Category: Teaching & Education

Coaching with Vacation Chamber Orchestra

Teaching & Education

Looking forward to a few days in the Yorkshire Dales next week coaching on the VaCO Easter chamber music course. An all-Czech programme consisting of the Martinu and Novak Nonets. Will be nice to catch up with organisers Jane Lomax and Xen Kelsey!

“Tram Tracks” songwriting project – the finished tracks!

Composing & ArrangingKlezmer-ishTeaching & Education

The enormous “Tram Tracks” project run by Sarah Atter and the Bridgewater Hall, is over! A team of musicians worked with local schools and community groups to write a song for each of the 93 stops on the tram network, and the finished tracks can be enjoyed here.

Here are the four songs I was involved with…

…the staff and volunteers group at Orsdall Hall, Salford:


…a track written by members of the public at a walk-up day at the Bridgewater Hall:


…the Y4 class from St Michael’s Primary School, Whitefield:


…and a commission for Klezmer-ish:

Manchester Single Reed Summer School 2017

Teaching & Education

A fun, busy, enjoyable and educational few days last week, as I joined Rob Buckland, Matt Dunn, Ruth Bourne and Gilly Blair to tutor on the Manchester Single Reed summer school.

Sessions included a massed clarinet / saxophone choir, chamber music, technique classes, a klezmer class and an end-of-course concert for friends and family. Well done to all those who took part with such enthusiasm and energy!

“Tram Tracks” commission for Klezmer-ish

Composing & ArrangingKlezmer-ishTeaching & Education

Klezmer-ish were asked to take part in the Manchester-wide “Tram Tracks” project, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Manchester Metrolink, by writing a track to represent the Bowker Vale area of North Manchester.

Here is a live recording from the gala performance at the Bridgewater Hall on 9th July 2017.

This part of North Manchester has a long history of immigration, with people from Jewish, Irish, African, Caribbean and Indian backgrounds (amongst others) all making their lives here at various points over the last two or more centuries.

Our song reflects this rich social history by drawing on two very different music traditions. Our piece starts with a 19th-century “broadside ballad” called The Exile’s Lament. Manchester was a national centre for the production of these hugely popular ballads, which were sold cheaply on the street and often dealt with current events and issues. As the Irish population of Manchester grew, unsurprisingly many ballads emerged with Irish themes. We have tried to reflect the nostalgic tone of the words in a slow and simple musical setting.

The Exile's Lament

Sounds imitating the sounds of a steam train (or perhaps a steam tram…Manchester had steam powered trams 100 years before the present-day Metrolink!) lead into the second part of our song, which reflects the strong Jewish community in the North Manchester area by using a song from Ukraine called Sem Sorok (“7:40”). It is a freylakh often performed at Jewish weddings, and one of the stories behind the song suggests that its name refers to a train which brought Jewish merchants from their shtetl to work in Odessa each day, arriving at 7:40am and returning at 7:40pm.

“Tram Tracks” songwriting project

Teaching & Education

Between June and July I’ll be involved in an interesting and ambitious project lead by music leader Sarah Atter, in conjunction with the Bridgewater Hall and Metrolink, called “Tram Tracks”. Sarah’s inspiration was to celebrate 25 years of trams in Manchester by recruiting musicians to work with various community groups across Greater Manchester to write a song for each of the 93 stops on the network – no small task!

I’m pleased to be working with St Michael’s Primary school in Whitefield and the volunteer group at Ordsall Hall, Salford. There is going to be a gala performance of the songs at the Bridgewater Hall on 9th July, and they will be available to listen to online afterwards too so I’ll post what we come up with!

Sterling Trio Masterclass in Mansfield

Teaching & EducationTrio

On 29th January I returned to Mansfield with the Sterling Trio to do a masterclass with young woodwind players from the Nottinghamshire Music Hub. This year we focussed on exam / performance preparation, including mental preparation, tackling performance anxiety, supporting exam tests (aural, scales and sight-reading) and accompaniment technique.

We worked with 13 flute, clarinet, saxophone and oboe players whose feedback included that they felt “more confident” and enjoyed “achieving the best out of my performance”.

A parent commented thank you very much indeed for such a marvelous opportunity. My son really enjoyed himself and was so proud of his contribution and pleased with all the tips and advice he gained on the day. Thank you for organising it and thank you to the Sterling Trio who were fantastic.”

CD presentation at Ashworth

Teaching & Education

December 8th was a special day for me, as Georgina Aasgaard and I finally got the chance to present copies of a CD “Doing, Being, Becoming” to patients at Ashworth Hospital.


We had been working for several months  with a dedicated and motivated group of patients as part of Ashworth’s Recovery College initiative, delivered through Liverpool Philharmonic’s Mersey Care Musician in Residence programme. The group had chosen to study Celtic music and over our weekly visits, Georgina and I had a lot of fun performing jigs and reels, as well as helping the patients to write their own Celtic-inspired compositions.

We were then able to take away the patients’ work and professionally record 15 tracks at The Friary, Liverpool, with the help of guitarist Rob, and Mark on drums and whistles. The finished product is a great testament to what was achieved during this project, and the presentation event was quite an emotional one!

Special thanks to Robin and Sam at Ashworth, without whose support the project could never have happened.