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.

Peter Hope on Radio 3


Poet Wendy Cope was a guest on BBC Radio 3’s “Essential Classics” – and chose our recording of Peter Hope’s “Tallis Remembered” as one of her selections!

You can hear clips of her choices here.

Beethoven 3 – from memory…


This is quite a daunting musical challenge…learning Beethoven’s “Eroica” symphony from memory! I’ll put myself to the test in performances with the Aurora Orchestra  in Cambridge, at the BBC Proms and on tour in Amsterdam and La Cote-St-Andre over the summer…

“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!

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band / Bootleg Beatles


To celebrate 50 years since the Beatles released their groundbreaking album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, the RLPO are putting on a show with the Bootleg Beatles tribute band to recreate the album (and other songs from the summer of 1967) in symphonic form. So far we’ve played to full houses in Liverpool, Birmingham and the Albert Hall, and have dates in Manchester, Nottingham, and at Festival Number 6 in Wales yet to come.

I particularly like the “updated” album cover with faces from the RLPO making a cameo appearances in the backound!

Sgt Pepper

Klezmer-ish live on BBC’s “World on Three”


Klezmer-ish BBC

On June 2nd we had the amazing opportunity of appearing live on BBC Radio 3’s “World on Three” programme. It was a thrill to be shown around Broadcasting House (we saw where the news is filmed!) and we were looked after so well by presenter Lopa Kothari and her team. We played four songs (including one by Klezmer-ish’s own Rob Shepley) and did a short interview. It was a slightly surreal experience to start performing at 11.15pm and finish well after midnight!

You can hear the show on the BBC iPlayer until the end of June.

Peter Hope: “Wind Blown” – more reviews


Four more reviews from the past few months of the disc of woodwind works by Peter Hope, including the clarinet sonata which myself and Simon Passmore commissioned and premiered.

Remy Franck of Pizzicato gives it 5 stars and says “the performances and recording are of very good quality”.

You can read Jeremy Condliffe of the Congleton Chronicle‘s reivew here.

Bradley Lehman from the American Record Guide writes “performances are sensitive and polished…wind players and listeners drawn to their repertoire will find much of interest in these unpretentious and enjoyable sonatas”.

Lastly, James V. Maiello of Fanfare mentions another piece on the disc: “Tallis Remembered is a short set of variations…inspired by Wendy Cope’s poem “Tallis’s Canon” which is reproduced in the liner notes. Verity’s silken clarinet presents Tallis’s well-known canon in a manner that recalls Copland’s Appalachian Spring. Clarinet and recorder intertwine with variations and obbligato lines.”.

Klezmer-ish at Princes Road Synagogue

Composing & ArrangingKlezmer-ish

Klezmer-ish did our first performance in a synagogue in February! We played to over 350 people in the beautiful Prince’s Road Synagogue, Liverpool in a concert raising funds for the upkeep of this stunning building.

Here’s a video from the night – a couple of tunes I wrote in a Celtic style called “Rosy’s Air” and “Christmas Day Reel”.

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.”