All of us at the NFO love meeting for our Wednesday evening rehearsals. It’s always good fun, and occasionally funny - especially the early sessions where we are all sightreading (often very challenging) new pieces for the season ahead. Andrew Easton, from our first violin section, shares his notes on such an occasion...
"Concertgoers regularly ask what goes on at a rehearsal, something some members of the orchestra sometime ask as well! Well the NFO members are back in the New Year rehearsing for our Spring concert in New Milton on 28.3.20. To give people a flavour of what goes on, consider this recent rehearsal...
The orchestra assembles and sits down by 19.30, we tune up to an oboe A (it’s always useful to be in tune at the start), and then our conductor Ieuan shows us the piece to be played, raises his baton, a couple of beats to set the tempo and we’re away:-
Diddle dum diddle dum diddle dum dum du-
“Hang on!” says Ieuan, stopping the proceedings, “something is not right.”
Someone from the wind section asks, “It is the Gershwin we’re playing?”
“No”, say Ieuan, “It’s the galop from the Rossini – William Tell!”
“Oh,” – says the bewildered player – “sorry about that.”
“As we’ve stopped, what bowing are we doing at the start of the Galop?” asks Ieuan.
“As it comes”, say our leader Alan, “up down, up down, with a bit of bounce on the bow”.
“Oh!” says Ieuan, “It’s just that the New York Phil play it two downs and one up, with bounce.”
We might have the word NEW in our name but we’re not the New York Phil...
Someone in the strings says “how about three notes to each bow?” – as they find this easier.
“Let’s try again”, says Ieuan, “and use Alan’s bowing.”
Diddle dum diddle dum diddle dum dum dum diddle dum diddle dum diddle dum dum dum...
From the start of the Galop until the end a few minutes later, everyone gives their all, some have a glance at the conductor, other keep their heads down and try and get brain and fingers to work in harmony and others, from the look on their faces, are terrified by all the notes, so many notes and so little time to play them all in.
Curiously we all finish together – now we have to work out all the bits in the middle!
“Thank you” – says Ieuan, “that’s just a bit slower than I’d like to play it in the concert”.
Phew - we all felt, in the orchestra, that it was just fast enough!
So – that’s what we do at our rehearsals, the conductor’s beat is essential, but Ieuan is not there just to beat time, he’s there to make sure we can all play together, in time, in tune and play the dynamics and tempos of each piece, all at the same time. "
We’ll be continuing work on Rossini’s William Tell Overture over the next few weeks, as well as a whole host of stage and screen favourites, including The Big Country Theme, Gabriel’s Oboe and the Peer Gynt Suite. Join us to enjoy our resulting concert ‘From Stage and Screen’ on Saturday 28 March at Arnewood School in New Milton.
A wonderful evening was enjoyed by all at All Saints' Church in Milford on Sea on Saturday night, with a truly special programme filled with festive favourites. We were thrilled to be joined once again by the very talented Total Voice Chamber Choir, and our fabulous audience also raised the roof singing along to our swinging medley of Christmas songs as Musical Director Ieuan displayed words up on the big screen for all to follow.
We were delighted to accompany two very talented soloists; singing Mozart's beautiful Exultate Jubilate was soprano Sally Prince, and our very own leader Alan Ford put down his violin to give a moving performance of Vaughan-William's Fantasia on Christmas Carols.
The orchestra were kept busy with the fast and furious Dance of the Tumblers by Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky's magical Nutcracker Suite. The evening ended with a very special - and rather unusual - piece, 'A Musicological Journey through the Twelve Days of Christmas' by Craig Courtney. Words to the traditional 'Twelve Days of Christmas' song are set over twelve pieces of music that take the listener on a journey through time and place, beginning with Gregorian Chant in 6th century Rome and finishing up with the Stars and Stripes Forever March in 19th century America. The orchestra and choir were thrilled to receive cheers and a standing ovation from an audience that seemed to enjoy the evening as much as we all did. Following the concert we received some wonderful emails including the below - feedback like the below means the world to us...
Thank you so much for a wonderful evening on Saturday... lovely singing and such a lively programme, particularly the 12 days of Christmas... the gentleman sitting next to Joan and me was chortling with delight... as were the party sitting behind us. Well done and many thanks... the Orchestra goes from strength to strength!
Thank you to all that joined us - and from all at the New Forest Orchestra, have a very merry Christmas!
Does your six or seven year old child or grandchild show musical promise? Perhaps a first violin could be a good birthday or Christmas present?
One of our members is offering a quarter sized 'Knight Academy Violin outfit' for sale, including a shoulder rest and case, all in excellent condition, for £25.00 (O.N.O.).
If you are interested please contact Lily on 01425 638296 or 07980424210.
We thoroughly enjoyed our open rehearsal on Saturday -from Tschaikowsky's Nutcracker suite to Christmas medleys and Gould's Pavanne, we certainly covered a wide range of music! A huge thank you to all of the new (and current!) players that joined us for the fun.
If you missed our open rehearsal but are thinking about joining an orchestra, it isn't too late - new players are always welcome to come along to one of our Wednesday evening rehearsals to try us out for size. Please get in touch and we'll look forward to meeting you soon!
On Sunday we had the pleasure of playing at the wonderful Milford on Sea Music and Arts Festival. We've played at Milford Festival many times over the years, drawn back by the upbeat atmosphere, talented performers and friendly crowds. This year was no exception, a similarly brilliant event in a wonderful village and one we are proud to be part of.
With this year marking 50 years since the first moon landing, our programme featured numerous moon-related works, opening with Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra (also known as the opening to 2001: Space Odyssey) and including Moon River with a rousing audience sing-along and Rusalka’s Song to the Moon with talented soprano Sally Prince. The second half of the performance featured two orchestral favourites - Mendelssohn’s Hebrides and Smetana’s Vltava.
A slide show playing above the orchestra added to the excitement, with beautiful shots of the moon, song lyrics and images relating to Hebrides and Vltava. The slides are available to download below:
This recent article in the Guardian caught our attention... 'It's never too late to terrify yourself by playing music badly in front of strangers'. Here at the NFO, we couldn't agree more.
Whilst we hope that as a group we manage to play well in front of strangers, it's true that returning to an instrument after a break or taking your playing from private to public can be a daunting prospect, and we have all made mistakes at one time or another. But, as the article says "what’s the point of playing an instrument if no one ever hears you?"
There are so many reasons to join an orchestra - we listed just eight of them in a previous post - and with a supportive group like the New Forest Orchestra you'll be glad you did!
If you’d like to join us we'd love to hear from you, please get in touch and come along to a rehearsal soon!
One of Beethoven’s best loved works, the Pastoral Symphony transports us to the Viennese countryside through hypnotic spirals of time and pattern, joyful motifs and sheer intensity. NFO Chair and Leader, Alan Ford, shares his view to help us better understand this majestic work.
“The Symphony is unusual in that Beethoven rarely wrote programmatic (descriptive) works. Beethoven himself however said “the music is more an expression of feeling than painting”. The movements are as follows:
1. Awakening of cheerful feelings on arrival in the countryside
2. Scene by the Brook
3. Merry gathering of country folk
4. Thunder, Storm
5. Shepherd's song. Cheerful and thankful feelings after the storm
The Pastoral Symphony was composed by Beethoven in 1808 and given its first performance that year in Vienna with Beethoven himself conducting. Both the Pastoral and the Fifth Symphony, also composed that year, were included in a mammoth concert lasting four hours.
Beethoven used to walk in the countryside at Heligenstadt (then outside Vienna) enjoying the sights and sounds of nature but always carrying a notebook to jot down musical ideas.
The first movement in F major starts with a tune in the violins over a cello and bass drone. In the second movement, themes suggestive of the movement of water can definitely be discerned. In the coda towards the end of the movement there are birdcall motifs (nightingale, quail and cuckoo) played by woodwind instruments.
The remaining three movements follow each other without a break. The third movement in scherzo form depicts country folk revelling and dancing. It includes a parody of a village band playing.
Proceedings are interrupted by rumbles of thunder in the distance (cellos and basses), the first raindrops heard in violins and then an increasingly violent storm ensues. Eventually the clouds begin to break, the thunder fades into the distance and the melody from the first flute leads straight into the finale.
The main theme of the Shepherd’s Hymn introduced by the clarinet is taken up by the horns and finally realized fully by the first violins as it becomes a hymn of thanksgiving, which dominates the movement. Note the Shepherd’s pipe represented by the Flute. The movement and Symphony ends peacefully.”
NFO Chair and Leader – Alan Ford
New Forest Orchestra are performing Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony at St Thomas’ Church in Lymington at 7.30pm on Saturday 29 June. Tickets are available online and include an advance booking discount.
We have something special for you this week - our Musical Director Ieuan Davies shares his thoughts on J.S. Bach's Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor, a truly spectacular piece we're looking forward to sharing at our Summer Concert in Lymington on Saturday.
"This work (originally for organ) is one of Bach’s great achievements. It was composed some time between 1706 and 1713 when the composer was in his early twenties. Looking back to earlier models and the work of Bach’s teachers, it absorbs the old style into a fierce vision of the new, combining a tour-de-force of keyboard skills with audacious compositional experimentation.
In the winter of 1705, the twenty-year-old Bach was given leave of absence to travel north, on foot, to the city of Lübeck on the Baltic coast. He had sought permission from his employers at the church in Arnstadt in Thuringia to stay away for four weeks, “to learn one thing and another about his art”. He didn’t return for four months, thus missing many important services. Despite this, the church authorities did not see fit to sack him. The teacher he went to visit and study with was the venerable Dieterich Buxtehude (circa 1637-1707) whose organ works represent a central part of the standard organist’s repertoire and are still frequently performed at recitals and in church services.
In the mid baroque period one of the most famous styles of organ display was that of the Passacaglia. Originally a Spanish dance in 3/4 time, a Passacaglia is built on a repeating bass line or ostinato, over which a series of variations appear in the upper voices. In principle it’s one of the simplest approaches to music-making, one that crosses all kinds of traditions, from folk to jazz and beyond: to keep the bass-line going and do something different above each repetition of the pattern.
Bach returned Arnstadt with several choice examples of these works; indeed, those that remain from Buxtehude survive mainly because of Bach’s efforts. The earliest source is found alongside Buxtehude’s music in a collection of music copied by Bach’s brother Andreas, who, for some inexplicable reason, turned the book 180 degrees to write in the Passacaglia. Perhaps, with that act, he was expressing a truth: that a great work turns the world upside down. Not only is the music notated upside down, but the principles of its construction are also inverted
This C minor Passacaglia and Fugue is longer and more complex than its predecessors. It’s theme first appears alone in the bass, a new way to begin such a work, and is both simple and challenging. The ostinato defined by the opening bass line, but it as if the old form cannot hold the imagination of the young composer. It breaks free, migrating up through the texture before being absorbed into virtuosic scales and broken chords. It becomes veiled yet still audible as it escapes its anchoring role to be dispersed across the voices and then to vanish off the very top of the keyboard into momentary silence."
By Ieuan Davies, Musical Director
New Forest Orchestra will perform Bach's Passacaglia and Fugue in their Summer Concert at St Thomas' Church, Lymington, at 19.30 on Saturday 29 June. Tickets are available online now with an advance booking discount.
With just under three weeks to go until our summer concert, we’re taking a closer look at the charming Capriol Suite, by the British composer Peter Warlock.
This suite was originally composed in 1926 for Piano Duet and later orchestrated for string orchestra and full orchestra. The pieces are loosely based on a set of dances in a book published in 1588 by the French composer Thoinot Arbeau. This name was in fact an anagram of the name of a Canon at Langres Cathedral who found it expedient to publish a secular work under a nom-de-plume.
Warlock’s Capriol Suite consists of six contrasting movements:
Basse Danse: a lively dance in which the feet glide over the floor. Warlock uses three of Arbeau’s tunes, each orchestrated differently.
Pavane: a more stately dance.
Tordion: similar to the Basse danse in mood, but faster.
Bransles: originally a country dance, taken up by the gentry. Warlock uses five of Arbeau’s tunes here, building in speed and excitement to a frenzy.
Pieds-en-l’Air: the distinguishing feature of this dance is that the feet should move so gently that they barely touch the floor. This is the most lyrical movement, providing calm before the finale.
Mattachins: a sword dance. This exhilarating movement is march-like and concludes with dramatic discordant clashes!
In a interesting parallel with his French predecessor, ‘Peter Warlock’ is in fact a pseudonym used by Philip Arnold Heseltine, under which he published all of his compositions. The Warlock name was chosen to reflect his interest in the occult.
Born in London in 1894 to a wealthy family, Heseltine had a fascinating life. He studied at Eton, a place he is recorded to have ‘loathed’. He found comfort in music and developed a passion for the music of composer Frederick Delius, almost to the point of obsession. He was introduced to and became friends with the older man, who lived in France, near to Heseltine’s uncle. Delius became the first strong formative influence of Heseltine’s career as a composer.
Heseltine had a limited formal musical education and worked as a music critic and journalist for some years before turning more to composing. He became friends with composers such as Bartok, E J Moeran, Walton, and Constant Lambert.
His extremely bohemian lifestyle in the late 1920s was followed by a period of depression and he died of coal-gas poisoning in 1930 at the age of 36, most likely by suicide. The art critic Brian Sewell (born in 1931, seven months after Heseltine’s death) revealed in 2011 that he was the illegitimate son of Philip Heseltine.
Peter Warlock’s legacy includes around 150 songs, many for voice and piano. He also wrote choral pieces, some with instrumental or orchestral accompaniment, and a few purely instrumental works. His Capriol Suite is one of his most well-known and loved pieces.
New Forest Orchestra will be performing Warlock's Capriol Suite and other pieces at their concert in Lymington on Saturday 29 June. Tickets are available online now.
There are so many good reasons to join an orchestra we hardly know where to begin. Here are just eight of them...
1. To improve your playing.
There’s nothing like tackling new material with other musicians to improve all aspects of your playing. That first step can be nerve wracking, but it is worth taking!
2. To meet new people and make new friends.
We’re a diverse group here at the NFO – all ages covered, all of us doing different things with the rest of our weeks – all of us having fun playing music together and doing something we love. It makes for some enjoyable conversations during the tea break!
3. To relax and have fun
There’s nothing like playing music to switch your mind off any worries as you concentrate on the notes - and nothing like the satisfaction from a piece played well!
And did we mention there’s a tea break halfway through rehearsals? With biscuits?
4. To discover new music...
5. ...and to rediscover ‘old’ music
We have a wide repertoire at the NFO and have worked on some lesser known pieces – Gurney’s beautiful War Elegy from our last term comes to mind, a moving piece that most of us in both the orchestra and audience wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. This term we are playing Beethoven’s Pastoral symphony, and rediscovering an old favourite like this brings a deeper appreciation when listening to it.
6. To inspire others
We love sharing our music with audiences around the New Forest, some of whom will hear pieces they hadn’t heard before, some may even consider taking up an instrument or revisiting one.
7. For the health benefits
Playing an instrument is a wonderful cognitive workout, whatever your age. Research shows it also lowers blood pressure and reduces the levels of cortisol in the body, in turn reducing stress – all a welcome bonus.
8. To escape the day-to-day
For lots of us, Wednesday evenings in rehearsals offer something very different to the rest of our weeks. Shaking up the routine to escape the office/the family/the housework and to be immersed in wonderful music for a couple of hours can have a truly rejuvenating effect.
If you’d like to join us we'd love to hear from you, please get in touch and come along to a rehearsal soon!