I feel very lucky to be starting 2023 relaxed and in practise. I took some time at the end of 2022 to rest and recuperate after a busy few months of performing and teaching. I enjoyed getting back to basics with my scales and exploring repertoire plans for the new year.
Over the past year I have increasingly been using my tablet when reading music; when I buy a piece of music I try if possible to get a digitised copy. I prefer having all my repertoire, studies, and technique books to hand when I’m both practising and teaching. This is my way of staying focussed as I can choose to work on the most appropriate technical aspects of my playing for the day. It’s much easier to see (age I’m afraid…) using a lit screen and the ability to zoom in to a page. I do have to turn the pages more often (especially in landscape mode), made easier by using a bluetooth foot-pedal. Gone are the days of struggling to read the notes and the excuses when I make a mistake!
In February the Quirk Saxophone Quartet will be bringing our eclectic sound to the newly transformed performance space at All Saints Church in Netherthong near Holmfirth. We have created a joyful mix of music, including works by Ravel, Mendelssohn, Bob Mintzer, Philippe Geiss and our own Chris Jolly. The challenge when working with my Quirk colleagues is matching our sounds as we change from classical to jazz to funk.
I’ve just changed my soprano jazz mouthpiece: I am now playing on a Vandoren V16 number 6 opening, rather than my previous V16 with an 8 opening. The smaller mouthpiece chamber of the 6 enables me to produce the sound I want with the control I need. This concert precedes our planned recording session in April. We’ll be recording Chris Jolly’s quartet Smudge amongst a few other works.
In March I celebrate the tenth year of my annual Saxophone Day. On Sunday 5th March I will be hosting a Play-Day in the beautiful St. Paul’s Hall at the University of Huddersfield. There will be four different playing sessions, each with their own music to explore. The sessions will be led by myself, Chris Jolly, Richard Ingham, and Rob Ironside. You can find out more here.
April sees my return to Greece for the inspiring International Greek Saxophone Festival. I will be giving a recital, running a workshop, and also be a jury member for the saxophone competition. I have decided my programme and I am looking forward to sharing my music with the students and teachers of the Greek saxophone community. It’s always an absolute pleasure to see and hear my friends at the festival.
I’m very happy to announce the recipients of my Markham Awards for 2022.
This is the tenth year of my Sarah Markham Saxophone Award which I started in 2013 to recognise the achievements of my outstanding graduating students. As I come to the end of academic year I enjoy reflecting on all that my students have achieved and what their future plans are.
When my dad died in 2018 I wanted to do something to honour him and so I established the Ralph Markham Achievement Award. My father was a teacher and he always encouraged his students, my brother, and me, to find our own way in life and to carve a path that was right for us. This award reflects that, and recognises students who have achieved great personal success and development in their saxophone playing.
Students from Leeds Conservatoire, the Royal College of Music Junior Department, and the universities of Durham, Huddersfield, Sheffield, and York have all received awards over the last ten years, and I am delighted to have been able to celebrate the success of my students from all those institutions.
The 2022 recipient of the Sarah Markham Saxophone Award is Rosemary Ball. Rosemary has studied saxophone with me at the Royal College of Music Junior Department since 2018. When she first arrived at the Junior Department, Rosemary was a first study composer and self taught saxophonist, having only played the saxophone for a couple of years (Rosemary is also an accomplished trumpet player). Rosemary and I embarked on a journey, with Rosemary re-auditioning a year later to become a first study saxophonist. It was clear Rosemary had a natural affinity with the saxophone, and it has been a joy to guide her through the first part of her learning these past four years. Rosemary’s many recent successes include: reaching the final of the RCMJD Peter Morrison Concerto competition (playing Dubois Saxophone Concerto), winner of the RCMJD Gordon Turner competition (playing Debussy Syrinx and Yoshimatsu Fuzzy Bird Sonata), and winning the top category competition at the International Greek Saxophone Festival (playing Boutry Divertimento). Rosemary continues her studies with a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in September 2022.
The 2022 recipient of the Ralph Markham Achievement Award is Lucy Havelock. Lucy has studied with me at the University of York since 2019, and her love of saxophone playing has seen her work on many core works in the classical saxophone repertoire, as well as contemporary music. From the start of her degree in 2019 Lucy would volunteer to perform whenever an opportunity arose; this inspired her love of contemporary music and free improvisation. When Covid forced Lucy to work alone she bought herself a loop pedal and began experimenting with sounds and audio layering. Lucy made many recordings and ensured that she was able to continue performing, albeit in a different way. She commissioned and premiered several new works for solo saxophone and also for saxophone and loop pedal. Lucy was the president of Chimera, the University of York’s contemporary music group. In continuing to develop both her playing and her love of music administration she is looking forward to starting a postgraduate course in Europe.
Rosemary and Lucy share a love of music and performance. Both of them are open to the exploration of all genres of music, and they work hard to create opportunities to perform and connect with other musicians. I am very proud of all that they have achieved.
Rosemary and Lucy receive a cash award from me, reeds of their choice from Vandoren, a Venova (a ‘casual’ wind instrument with the range of a recorder using a saxophone mouthpiece) from Yamaha, and a work of their choice from the Saxtet Publications catalogue. I am grateful to Vandoren, Yamaha, and Saxtet Publications for their support of my awards.
It’s the time of year when I announce the recipients of my Markham awards.
I established the Sarah Markham Saxophone Award in 2013 to recognise the achievements of my outstanding graduating students; five years later I established the Ralph Markham Achievement Award in my late father’s name to recognise students who had achieved great personal success and development in their saxophone playing.
Students from Leeds Conservatoire, the Royal College of Music Junior Department, and the universities of Durham, Huddersfield and Sheffield have all received awards over the last eight years, and I am delighted to have been able to celebrate the success of my students from all those institutions.
The Sarah Markham Saxophone Award 2021 for outstanding graduating student is awarded to Matthew Bartlett. Matt has just completed his degree at Durham University. For the first eighteen months of his degree Matt would regularly travel to have lessons with me, the remaining time has been studying remotely with a combination of zoom lessons and shared recordings. Because of the restrictions I was not able to attend Matt’s final recital, but I was able to watch him in his final sound check. His final recital performance of Debussy’s Syrinx, Bonneau’s Pièce Concertante Dans L'Esprit Jazz, Fuzzy Bird Sonata by Yoshimatsu, Buku by Jacob TV and ending with a small jazz set with his friends forming a rhythm section showcased the versatility of Matt’s playing and the scope of his musical interests. Matt intends to take some time to continue to develop his playing and will spend some time in Canada over the next year.
The Ralph Markham Achievement Award 2021 for personal achievement and development is awarded to Will Gibbon. Will has just completed his studies at Leeds Conservatoire. Will spent four years at Leeds Conservatoire, beginning with a Foundation Year before embarking on the three year degree course where Will majored in classical saxophone with a minor in jazz. As well as studying with me as his classical saxophone teacher and playing in classical ensembles from duo to quartet, Will also studied jazz saxophone and played in numerous jazz and pop ensembles. Will is a talented drummer and many times would arrive to his saxophone lesson with his sticks because he had just come from a drumming session. For his final recitals Will performed in a jazz ensemble to fulfil his minor in jazz requirement; in his classical recital Will performed Ganba by Anne Boyd on baritone saxophone, Concerto for Stan Getz by Richard Rodney Bennett on tenor saxophone and Buku by Jacob TV on alto saxophone. Will has established himself in the Leeds music scene and is busy with session work on both saxophone and drums with an increasing number of live gigs now that restrictions are easing.
Both Matt and Will studied with me from the age of 16, Matt as a student at the Royal College of Music Junior Department and Will privately. It has been a joy to watch them both develop as people and musicians, and it is a source of great pride that both these musicians have recognised that good saxophone playing encompasses all genres of music.
Matt and Will receive a cash award from me, reeds of their choice from Vandoren, a Pianica (a three octave keyboard played like a wind instrument) from Yamaha, and a work of their choice from the Saxtet Publications catalogue. I am grateful to Vandoren, Yamaha, and Saxtet Publications for their support of my awards.
My annual Saxophone Day didn't take place as usual in March 2021, it would have been my eighth annual saxophone day. I have been waiting to see if it was feasible to put on some sort of live event, but it's not possible because of the pandemic and social distancing. Instead, I have organised an online event, consisting of three sessions: a recital, a workshop, and a talk.
You can access the three sessions on my Saxophone Day page. There will be three videos, going live at 1:00 pm, 2:00 pm and 3:00 pm on Sunday 27th June. The videos will be available for a period of seven days.
My recital will take place in St Paul's Hall at the University of Huddersfield. I'm looking forward to performing music in a large space; I've had a strong connection to these works over the last year. One of the few positive aspects of being in 'lockdown' is that I (along with many of you), have been nudged to explore avenues that I wouldn't normally have the time to do so. Instead of performing with my pianist, or my ensembles, I have focused more on solo saxophone repertoire.
I've enjoyed playing The Four Elements by Victor Herbiet: it's composed by a saxophonist, and he clearly understands how to make the saxophone depict the elements Earth, Water, Wind and Fire in this programmatic solo work. Over the last few months I have heard one of my students, and an ensemble at Leeds Conservatoire play Syrinx by Debussy. This reminded me of the numerous times I've performed Syrinx over the decades, and so I decided to revisit this piece in this recital.
I love the music of Bach. I wanted to include Bach in this recital. I've chosen the Cello Suite No.1, because again, this is a piece I have played many times over the years. I haven't played it recently as the last time it was at my father's funeral; I'm ready to approach it again now and I'm looking forward to performing it on the baritone saxophone.
I also wanted to acknowledge my previous saxophone days in this online event. I'll be playing Trilog by Philippe Geiss, who was my guest at the University of Huddersfield Saxophone Day in 2016, Mrs Malcolm by Richard Ingham (my guest in 2018) and Solstice by Charlotte Harding, who was my guest last year in March 2020, just a week or so before lockdown.
In November I worked with saxophonists online in a workshop that I created called Faster, Longer, Higher, Louder. The aim of the workshop was to explore how a performer might develop techniques, and reinforce basic concepts, in order to develop confidence in their playing. I'm happy to share this workshop with you on the 27th June.
The online event will finish with a conversation with Jérôme Laran, exploring what we have learnt from this difficult period, and how we might start to return to a more usual music world. Jérôme is an internationally renowned saxophonist based in Paris, we have worked together many times and I value his opinions and expertise very highly. He was my very first guest at my annual Saxophone Day in 2014.
I am very excited to share with you Quirk’s latest recording: Nine Pieces for Five Players. The album contains nine original compositions by Richard Ingham. The Quirk Saxophone Quartet (soprano Sarah Markham, alto Kenneth Wilkinson, tenor Chris Jolly, baritone Sarah Hind) were joined by Richard on soprano saxophone to record the pieces.
Nine Pieces for Five Players was originally commissioned by and written for the Plume Wind Quintet. When I asked Richard if he would write something for saxophone quintet, he decided to rework these pieces for two sopranos, alto, tenor, and baritone saxophone.
Several of the movements were performed in Zagreb at the World Saxophone Congress. We were very excited about the blend of sound created with the quintet of saxophones, which prompted Richard to arrange the rest of the movements. Each movement is very different, and the whole album incorporates many musical styles. Five of the movements feature a member of the ensemble as a soloist with the others accompanying.
There is jazz, latin, funk, folk, as well as contemporary classical influence throughout the album.
View the launch video on the Quirk Music website.
The academic year is coming to a close and it’s time for me to announce the recipients of my Markham Awards for 2020.
In 2013 I decided to recognise the achievements of my outstanding graduating students and created the annual Sarah Markham Saxophone Award. Later, in 2018, I established the Ralph Markham Achievement Award in my late father’s name to recognise students who had achieved great personal success and development in their saxophone playing.
Students from Leeds College of Music, the Royal College of Music Junior Department, and the universities of Durham, Huddersfield and Sheffield have all received awards, and I am delighted to have been able to celebrate the success of my students from all those institutions.
This year both of my award winners hail from the Royal College of Music Junior Department.
The Sarah Markham Saxophone Award for outstanding graduating student is awarded to Jasmine Brown. Jasmine has studied with me for six years. I’m very proud of Jasmine; as well as being a talented student she is also my goddaughter. I am grateful to Jasmine’s parents, Katie and Steve, for encouraging Jasmine to attend the RCM Junior Department to enable her to study with me. Jasmine has a scholarship to begin her studies at the Royal Northern College of Music in September.
The Ralph Markham Achievement Award for personal achievement and development is awarded to Rosemary Ball. Rosemary has been attending the RCM Junior Department for nearly two years. She arrived as a first-study composer, second-study trumpeter, and third-study saxophonist, having had only a handful of lessons prior to starting studying with me.
Rosemary has shown remarkable achievements in the last year. Having passed her grade 7 with distinction at the end of 2019, Rosemary decided against working towards grade 8, preferring to delve into more modern music and aspects of technique. Rosemary is now performing works such as Yoshimatsu’s Fuzzy Bird and Lauba’s Balafon, repertoire that would challenge many final year degree students. I’m happy to report that Rosemary is now a first-study saxophonist at the Junior Department and I am looking forward to working with her for another two years.
Both Jasmine and Rosemary receive a cash award from me, reeds of their choice from Vandoren, a voucher for the Yamaha London Store, and a work of their choice from the Saxtet Publications catalogue. I am grateful to Vandoren, Yamaha, and Saxtet for their support of my awards.
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.
Sarah is a Yamaha and Vandoren performing artist.
Sarah Markham's teaching practice welcomes students of all ages and abilities. Focuses include preparing students for music college, and helping amateur musicians get the most from their playing. Sarah is a specialist in helping students with performance anxiety issues.
The Quirk Duo is saxophonists Sarah Markham and Kenneth Wilkinson. Between them they have a performing career spanning sixty years, enjoying many genres including solo recitals, opera, orchestral, jazz, pop and chamber music. The Quirk Duo is a distillation of those experiences, an exploration of possibilities.
The.Quirk Saxophone Quartet is made up of like-minded saxophonists:
Sarah Markham - soprano
Kenneth Wilkinson - alto
Chris Jolly - tenor
Sarah Hind - baritone