringed instrument, saying how these are much more taxing than runs of quavers as it is difficult to sustain the right quality of sound. Each note has to be imbued with meaning, and the player has to be sure not to run out of bow length in the process! A handy tip, he said, is to ensure the bow is rosined all the way to its ends.
Hilary talked about the position the instrument player chooses to stand in relative to the pianist and how she likes to feel more connected to the player, able to make eye contact with him or her, by them standing closer to her rather than in front of the piano itself. This was Owen’s choice, too. They agreed how important it is to rehearse in a concert venue as the acoustic affects so many aspects of the sound – what worked well in one venue is unlikely to be as successful in another.
Owen talked warmly of his time in Stringwise at the opening of the early evening recital. The two of them then gave a thrilling performance of a very varied programme: Elgar’s Violin Sonata, three movements from a recent arrangement for violin and piano of Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring, and Messiaen’s Theme and Variations. The music was imbued with so many colours and emotions in a seemingly effortless way. We listeners were captivated and transported – rapturous applause brought the day to a very satisfying close.
We’re excited to be welcoming two new professionals tomorrow – French Horn player Tim Thorpe and trombonist Simon Baker. The list of famous orchestras they have played with is VERY LONG. Come and here them in a lunchtime concert that’s open to the public – 1.30pm, Trent College Chapel.
And finally… One of our double bass players showed us a neat solution to that tricky issue of instrument spike vs slippery floor: play in your socks and stick the spike in your shoe. Sorted!
Well we can hardly believe a year has gone by since the last Summer School, but it has! This year we’ve moved from the University of Nottingham to Trent College. We wondered if those few extra miles out of Nottingham might put people off, but no! Bigger and hopefully even better than ever. A choir of 70+ and an orchestra of 80+ meeting together for three days of rehearsals, specialist workshops, Music in the Chapel concerts by visiting professionals, and the delegates’ showcase concert on Wednesday. With Trent College offering B&B, some folk have opted to stay over even though they live locally, making a mini holiday of it. Accommodation has also enabled others to come from further afield. There’s a cooked lunch for any who would like it and plenty of parking. We hear at least one person is staying not far away in a caravan. We’ll leave you to guess who…!
The guest tutors today were choral specialists Blossom Street. Tomorrow there is a violinist, and on Wednesday two brass players. Blossom Street, a chamber choir, formed 10 years ago when the singers were still students. They are now a London based and much praised choir, usually of 8, but sometimes 16 or even only four, directed by one-time singing member, Hilary Campbell. Another member is local Ellie Martin, who conducts one of our Daytime Singers groups. Five members gave a lively workshop that proved entertaining and informative. It improved the choir’s sound by helping singers give a more nuanced performance. Hilary spent a few minutes talking about the importance of diction, that it is part of the music, and just as the choir blends the pitch and timbre of its notes, it needs to do the same with pronunciation, matching vowel and consonant sounds not only within a section, e.g. tenors, but between sections when singing the same words at the same time. It’s all in the listening, just as it is with the notes themselves. Blossom Street also had delegates singing rounds. Not, however, a round of the same tune, rather five different tunes and from memory! Three other members arrived in the late afternoon to bring the first day to a close with a beautiful concert, picking up this year’s Summer School theme of music from the Americas. We went home uplifted and relaxed. Their interpretation and rendition of Holst’s I love my love and Whitacre’s Sleep were sublime.
And for the others… there were rehearsals for the full orchestra, string orchestra and windband with a variety of tutors. More about those groups in the coming days. Two more Music in the Chapel Concerts, open to the public, take place tomorrow and Wednesday. Tuesday, 5.15pm, Owen Cox, violin, and Hilary Suckling, piano perform a programme that includes Copland’s Appalachian Spring and Elgar’s Sonata. Owen is a great favourite at the Summer School. As a boy he played in MfE’s Stringwise, he now teaches at Cheetham’s School of Music and performs around the world. You don’t want to miss it. Nor Wednesday’s concert by two superb brass players at lunchtime 1.30pm. Click here for details.
Last year’s MfE Summer School brass players requested a workshop and concert from specialist brass players. So for 2018, here they are!
We are delighted, and know you will be too, to have engaged some ‘top brass’!
Nottinghamshire born Trombonist SIMON BAKER studied Music and Performance at Birmingham Conservatoire (now known as Royal Birmingham Conservatoire), followed by a Masters in Performance at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. As an in-demand freelancer, he performs regularly with most of the country’s leading orchestras, including the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.
Simon has also played in many West End shows including Matilda, Lion King, Book of Mormon, Shrek, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and War Horse. He is currently the trombone player for Kinky Boots, showing at London’s Adelphi Theatre.
TIM THORPE, b.1983, first heard the French Horn in a concert at his primary school. From that moment onwards he determined to become a professional musician. He is gaining recognistion as one of the most accomplished horn players of his generation. In 2002 he was the UK finalist in the Paxman International horn competition and in 2004 won the Royal Over-seas League award for Wind and Percussion and the Philip Jones Memorial Prize for an outstanding brass player.
As an orchestral player he has played Principal Horn with all the major London orchestras and with other UK orchestras including the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and the Northern Sinfonia. He also enjoys chamber music and has performed with many ensembles including The London Sinfonietta, The Nash Ensemble, Fine Arts Brass and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. He has given many solo performances including a number of concertos and solo pieces with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales which have been broadcast on Radio and television. Tim is actively involved in coaching and masterclasses for aspiring French horn players both in the UK and abroad. He teaches regularly at The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.
BRASS PLAYERS: Be inspired! Register now for Music for Everyone’s Summer School to participate in a workshop masterclass to be given by Simon and Tim. Ask them for guidance and tips on how to develop aspects of your playing and performance. Enjoy their virtuoso concert, which will include Guilmant’s “Morceu Symphonique” , “Fanfare” by John Kenny, and Weber’s “Romance”. And of course take part in the rest of the Summer School, including playing in the windband and full orchestra, and meeting likeminded players.
We are excited about the School’s new venue of Trent College, Long Eaton. It offers the added option to prebook and purchase hot meals at lunch time. Bed and breakfast accomodation is also available at the College.
Anticipation of the evening concert built throughout the day. It wasn’t possible for all the groups to play every piece studied during the School at the concert, but they enjoyed playing or singing through them for one last time. The orchestra waltzed its way liltingly through Strauss’s Blue Danube.
Baritone Marcus Farnsworth was Wednesday’s guest professional musician. As a local born boy, he sang as a chorister in Southwell Minster. In 2009 he won first prize in the International Song Competition, and the Song Prize at the 2011 Kathleen Ferrier competion. Marcus arrived fresh from playing Ned Keene in a highly praised staging of Britten’s opera Peter Grimes at the Edinburgh Festival. Five folksongs arranged by Benjamin Britten opened his lunctime recital programme, followed by Gerald Finzi’s song cycle Earth and Air and Rain. The audience was delighted by Marcus’s skilful characterisation of the narrator of each movement. His synthesis of word and music appeared effortless in interpretation and disclosed the true art of performing the musical form, the song. Stefan Reid, who had played for the choir throughout the week, accompanied him with great sensitivity and style.
After a short break, Marcus led the singers in a choral workshop, helping them to develop their technique. A notable point was made about singing consonants. Consonant must be pronouced to convey the lyric, but not in a manner that chops up the phrase. He suggested thinking of consonant as little pegs on a continuous line to anchor rather than break up.
Delegates, tutors and staff made their way to the Great Hall in the University of Nottingham’s Trent Building in the late afternoon. After a short break following a final rehearsal, the audience arrived and the singers and musicians took their places. The choir sang such a variety with delicacy and exuberance, including Rutter, Bartok and three songs by our very own Guy Turner. The windband played Old Castle and, combing with the strings, one of Brahms’ Hungarian Dances. The string orchestra and Owen Cox gave a stunningly beautiful performance of Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending. You could have heard a pin drop in Owen’s closing cadenza. Haydn’s The Heavens are Telling, played and sung by all the Schools’ delegates and conducted by Angela Kay, MfE’s founder and Artistic Director, made for an exhilarating end to a wonderful few days of making both music and new friends.
How fitting that the concert took place on the day Nottingham announced its bid to become European Capital of Culture 2023. Catherine Hocking, the University’s Head of Music, Lakeside Arts, said how well the Summer School fitted this brief. As does all the work of Music for Everyone, with its inclusive policy of arts for all.
We are enormously grateful to the University of Nottingham for their generous hospitality. More photographs of the Summer School can be found on Music for Everyone’s Facebook. Summer School will return in 2018!