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Concert report 3 July 2010, Hucknall, Nottingham.

(July 18, 2010)

The Central methodist church in Hucknall, Nottingham provived the venue for my solo spots with The Carousel singers of Wollaton. The building itself seems rather modern; lovely and light and spacious which seats I imagine between 200-300. Acoustically it was excellent, and allowed the instruments to resonate beautifully showing their full potential. This was the first outing of my new Stagepas 300 PA system which was a doddle to put up (even for me!). I was able to play my accompaniment cd tracks via remote control.

The choir performed with passion and clearly enjoy working together as a group. There were several very sensitive moments alongside more light hearted repertoire. Sue, the choirs director led with much sensitivity to the music, with complimentary accompaniment provided by an accompanist, the choir delivered a varied and thoughtful program.

My first interlude consisited of Moonglow, Swingin' shepherd blues on clarinet, and 'but not for me' (Gershwin) on Alto saxophone. The gentle jazzy numbers are fantastically suited to clarinet and a bit of warm vibrato carried the mood to our intimate but appreciative audience. I had tailored my program as to my anticipated audience and seemed to have judged it correctly.

For my second solo spot I chose to start off in a celtic theme, and on flute; firstly by playing my Lament (composed in 2008, and part of my 'Mixed bag of styles collection' available in the shop...ahem!) and then one of my favourites; Countess Cathleen from Riverdance. Unfortunately I had misjudged the balance on the backing track for lament, and the flutes subtle sound could hardly be heard above the accompaniment. Despite this hiccup, the piece still received many nice compliments after the concert. A quick blast of 'Ive got rhythm' saw a return of Gershwin on Alto saxophone just in case any of our audience had been lulled to sleep!

For my final set I unleashed the EWI (Electronic Wind Instrument) and introduced the audience quickly to some of its many features. Knowing my own fear of technology, I was a little apprehensive as to how it would be received in our lets say.... more mature .... audience. However they were totally up for it and watched in fascination as I played a Telemann canonic sonata in canon with myself due to a delay function on one of the EWI's voices. (Thanks must be given here to Alistair Parnell, Nottingham who introduced me to this piece, and whose piano accompaniment skills feature on many of my backing tracks).

I knew that my next piece would be welcomly received, however with it being THE clarinet piece that anyone over around 50 knows, there was a certain amount of pressure to deliver it exceptionally! THE piece was of course Stranger on the shore, made famous by the series, and by Clarinettist Acker Bilk (who is still actively touring around to this day!). When I took up the clarinet at 13 I was immediately innundated with requests from parents and grandparents to play this tune, and, being 13, One I had no idea what they were on about, and TWO, being 13 I had no intention of playing something THEY wanted me to play! So I found myself some 22 years later performing it for the first time. I had listenend to recordings of Acker, and in my performance I chose to imitate his own style to some extent, whilst keeping part of my own. A warm wide vibrato in places invited a soft cantabile style and again, there was a lovely response afterwards, making me regret having been so stubborn for the past couple of decades!

My finale was my newest composition; Czardas (pronounced shar-das) for clarinet and piano. Around 6 minutes long, this piece explores both the rich, deep, serious side of the clarinet, with a range from low E to top G fully used in the piece, but also the quirky cheekiness that is possible from this agile instrument. An extra music stand was waiting in the wings, as with it being quite a flighty piece, with little space for page turns, this seemed the most sensible option! The introduction is incredibly rich and expressive, drawing the audience in and almost lulling them into a false sense of security. Suddenly the piece then launches into its cheeky main theme which it explores for a time before briefly revisiting the opening mood. A flurry of fireworks follow before a showstopping finale (assuming the top G makes it out alive!). I was delighted with the way I played it on the night, as particularly with a new composition it needs to be well presented on its first outing,it would be quite disastotous for the piece if it was to be delivered badly! In many ways it would have been wonderful to have played it with live accompaniment to catch even more of the fun exchanges between the clarinet and piano, but even with just the backing track it came across very well indeed, with resulting sustained applause to follow.

After the concert many people took down my details and enquired as my availability performance wise, and also of my compositions. I feel humbled and grateful at the responses I received, and am so thankful to friends who came and helped me pack away and load up the car; it really means a lot, thank you.

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