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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I have been invited to perform an arrangement of the Glazunov Concerto for Saxophone for soloist and woodwind orchestra, conducted by Shea Lolin. Shea is the music director of the Bloomsbury Woodwind Ensemble, City Wind Orchestra and the East London Clarinet Choir. He has conducted several world premieres, having secured funding from all the major awarding bodies. He is also the artistic director of the ‘Woodwind Orchestra Play Day’ hosted at premiere venues throughout the country, providing amateur musicians with valuable playing opportunities.
I'll be performing the Glazunov with the Bloomsbury Woodwind Ensemble on Saturday 12th May 2018, 7:30 pm, at St James's Church, Paddington W2 3UD. This will be part of a concert titled 'Russian Fire', "a dramatic, eloquent and powerful concert of Russian scores". Here's a link to the details.
Stathis Mavrommatis, the president of the Greek Saxophone Association, has invited me to be an honoured guest of the 6th Greek Saxophone Convention. I'll be giving a performance, masterclass and on the jury of the saxophone competition. The details are here, it is all in Greek! Thank you Yamaha for your sponsorship.
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