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Blog - December 2018

A Christmas Puzzle

It is tradition for SCWB to go into winter hibernation once the Christmas concert and carols are done, but not this year... this year we had another festive activity before we had earned the turkey! Our composer Rob joined us for an additional rehearsal with some developed sketches of his work titled 'Puzzle'. A big challenge for our group is to adapt to the contemporary style of music so perhaps Rob's title is appropriate.

The first piece we picked up was a simple scale, starting on different notes throughout the band, changing dynamics and tempo according to pitch to see what fits and what does not fit with Rob's ideas. For him, it was important to see whether what he had written on paper was going to possible for us as a band. For us it was lots of fun doing things we do not often have the licence to do. Some found it strange, others quite enjoyed playing their individual interpretation to tempo and rhythm without disapproving looks from the band or conductor!

After our meeting with Rob in October, we suggested that it would be interesting to explore some of the unusual sounds that our instruments can make. The brass instruments for example have a whole host of pitch bending and mute options which might fit into our Jigsaw. The remainder of the practice we were led through Rob's work by our conductor Calum and look forward to seeing the completed work in the spring time.

The rehearsal done, we took the chance to have a social in the hall with a wide range of cakes, mince pies and various mulled beverages. The saxophone section (as it often does - whether the band likes it or not) took it upon themselves to provide entertainment in the form of a critically acclaimed performance of Cinderella and a sax quartet version of Pirates of the Caribbean - our composer Rob was roped in to playing alto!

Happy new year from all at SCWB!


Blog - November 2018

It is now a few months since Southampton Concert Wind Band were paired wth Robert Laidlow in the 'Adopt a Composer' scheme, and though much has happened, we are behind in our update blogs!

The band first met Robert in October. SCWB were in a pre-performance rehearsal at Turner Sims in Southampton when Robert and his mentor, Fraser Trainer, popped down to meet us and to catch as much of the concert as their trains home allowed. In this concert, we had a guest alto saxophonist, Gerard McChrystal, who Fraser had worked with in the past, so as well as new introductions, there was much catching up done too!

That first meeting made it clear to us that Robert was keen to hear how we perform and the repertoire we include in concert. It is seen to be an important part of the pairings, such that the new composition reflects both the composer and the band that will perform the piece. We were flattered to hear how impressed Robert was with the range of styles we included in our programme that night.

Fast forward to the end of October, and Robert and Fraser came down to Southampton for a specially arranged rehearsal evening with us, to try some of Robert's musical sketches. Both very modern in their form, the band were not only keen to understand the pieces and how they should be approached, but also rose to the challenge of suggesting what other aspects of music making might be included while the substantive work is being developed. Use of extended techniques, periods of free music, wider percussion inclusion - these were all shouted out by a quite energised band, clearly realising that here was an opportunity to take their music making to a place they have either feared to previously ask for, or dared to tread.

No doubt the months ahead will be challenging, as ideas are passed back and forth in the creative process, but the band is deeply committed to fulfilling its joint responsibility of playing a composition as it was written to be played, while entertaining our audience in its execution.


Blog - October 2018

SCWB are thrilled to have been selected to be one of only two wind orchestras in the country to be paired with an up and coming composer to create a new piece of music. The band has been chosen by Making Music UK, which is the UK's number one organisation for leisure-time music.


MD Calum Gray (right) and band member George Belfield (left) with composer Robert Laidlow (centre)

The band will be working with composer Robert Laidlow, who we met for the first time before our recent concert at Turner Sims Concert Hall, along with Robert's mentor Fraser Trainer. Robert will be in constant contact with the band and a frequent visitor to Southampton, collaborating towards his new composition which will be premiered at the newly renovated Chapel of Royal Victoria Country Park on 18th May 2019. The performance will be recorded for subsequent broadcast by Radio 3.

Work started when Robert spent some time in rehearsal with the band on 30th October and he will be visiting again in December. In the meantime, read the first of his blogs here.


Robert Laidlow (centre) and Fraser Trainer (right) meeting the band at Turner Sims