2018-19 was a really busy year.
I returned to Greece to play at the International Greek Saxophone Festival in Larisa, this time with my quartet; Quirk, in duo with Kenneth Wilkinson, and also as a soloist. Being with the Greek saxophone community and enjoying the festival is very inspiring: I’m excited to have been invited back in 2020.
I had an exciting weekend performing Ibert’s Concertino da Camera with the London Sylvan Ensemble, a group of amazingly talented and committed musicians. The next day I joined Paul Turner at the Swindon Recital Series 25th Anniversary Concert to perform Walton’s Façade with the MORE ensemble. It was interesting to be a ‘soloist diva’ on the Saturday night and switch to working within an ensemble on the Sunday afternoon. http://www.classicalsource.com/db_control/db_conce...
I invited ensembles to be the focus of my Sixth Annual Saxophone Day at the University of Huddersfield. I welcomed Equinox, Yorkshire Saxophone Choir, and my saxophone student alumni to join me and Quirk. Only a few days later, at the Sounds Like THIS Festival in Leeds I was a soloist again, sharing the billing with inspirational contemporary violinist Aisha Orazbayeva.
There’s also been a lot of travelling. I took my partner Kenneth to Amherst Massachusetts to show him where I studied for two years during my masters degree in performance at UMass. We stayed with Professor Emeritus Lynn Klock, my former teacher. Hanging out with Lynn was great - we did our scales together bringing back student memories! We went to visit the UMass saxophone studio, now in the very capable and gentle hands of Jonathan Hulting-Cohen.
There’s lots more that I won’t bore you with; a wonderful trip to Barcelona with my partner and mum enjoying the works of Gaudí, a recording in the highlands of Scotland with Quirk…
It’s odd that my dad hasn’t been around to see what I’ve been up to.
It’s almost a year since my dad died and I’ll be travelling with my mum to France where I last spent time with him. It’s not planned, as a family we don’t do grand gestures of mourning, but I am glad circumstances mean that I’ll be back in Trédion for a day or two to remember him.
My academic year is almost over and I've been spending some time reflecting on the year and planning my saxophone awards. This is the seventh year I have made an award to a graduating student; I'm very proud of all my students and, although I enjoy giving special mention to some, all my teaching is rewarding. The new Ralph Markham award, created in memory of my dad is particularly special. He was a great support to me, my brother, and the students that he taught. We did not have to be the best, but he helped us to find our own path, be independent, and do what was right for us. I have many students who work hard and have an exciting future ahead of them in music as performers and also as peripatetic woodwind teachers or community leaders. I enjoy encouraging them to find their own voice, just like my dad did.
Rianna Henriques is the 2019 recipient of my Sarah Markham Saxophone Award. Rianna has been studying with me at the Royal College of Music Junior Department since 2015. Rianna is an outstanding musician, performing successfully on both saxophone and flute. As well as my award, Rianna has also been awarded the junior department’s Sally Wainwright Woodwind Prize 2019. From September Rianna enters the senior department of the Royal College of Music as a BAME scholar, studying saxophone and flute as joint first study.
Last year I established The Ralph Markham Achievement Award in honour of my father’s life and the endless support he gave me during my musical career. The 2019 recipient is Megan Broadley. Megan has just completed her second year at the University of Huddersfield studying flute, also taking saxophone lessons with me. She is a key member of the University of Huddersfield Saxophone Ensemble. Megan studies privately with me alongside her regular university studies and will this month take her ABRSM diploma. Megan has earned this achievement award in recognition of her independent study, consistent work and huge improvements to her playing in a relatively short space of time.
Both Rianna and Megan receive a cash award from me, reeds of their choice from Vandoren, a voucher from the Yamaha London shop, and a piece of solo saxophone music from Saxtet Publications.
I am delighted to announce that Konstantinos Raptis is the 2018 recipient of my Sarah Markham Saxophone Award.
Kostas has recently completed his Masters in Music (Creative Musician) at Leeds College of Music, having previously studied as an undergraduate with me at the University of Hull. Kostas is an exciting player, combining a knowledge of classical saxophone, production skills and maintaining the musical influences of his home country: Greece.
My father, Ralph, died in September 2018. In honour of his life and the endless support he gave me during my musical career, I am establishing an award in his name: The Ralph Markham Achievement Award.
I am very happy that Pui Ying Sze (known as Joanna) is the first recipient of the Ralph Markham Achievement Award. Joanna has recently completed her Masters in Music Performance at the University of Sheffield with me. Originally from Hong Kong, Joanna has decided to stay in the UK to further her saxophone studies, and has just begun a one year advanced diploma at Trinity Laban Conservatoire. Joanna’s dedication to her playing, her hard work during her Masters, and her energy and enthusiasm for all her new experiences in the UK make her a perfect recipient for this new award.
I’ve spent some time reflecting on my wonderful visit to Lárisa for the Sixth Greek Saxophone Festival. What an amazing and inspirational experience.
We’ve just arrived in Larissa ready for the annual saxophone festival that begins tomorrow in the conservatory of music. We arrived in Greece a couple of days ago and have spent an amazing couple of days discovering Athens.
The new Acropolis museum is fantastic, designed to mimic the proportions of the Parthenon. The manager of the hotel we stayed at recommended we visit the museum first and then walk around the site which was a great idea. We were able to imagine what it would have looked like when it was built two and a half thousand years ago. Wandering around Athens we saw loads of street sellers, artists, and buskers playing all kinds of music including a jazz guitarist who played with great simplicity and amazing feel. We joined in a group photo after being beckoned by some incredibly happy people from Taiwan, only to slowly realise we might have accidentally joined some kind of Taiwanese sect! After promising to meet them the next day we hurriedly left...
Our host for the festival, Stathis Mavrommatis, was kind enough to drive us north from Athens to Larissa. The festival starts tomorrow and I’ll be adjudicating one of the saxophone competitions and also meeting my pianist and will have a chance to rehearse. On Sunday I’ll be giving a master class, and performing in a concert along with the other international guests, Nino Dimov and Mimmo Malandra. We will then form the jury of the highest level competition.
This annual festival sees the whole saxophone community from Greece getting together. I’m excited to see and hear what’s going on in this welcoming country.
Yesterday was a tough day for me. I really hated that for the first time in 15 years of teaching at the Royal College of Music Junior Department I was prevented from teaching because of the weather. A combination of icy roads in my area, and the East Coast mainline advising people not to travel made it the only sensible decision.
I don't like my students missing their regular lessons and had a bit of a brainwave. Sometimes when students can't meet me, I give a lesson using Skype or FaceTime. The sound quality is quite good over FaceTime and Skype and it is the next best thing to a regular lesson. From my home in Huddersfield I decided that this might work for the students at the Royal College of Music in London. Many of my students live close to London and did make it in, so I was delighted that I was able to give some of them Skype lessons yesterday. The salsa section of Catherine McMichael's Sapphire was transported to my music studio in Huddersfield effortlessly.
In a few days time I'll be back at the beautiful Knuston Hall in Northamptonshire working on the Saxophone Course for adult players with Kenneth Wilkinson and Sarah Hind. I look forward to teaching on this course every year, but I'm usually to be found there in August. We've taken on this course at rather short notice so there have been some late nights making sure we have everything ready for the course. Kenneth and Sarah will be there from Sunday, looking after 24 saxophonists playing in ensembles from trio and quartet through to octets and a mighty saxophone ensemble. I'm arriving later in the week as I have some other things to juggle, namely my son on half term holiday and my usual university teaching (it's nearly saxophone day!) There are a couple of workshops in the week too, Kenneth has written a great jazz tune for his, and I'll be talking about how to prepare for a concert with some top practising tips and also how to control those performance nerves.
I’ve been teaching at the Royal College of Music junior department today as usual, but unusually I’m staying in London for the weekend. That’s because one of my talented students, Teddy Humphrey, is performing a recital in the Elgar Room at the Royal Albert Hall tomorrow morning as part of the classical coffee morning concert series. Teddy is a former student of James Rae and he will be playing the Sonata James wrote for me and my pianist Paul Turner for my 40th birthday concert. Teddy will be joined by two of his fellow students, Matthew and Josephine as well as me to play Iturralde’s Suite Hellanique for saxophone quartet. Teddy will also be playing pieces by Demersseman and Jolivet, pieces that helped him win his place to study at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama later this year. Teddy also studies jazz saxophone at the RCM junior department with Mornington Lockett, and he’ll be playing a arrangement by Mornington of a Sonny Stitt tune.
It was great working with Teddy and his pianist, Tony earlier today. It’s going to be a fantastic concert in the morning. https://www.royalalberthall.com/tickets/events/2018/classical-coffee-mornings-teddy-humphrey/
I'm finalising details of my fifth annual saxophone day at the University of Huddersfield. All the details and the day's programme of events can be found here.
It's great to have Richard Ingham as my featured guest, he was my first specialist saxophone teacher. We've known each other since he began teaching me in 1987. We've worked together many times, including in the Northern Saxophone Quartet. We've performed many times as a duo, including performing Lauba's Ars at the World Saxophone Congress in Slovenia. The saxophone day will include a rare performance of Dialogue de l’Ombre Double (Boulez) by Richard, alongside Pete Stollery (sound diffusion). My saxophone quartet Quirk will also be performing, and helping run the workshops.
We have finally settled in our new home. The acoustic window for our music room was finished last week. We didn't want to annoy the neighbours, especially when we rehearse our saxophone duo, and so we came up with a brilliant idea. We got a double-glazing firm to make a window designed to keep traffic and airport noise out, but glaze it in reverse, so it bounces our noise in rather than keep external noise out. This was fitted on the inside of the window frame, with the original double-glazed window still in situ on the outside; so quadruple-glazing with acoustic laminate too. We've taken turns to stand outside the window while the other plays as loud and high as possible inside, you can hardly hear a saxophone! It's a great place to restart my private teaching practice.