2013 in Retrospect

So I’ve decided that 2014 is the year of self-indulgence – perhaps not in food or other comestibles, but insomuch as I’m now going to allow myself to believe that people might just be interested in things that I see, hear or do occasionally.

As such, my first blog post will be an overview of my 2013 – mainly from a musical perspective.

In January I recall I was feeling fairly smug; I’d selected my options well at university the previous September and therefore had the exact sum of zero essays to stress over during the winter semester break. That meant I could focus on score preparation, as well as making a start on getting together the report for my Arts Administration elective.

The end of January was something of a shock to the system – the first rehearsal of the brass band for my final semester at university brought the news that my tutor and conducting mentor, Dr Howard Evans, has been diagnosed with cancer, meaning he would be having treatment over the coming months and would therefore not be around for my finals months and exams as a student. Clearly this was a blow, but I am pleased to note that the most recent update from him is positive and we hope he’ll be free of cancer after his final scheduled operation in the next couple of months.

This meant a new tutor, and a new set of approaches to my degree. I missed Howard massively, but set about working on learning the score for an imminent conducting exam in February. I was honoured to given the chance to conduct only the second ever performance of ‘Three Cornish Legends‘, a testpiece by Darrol Barry, written for the Cornwall Youth Brass Band and dedicated to Goff Richards. Certainly the piece was a challenge for myself and the band but I loved working on it and was proud of an excellent performance for the exam.

March saw my conducting debut at the North West area contest with Denton Brass in the 4th section. A nervy performance didn’t result in a podium finish, but experience was gained and lessons learnt.

In April I was invited to be a guest speaker at the National Association of Brass Band Conductor’s annual conference, held in Bury. The day was focused on women in banding and, more specifically, female conductors within the movement. Along with Mareika Gray and Samantha Harrison I was interviewed and questioned by the conference attendees and finished the day assured that people are working to encourage more women into the role of Conductor. Additionally I was invited to take a Diggle B Band rehearsal, preparing them for their Whit Friday appearance.

May was a particularly busy month which included deadlines and final examinations. I has chosen to conduct Philip Sparke’s ‘Kaleidoscope‘ and had spent many hours with the score and the Adelphi Brass Band preparing for the day that the whole of my final year has been leading up to. I was extremely busy outside of university also, preparing Denton for the annual Whit Friday outing. The band battled the weather to play at nine villages and were rewarded by being the fourth placed ‘Best Local Band’ for Tameside. The final week of the month was spent mainly in the bandroom working on the programme for the Ripon Entertainment Contest. It was also the week that I received all of the final marks for the various components of my degree and I learnt that I has secured a First Class Honours degree from the University of Salford.

The first day of June was entirely taken up with a trip to Ripon to conduct Denton in the aforementioned entertainment contest. Our African-themed programme found favour with the adjudicators and we were awarded fifth most entertaining programme. A few days later I became a ‘proper grown-up’ as I began working for M247 Ltd as Provisioning Coordinator.

July was graduation month and I spent a happy week holed up in the Lowry Theatre as part of the brass entertainment ensemble. Over the four days we played to over 19,000 people – it’s fun to know that, when you add in the 2012 and 2011 performances, I will likely feature somewhere in around 21,000 students’ graduation photo albums!

August was packed with summer-style brass band concerts of course, as well as an enjoyable three-week stretch conducting the famous Marple Band, including rehearsal of ‘Behold the Power of God‘ by my good friend, Christopher Bond. Additionally I was invited to lead the Rivington and Adlington band in a summer concert in Ormskirk – nothing like a bit of sight-reading!

In September I made the decision to move on from an enjoyable and successful ten months at Denton Brass, and became inundated with freelance conducting work across numerous bands in the north west, including Rivington and Adlington, Sale Brass, Poynton (VBS) Band, Marple Band and Poulton-le-Fylde.

October was a manic month, with one week being particularly busy. I had the joy of seeing Allen Vizutti in concert (the man is utterly incredible) and also watching an Alison Balsom masterclass at the RNCM, witnessing one of the most impressive performances of a wonderfully innovative work for trumpet I have ever heard. On the Friday evening I conducted the wonderful Marple Band in their annual Vice President’s concert on a programe which included some of my favourite works for band. In particular, the bands performance of Vaughan-Williams ‘Prelude to 49th Parallel‘ is a moment that will stay with me and is a real highlight of my 2013. Following the concert I drove straight to Glasgow in order to be ready to produce for a recording with the Cooperative Funeral Care (Glasgow) Band. This CD will be the third in a series of CDs produced for the Clarence Adoo Trust and is entitled ‘Music from the Great Composers‘.

November included further freelance conducting work as well as being the month in which I met my heroine, Marin Alsop, after a concert by the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra at the Bridgewater Hall.

December has again been busy with a good deal of travelling around the north west for conducting engagements and various concerts and recitals, as well as a few trips southwards; a visit to Bournemouth to catch up with and watch a concert conducted by Dr Howard Evans, a trip to Derby to assist the Classic FM team in a live concert recording of the Symphonia Viva, and of course the journey home to Cornwall for Christmas. Only a few days ago I had the pleasure of watching my younger brother take one of the lead roles in the KidzRUs pantomime – a very proud moment as I watched him take his first steps on a road not too different than the one I am following myself – performance is performance!

I realise that this has been a lengthy and extremely self-indulgent blog posting, and can assure you that I do not intend them all to follow this example! Hopefully this will be useful in a year’s time when I will not really need to summarise 2014, having already explored it as it unfolds around us all.

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