of projects in 2008...
again many thanks to the kind folks who have made use of DeeP Music
Services over the first half of this Autumn Term. In addition to
ongoing projects at Mileham, Walpole Cross Keys and
Yaxham Schools in Norfolk, I've had the opportunity (thanks
to projects set up by Norfolk Music Works) to work in the Sheringham
area several times. The High School organised a day of samba workshops
and performances for Y9 pupils. I was impressed with the way two
groups remembered the details for performing in the afternoon what
we'd only learned that morning.
few weeks later Sheringham High School was the centre for
a vocal project led by Jane Wells and me. We worked with a number
of schools in the area and on Friday 17th October we had about three
hundred people crammed into the hall to perform a concert of rounds,
roots and rock songs to an audience of parents and friends.
Junior School in Brighton invited me back for another
day of DeeP
Sound Show workshops. This year's compositions by the Y3 pupils
can be heard here.
thanks to Norfolk Music Works and Breckland District Council,
I spent part of the hal-term holiday in village halls in the Breckland
Area of Norfolk, running samba and singing activities for children
on holiday from school. Sadly the numbers were small, but further
activity will be explored for the Spring half-term 2009.
opportunities have come up with Peach Fruit, Hodmedod
and Beatroot. Beatroot will soon have a new mini cd available.
The music was arranged and composed by Ivan Garford. Other musicians
on the recording include Paul Keeler, John Preston, Sarah Garford,
Steve Pitts ... and me. Catch examples of the music on Beatroot's
it really the beginning of the Autumn Term and the new school year
already? Happy New (Academic) Year to all school based friends and
may all our tribulations be self-inflicted ... at least we have
a chance to do something about those!
Tour Au Loup's performance of Murmure
de Fée had its full fortnight's run with less interruption
from the weather this year. An outdoor spectacle is at the mercy
of the elements. This year I believe the show not only covered its
costs, but was able to make a small contribution to repaying debts
outstanding from previous years' weather-related losses. My music
featured in a dreamlike sequence in the second scene depicting devilish
giant heads, a dragon, a cast of about sixty idolatrous villagers
and an amazing and truly scary "god" which grew out of
the backdrop. I'm sure I don't need to point out that this was a
work of fiction devised by the newly elected mayor of Fillanges,
Bruno Forel, rather than another day in the life of French countryfolk,
but I'll mention it, just in case I'm accused of adversely affecting
scenes seemed to be the order of the season this summer. The
News of the Victory was delighted to have been asked to
play at the outdoor festival organised in Great Massingham at the
end of July. The ceilidh attracted 200-300 villagers and the band
was well looked after by the organisers. People were dancing and
everything was going fine until the final dance of the evening when
everything suddenly cut out and the equipment began to disappear
off the back of the stage. You know what's it's like when you encounter
a phenomenon for which there is no apparent explanation? Suspecting
young people at play I yelled and chased round to the back of the
stage to be confronted with a scene of unexpected havoc. The fish
and chip van that had been keeping the dancers fuelled all evening
had shut up shop and, rather than drive off the green and on to
the road via the shortest route, decided on a scenic circumnavigation
which took in the backstage area and took off with the mains electricity
supply lead which was suspended high over the path to the nearest
house ... unfortunately just not quite high enough. The route from
the stage to the rear of the van took the equipment across the bonnet
of my car. I'm wondering whether to add a diagonal scratch going
across the other way and pretend I'm from Scotland.
ran a day of junk percussion mayhem at Cromer
Carnival children's day again this year. The organisers
very kindly arranged for me to be far enough away from other activities,
which might have been disturbed by the noise in a new tent they'd
erected specially. Unfortunately the wind had other ideas and took
my tent over the cliff, so they set me up elsewhere on the site.
Fortunately no one was inside the tent when it flew! Again thanks
to the organisers who worked hard to make the day a success. Some
children visited long enough to give my barrels and bowls a cursory
bash while others stayed for a couple of hours at a time just playing
the same rhythm repeatedly on the plastic rainwater tubs. Don't
parents give their kids upturned saucepans and wooden spoons any
more? The day was incredibly busy with six hours of non-stop percussion.
I'd apologise to the bouncy castle/slide people next door, if I
hadn't nearly asphyxiated on their generator's fumes and had to
play against the noise all day. I guess we deserved each other.
(ps If the above link fails to bring up photographs of the day,
use the side bar on the carnival website to locate "Photos
2008". Then click the link to "children's day" in
the main window. However, don't look for photographs of the percussion
workshop - it's mostly thrilling motorbike leaps and slobbery dogs.)
played for a ceilidh at this summer's Green Man Fayre in
deepest Suffolk. Thanks to the sound guys who helped things move
along pretty efficiently. I'm sure we weren't the only people not
deemed photogenic (ie young) enough to be included on their website
photo-diary, but click
this link to see photographs of what looks like everyone else!
Apologies for laughing at the people who couldn't say the band's
name and for whom we shall ever be forgotten as Hogmedog ... Curious
that a celebration of the pagan Green Man tradition couldn't also
acknowledge East Anglian rusticism.
the weirdest of the summer's projects was Crossing the Line.
Blame the Olympics. Breckland
District Council invited Norfolk Music Works to come up with
a project that would embrace the arts and sporting achievement.
Crossing the Line turned into a mad, multi-disciplinary show featuring
the work of Jane Wells (composer, artistic director and also working
in this project as choral director), Les Chappell ("soundwaves"
music from found objects and processed sounds), Derek Paice (samba-ish
percussion), Liz McGowan (visual artist working on flags and floating
objects). The Dereham Otters, the local swimming club were the "dancers"
on our stage ... Dereham Leisure Centre's Swimming Pool. Yes, folks,
the performance took place in, around and under the water. We were
also fortunate to be able to work with members of the City of
London Sinfonia, Peter Harvey and Douglas Coleman (trombones)
and Gary Kettel, renowned percussionist who has played not only
with the CLS, but also with the likes of Michael Nyman, Mike Oldfield
and Karl Jenkins. Simon Elliot was there in a filming capacity and
Mark Fawcett took care of the live sound desk. For my money the
iconic image of this project will be Richard Hall in a dinner jacket
who remained, with his trombone, in the middle of the learner pool
throughout the show and, for the most part (until required to play)
utterly motionless. I felt that being privileged to hits bits of
yellow pipe with table tennis bats, alongside Gary Kettel and other
participants, as we dipped them into the pool to change the pitch
of the sound, while a fully clothed Les and his "soundwaves"
group gargled, screamed and blew bubbles underwater into special
hydrophonic microphones was a career highlight. The performance
was probably one of the most extraordinary shows ever to have taken
place in the middle of Norfolk, although the jury is out as to whether
the idea was more or less mad than the attempt we made to relay
and process the sound from the top of Swaffham's infamous wind turbine
a few years ago with composer, Duncan Chapman.
have been happening, but it's a bit embarrassing to realise I haven't
written anything on here for three months. Again, many thanks to
the primary schools in Mileham, Yaxham and Walpole Cross Keys for
continuing to employ DeeP Music services. Additionally I have ventured
out into deepest Leicestershire and Northamptonshire and have made
return visits, after many years, to schools in Sheringham, Upwell
time over the past few weeks has been taken up with composing music
for this summer's community show in Regnier, France with La Tour
News of the Victory has had a quiet time as the other groups, Beatroot
and Hodmedod, have all been busy. With the summer coming up we are
looking forward to summer weddings and celebrations. The ceilidh
at the Dereham Festival was a resounding success. There's something
about a room that's so crowded there's barely room to dance, but
it was a great atmosphere, much enjoyed by the band and it seemed,
the audience of enthusiastic dancers. Hoofbeat also played earlier
on in the festival where we premiered some new music.
school term has flown by and it's already Good Friday. Many thanks
to the pupils of regular schools, Mileham, Yaxham
and Walpole Cross Keys for rising to meet the
musical challenges they have been set during the term.
to new clients Queens Drive Infant School
in Peterborough who made me very welcome during a day of African
drumming, songs and stories. I received a very nice collection of
thank-you letters from some of the pupils and I would like to thank
Mrs. Richardson for making the day run smoothly.
was pleased also to renew my acquaintance with Westmere School
in Long Sutton who invited me in during their book week celebrations
to work on original compositions based on books they have been enjoying.
congratulations to the Y9 and GCSE pupils at King Edward VII
High School in King's Lynn for some great percussion playing
during our day together a couple of weeks ago.
composing continues apace with new pieces for Hoofbeat and
The News of the Victory.
will be performing at this year's Dereham Festival on Saturday,
10th May. The News of the Victory play at the same festival
the following week.
life may have been a little quiet for The News of the Victory
these past few weeks Hodmedod and Beatroot have both
been busy. Hodmedod played at the Keir Hardie Ceilidh in
Norwich this week. I decided to attempt calling an evening of dances
that were new to me. My thanks are due to the kind dancers at the
ceilidh who bore the evening with grace and good humour!
of Hodmedod and Beatroot, both bands are beginning
to introduce more original material (the composers being John Preston,
Carol Hunter and Ivan Garford) into their set lists. With The
News of the Victory now playing almost exclusively original
music I find this the most exciting prospect. There may be a place
for tradition, but there will always be a place for creativity,
which clearly is alive and thriving in the most popular ceilidh
bands based in West Norfolk and Fenland.
just in ... The News of the Victory will be playing at this
year's Great Massingham village festival in Norfolk on Saturday
is the final preparation day for teachers taking pupils to the BBC
Concert Orchestra "Making Tracks" concert at the Norfolk
County Showground in March. I'd like to thank everyone I had the
opportunity to meet in Great Yarmouth, North Walsham and King's
Lynn and I hope that the sessions are helping you prepare your pupils
for the concert. Enjoy the show!
the current block of class composing workshops in Walpole Cross
Keys the key stage two class has been working through the exercises
I put together to explore "Trépak". Full details
are here. Being a mixed age
class of pupils from Y3-Y6 it has been interesting to notice who
finds which activities the most challenging. So far we have "steady
school workshops this term have included return visits to Yaxham
and Mileham schools. Older pupils are building a class composition
and arrangement that has grown out of a two-chord improvisation.
I have also had the opportunity to do a one-man band act supporting
the structure with guitar and bass drum. Some of the pupils have
had to learn particular instrumental techniques to be able to play
the music. For example, a number have been working on using standard
fingering patterns for piano and keyboard chords. It is interesting
how many have wanted to follow the example of the first Queen Elizabeth
and play only with fingers 2, 3 and 4.
pupils in both schools have been working on telling stories with
King's Lynn Community Samba Band has been going through a
bit of a rebirth this term. So far we have seen increasing numbers
at rehearsals in our new practice room at 32 St James' Street, King's
Lynn. We are now well into double figures and long may this level
of interest last! We now have secure bookings for three local carnivals
in the summer and are looking forward to playing in Downham Market,
Northwold and Wisbech. We heard the news recently that Arco Iris,
the samba band from Cambridge, is unable to participate in Eastern
Bloco events this year. Representatives from the remaining participating
bands will be meeting shortly to shape this year's programme.
to Norfolk Music Works I had the opportunity to renew my acquaintance
with members of the King's Lynn Asperger's Group recently when I
was asked to lead another samba workshop. Greetings to all my friends
there and well done, everyone, some good playing! I'm hoping to
see a couple of people turn up at KLCSB rehearsals.
the invitation was extended to many of the 170 teachers who attended
the professional development day in Hunstanton at the beginning
of term. Apart from back-to-back samba workshops they enjoyed workshops
in storytelling, 2D and 3D art, dance, Indian music and Jewish family
life. I can't believe I was encouraged to recreate the 2-person
version of the famous Norfolk Brush Dance, which I haven't tackled
for many years. The conference organisers actually went out at lunchtime
to buy brooms from Woolworths for Deborah and me to use. Of course,
we knew nothing about it until they arrived back and the session
was about to start! Thankfully I managed to do it without pulling
of things happening this term.
BBC Concert Orchestra is coming to town ... Norwich, that is. At
the last count I think about 8,000 school pupils and staff from
Norfolk and Suffolk are going to be attending the series of concerts
in March. I am delighted to have been commissioned by one of the
partner organisations involved in the project, Norfolk Music Works,
to prepare and lead a series of workshops for teachers around the
county. This professional development will be taking place in January
and February. If any teachers plan to attend the concerts and have
lost their notes from the preparation sessions, you'll find them
winter holidays seem to be the time for tales of mystery and horror
on the television. Here's one from real life. This one has a moral.
Don't get caught out like I did!
a recent Hoofbeat performance I was impressed by a double goosenecked
music stand light produced by an American company called Mighty
Bright being used by one of the other musicians. I was so impressed
that I immediately scoured the internet to buy one. I found the
company's website, ordered and was amazed even more when it arrived
only two or three days later ... all the way from Santa Barbara
in California. It cost me $24.99 plus $20 postage and packing. Translated
into sterling this comes to £22.78. It is a bit expensive
for a torch, but looked jolly useful. I was less impressed when
I later chanced upon Black
Cat Music and noticed that they were selling them in the UK
for £13.50 each, plus £3.00 delivery. Today, I am even
less impressed to have received a demand from FedEx for payment
of VAT and an administration fee totalling a further £17.58
... more than the value of the goods. That means I have had to pay
£40.36 for goods I subsequently found available in the UK
point does naivety become stupidity?
endeth the lesson!
New Year for 2008!
hope you all had a peaceful and happy holiday. The turn of the year
brought in a couple of performing jobs and as the week goes on the
workshops begin again. The King's Lynn Community Samba Band starts
again on the evening of Thursday, 3rd January in its new
rehearsal space. I look forward to meeting and working with
some of you during the coming year. Best wishes to you all.
the end of 2007 I had an unexpected phone call. It was Roy Waller
from BBC Radio Norfolk. Apparently he had found this website and
thought it looked interesting enough to invite me in for a chat
about my work in schools. Naturally flattered, intrigued and concerned
I put the date in my diary and the thought to the back part of my
mind where upcoming events have a chance to churn around while I
process what to do about them. The day before the proposed interview,
and still having no real idea what would be required, I decided
to prepare a cd of recordings of some of my recent projects. I selected
a range of projects including structured classroom percussion improvisations
with pupils from Reception, Y2 and Y6 classes, cut-and-paste DeeP
Sound Show electronic soundscapes with Y7 and the more rehearsed
structure of Latin Grooves. I also found a recording of an Anglo-French
choral composition I undertook a couple of years ago with pupils
from four schools in the West Norfolk Marshland and one school from
Millau in the Midi-Pyrenees. I also prepared a quick sheet of information
and ran one off for each of us. I thought that I was as well prepared
as it was possible to be under the circumstances. For good measure
I also took a copy of NotV!
left in plenty of time I was, half an hour before the appointment,
stuck in stationary traffic in Norwich city centre and it was clear
I was not going to get parked in time. Eventually I extracted myself
from the queues and headed back out of the centre in search of somewhere
to park. Amazingly I still managed to walk back to the station before
five past two. Staff at Radio Norfolk were very friendly and I was
taken up to the studio. Introductions made I was shown into the
studio where Roy Waller was doing his thing.
had very little to do with radio in the past. However, each time
I have been into a radio studio I have been unnerved by the differences
between that and a recording studio. It is weird knowing that there
is an live audience that you can neither see, nor hear, nor respond
to. Several anxieties crept in. I realised that I didn't know the
microphones they were using, so where should I sit in relation to
them (on axis, off-axis, how close was going to be too close
Oh a little knowledge is certainly a dangerous thing!). I'd heard
my radio voice in interviews before and I have been horrified at
the boring monotone that purported to be me when what I was really
projecting was an understated, slightly breathy (and naturally utterly
sexy) cool. This time I had already resolved to use my middle register
and attempt the well-modulated (if somewhat artificial) voice one
subconsciously associates with radio. I was determined to steer
this discussion into areas I wanted and make it sound like I was
born to broadcast.
how the best-laid plans have a way of working out. I don't know
how this normally works, but what seemed clear to me was that, the
presenter having spent the best part of the morning "on location",
this show was going to be done on the fly, with the barest of guidelines
on a printed sheet. I originally thought I would take the opportunity
during traffic news, trails or records to determine where we should
take the discussion next, but placed on the spot I didn't want to
be responsible for disturbing this popular broadcaster's train of
concentration. I didn't know the etiquette of the studio. Consequently,
I'm fairly certain that this "interesting man" (as I was
announced in the pre-programme trail) turned out to be a very uninspired
and uninspiring guest indeed. I did not manage to introduce the
Norfolk radio-listening public to the joys of new music, nor even
guide the choice of clips played on air to make it sound like I
did anything other than crash, bang and bong in the classroom.
as I have fantasised in the past, I doubt that my future lies in
radio broadcasting. However, many thanks to Roy Waller, to Amy and
to Kevin, who did their best to make me welcome and at least make
me feel for a while that my work was interesting to a wider public.
My esteem for the professionalism of the experienced radio presenter
may have gone up a few notches, but I think I probably cope better
with two-way communication that also includes instantaneous feedback
in a teaching or performing situation.