At the end of July, I'm going to be depping on the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Queen Anne at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in London. I'm covering a few shows for Magnus Mehta, who's an awesome percussionist with a completely individual voice. His band Penya is really worth checking out!
Old Dirty Brasstards just made our first music video! In time for the 20th anniversary of OK Computer, it's a fresh take on the Radiohead classic, Paranoid Android. Do check out the video above (maybe give it a thumbs up too!) and have a read of the article here that the Londonist wrote about us. Enjoy!
The Royal Opera House production of Turandot which I'm part of will be screened live to all of the BP Big Screens on 14th July - do check it out!
Really looking forward to being part of the Royal Opera House production of Turandot this July!
My good friend Jaime Fernandez and I met back in 2013, when we were both doing a project with the Qatar Philharmonic. He's percussionist at the Orquesta de la Comunidad de Madrid and the Plural Ensemble. We've worked together on and off over the years, and he's a brilliant musician and teacher.
Along with the people of Bergerault, Jaime is organising the very first Bergerault Festival from 16th -22nd July 2017 in Valdepenas - about 200k south of Madrid. It's a week long percussion and composition festival. He's very kindly asked me to come along for a few days to give some classes on orchestral percussion, and I can't wait! Do check out their website below:
Old Dirty Brasstards had a blast playing for Sofar Sounds in February - check out this version of 'Hideaway' by Kiesza....enjoy!
Between February and April I was working on and off with the NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic in Poland. Wroclaw (or Breslau, as it was once known), is a really extraordinary place - on the western edge of Poland and with many buildings dating back to Medieval Times, was completely ruined after WW2. There's a picture of the main square of Wroclaw after the war, and it's almost entirely rubble. The people then meticulously restored the city to it's former glory and it is now regarded as the most beautiful city in Poland. It's well worth a visit!
It's got an incredible feel to it; full of indie restaurants, coffee shops, bars (there's a big micro brew scene there!) and is buzzing with students from the local university. There's also a thriving cultural scene - I counted 19 theatres on one map! The cultural crown jewel is the NFM hall, which was opened in 2015 and home to the orchestra I'm on trial with. I have to say that it's one of the best acoustics I've ever played in, and the orchestra was fantastic! I really enjoyed playing 3 different projetcts there: West Side Story, Mahler 5 and a new commison by Polish composer Grażyna Pstrokońska-Nawratil called Assisi. Here's a few pics below...
2016...what a year that was! The year of Brexit, of Trump...when Fake News became Real News and when certainty became not so certain at all. Whatever your thoughts on 2016 were, it was definitely a year of change and prospect.
Speaking of which, I saw in the new year (in a very stormy Scotland, by the fire with wife, family and Roly, our family whippet) reflecting on what was, and looking forward to what will become. 2016 for me was full of interesting and challenging work; concerts with the Philharmonia Orchestra, Royal Opera House and Arensky Chamber Orchestra; Old Dirty Brasstards releasing their debut album; masterclasses in Japan, for the Young Person's Symphony Orchestra of California and Lancing College and adjudicating for the Perse School; teaching at the Junior Academy and education projects with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Arensky Chamber Orchestra. After auditioning in November for the Principal Percussion vacancy at the NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic Orchestra in Poland, I'm down to the last 3 people and will start a trial there next month. My trial for Principal Percussion with the Philharmonia Orchestra continues on into 2017 as well.
2017 brings many interesting projects; January sees me starting a new project for Celtic Connections with Scottish Harpist Fraya Thompsen, in February I begin Sleeping Beauty at the Royal Opera House and travel to Poland for a Bernstein programme with the NFM Philharmonic, in March the Arensky Chamber Orchestra has it's first UK tour with a programme of Debussy's La Mer and the Britten Four Sea Interludes as well as another return trip to Poland for Mahler 5 with the NFM Philharmonic. In amongst this, Old Dirty Brasstards continue to be as busy as ever and Will Kundhart (Arensky Chamber Orchestra's Artistic Director) has asked me to come on board as Collaborative Director, and so I'll be working hard to increase the orchestra's profile over the coming months.
Who knows what we will say of 2017 in the future, but I for one am going to be mindful to stay positive, keep an open mind and listen to others...especially those with whom I share opposing views! Mark Kermode (one of my heroes) said in a podcast last year that he believes in meliorism - the idea that the world can be made better by human effort - and that's going to be my mantra for the year. Here's to us all being meliorists in 2017!
It's been a few months since my last news update...sorry!! It's been a busy few months in the meantime with lots of exciting projects, and here's a few bits n' pieces I've been up to in the meantime:
I was really lucky to be involved in this amazing production at the Royal Opera House. Based on the Shakespeare play, choreographed by Chrisopher Wheeldon and with music by Joby Talbot, there was lots of involved percussion writing...and a tonne of gear too! You can see from the pics below that Joby writes for a variety of unusual percussion instruments including tuned gongs, 'kitchen percussion' (upturned Balti dishes!), rain sticks and a bass drum with a rute (a handfull of twigs, basically) on it. I was playing two parts: the tuned gongs and then a small set up with snare drums, crotales, windchimes and bass drum. Joby was there for all the rehearsals and for a lot of the performances too, so it was amazing to work closely with him. He also wrote for an on-stage band which was really effective - 2 percussionists (Rob Farrer on log drum and Jez Wiles on Surdo and frame drums), accordion, cymbalom (Greg Knowles...amazing!) and ethic flutes....cool! I hear that the ROH has commissioned him for another ballet in 2019 - great choice!
Elgar's 2nd Symphony:
I did a great tour of Elgar 2 with the Philharmonia and Ed Gardener. The orchestra sounded amazing (as always!) and it brought me back to my days of 'yoof', playing this piece as a 19 year old with the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland. Good times!
Arensky Chamber Orchestra
I played an amazing reduction of Götterdammerung by Wagner for 15 ACO players by Iain Farringdon. It was a kind of 'greatest hits' of the opera. It's such incredible music and very special to play because at the moment my wife, Stephi, is currently doing the complete ring cycle with Opera North, so we could compare notes! The ACO is a fantastic orchestra and well worth checking out. Please do take a look at our website, particularly at the 'St Petersberg' section, which let's you know how you can be involved.
I gave a masterclass for the percussion section of the Young People's Symphony Orchestra from California a few weeks ago. It's a fantastic orchestra and they were in London as part of their European Tour. The students were awesome, and we spent an afternoon looking at Elgar's Enigma Variations and Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances. We also randomly talked at length about the 'funny taste' of London's tap water...! Important stuff!
Tomorrow starts the run of The Winter's Tale by Christopher Wheeldon and Joby Talbot. It follows Shakespeare's tale of the mad and jealous king Leontes, love, loss and finally reunion. The music has been amazing to play, and I think this has to be one of the best ballets in the ROH repertoire. Here's a couple of interesting videos on the making of Winter's tale, which give a fascinating insight into the creative process and the collaboration between choreographer and composer.
I've been playing 'Giselle' at the Royal Opera House for the past few weeks, and on 6th April there will be a live cinema screening of the ballet, which is definitely worth checking out. It's an incredibly powerful production, and one of the all time classic ballets. To find a cinema near you, use the ROH's screening finder here. Here's a little trailer of the show...hope you enjoy it and if you did end up going to the show, write a comment and let me know what you thought!
After returning from Japan (and still slightly jet-lagged...!) I had a mammoth day in PressPlay studios for Old Dirty Brasstards debut album. The studio is a little gem, located in a sprawling industrial estate, but run by Andy Ramsey who was the drummer with Stereolab. Apart from a 20 minute lunch break, we pretty much spent 10 hours straight recording the percussion tracks.....my hands were hanging off afterwards! I then headed off straight afterwards to the Brixton Blues Kitchen to do a late night gig with the Brasstards...I woke up the next morning and my hands had swollen to twice the size!
It was a brilliant day, and we got some excellent material down - the album is going to sound fantastic. We've got one more day in the studio in a few weeks to finish off a few bits and pieces, and then it should be ready to rock n' roll around May 2016. Jim Unwin is doing an amazing job as producer on this record...check this guy out!
Here's a little clip of some bongos I laid down for Rich Turner's arrangement of 'Move on Up'....enjoy!
At the start of February, I had a wonderful and extremely productive trip to Tokushima Bunri University in Japan. I was fortunate enough to visit there last year, and it was brilliant to be able to return again and continue the work we started 12 months ago.
The pupils are incredibly disciplined, hard working and talented, and it's such a pleasure to be able to teach motivated students such as these! Over the 4-day series of masterclasses, we covered topics such as:
- Solo repertoire
- Percussion ensemble
- Film music
- Orchestral repertoire
- Snare drum and accessories technique
- Musicianship and developing a sense of individual style
- Teaching methods
- Career: tips for developing a sustainable and successful musical career
I also had the chance to coach a joint wind ensemble comprised of students from Tokushima Bunri and local high schools - they were unbelievable and played a seriously groovy Samba piece, written by a Japanese composer!
Giuseppe Mariotti does a wonderful job as the Dean of Music at Tokushima Bunri and is supported by a wonderful group of colleagues. It makes me realise how important the role of teaching plays in a musician's life - at its best, it really can be an extremely rewarding experience for both teacher and pupil....I hope to be able to go there again soon!
I'm really looking forward to heading back out again this week to Tokushima in Japan to give 4 days of masterclasses to the percussion students of Tokushima Bunri University! Last year I had an amazing time - great food, great people, and what a place Japan is! Unlike anywhere else I've ever been. Photos to come soon!
This week I'll be playing with the Philharmonia as part of my trial - two interesting programmes: Planet Earth Live and a trumpet concert by Rolf Martinson which will be performed by Hakan Hardenburger.