I’ve spent some time reflecting on my wonderful visit to Lárisa for the Sixth Greek Saxophone Festival. What an amazing and inspirational experience.
Arriving at a beautiful city, staying in a luxurious hotel, and enjoying a welcoming dinner with the organisers was a great start. What I didn’t expect was the sense of togetherness, support, enthusiasm, excitement, and a sharing of ideas that I would experience over the next couple of days.
There were five levels of competition resulting in frantic last minute practising by children and adults of all ages getting ready for their chance on stage. The competitions are set by level of playing, not age, which opens up the opportunity for all amateur players to challenge themselves and take part.
Practically every saxophone teacher from all areas of Greece attend the event, supporting their students. It is a real hive of activity, with set works at all levels and a chance to play with a pianist. It is a fantastic opportunity for all students to aim high and perform as well as they can.
The event has been held in several different cities over the years; the organisers are keen to reflect that this is an event for the whole of Greece and its saxophone community. But the city of Lárisa clearly enjoys hosting the event - on the Saturday evening there was an outdoor ‘Battle of the Bands’ competition. It was warm enough (even though it was still the end of March) for everyone to be outside enjoying the live music, with a healthy dose of competition sprinkled on top!
I thoroughly enjoyed performing in the ‘International Special Guests’ concert. Working with Greek pianist, Stefanos Ntinapogias
was a delight - putting together Nigel Wood’s Man-Mou
with a couple of short rehearsals is no mean feat! I also played Glass
by Graham Fitkin, Trilog
by Philppe Geiss, and Estudio Tongolele
by Gabriela Ortiz. Estudio Tongolele
is from a collection of seven characteristic pieces for solo alto or soprano: ‘Saxiana Presto’
, edited by Nicolas Prost and published by Gérard Billaudot. Mimmo Malandra
from Italy, and Nino Dimov
from Macedonia also performed in this concert.
I had the privilege of working with the students in two workshop sessions. Rarely have I worked with such engaged students, all trying out the techniques I showed them with energy and commitment. I used two compositions by Kenneth Wilkinson
to illustrate breathing and support ideas; Fragile Dyads
uses multiphonics, and Clockwork
is an extremely delicate piece. Both sessions ended with a performance of these works - a tribute to the students’ focus after only an hour’s workshop session!
One of the highlights for me was listening to the Greek saxophonists perform in their concert. The sense of camaraderie, friendship, and enthusiasm for playing was clear. They were playing for each other and for their students. They were showing what they loved to play, sharing new repertoire they had discovered in the last year, and collaborating together. From a quartet made up of a teacher and his students, to trios, duos, solos, a beat box baritone saxophonist, and finally an improvised work using loop pedal and involving anyone who wanted to join in.
Thank you to Stathis
, and the Greek Saxophone Association
for inviting me to be a part of this wonderful festival. It was a coming together of the Greek saxophone community, and the positive energy was inspiring. Finally, many thanks to Yamaha
for helping to make my visit there possible. I know I will be back to that beautiful country very soon - you won’t be able to keep me away!