Good news! I have a couple of spots available for private music tuition - more details at the bottom.
"Teaching is the greatest act of optimism." - Colleen Wilcox
I'm a sucker for a good quote and this one made me smile. As anyone who has taught will know, you've always got to be tremendously optimistic about the potential your students can achieve. And... it's always great when it pays off.
Every week I try to keep it real by teaching/tutoring/mentoring around town. It's always a mixed assortment of opportunities, over the last few months it's looked like this:
MAINZ, Central Auckland - I give an annual lecture on string arranging. This is really enjoyable as I get to share some of the arrangements I've worked on, and the students love analysing them and seeing what techniques they can use in their own work. This year the class seemed to have doubled in size, so that's a great sign for them.
UNITEC, Mount Albert - I've been taking most of the theory/musicianship classes for the Certificate in Music and Diploma in Contemporary Music courses so far this year. Really, really enjoyable. Awesome students who are eager to learn new things.
Michael Park School, Ellerslie - it's my second year there as an Auckland Philharmonia APOPS Composer Mentor. This is where I get allocated hours to go in and mentor some of their composers. These guys are heaps of fun.
St Mary's College, Ponsonby - I've been there for the first five weeks of this term working with the amazingly talented senior composition students. I've also got some Auckland Philharmonia APOPS hours there so we've got time through the rest of the year to develop some exciting projects.
Carmel College, Milford - I have a few hours here, working with the senior composers and arrangers. This is such a wicked little music department and they certainly achieve some impressive results.
Long Bay College, Torbay - I teach all of their senior composers and arrangers, a lively department with loads of good students doing great things.
Private - I also have several private students who either come to my studio or have lessons online. AND... I've got some spots available if you're interested in having lessons in either composition or music theory. I've got some info at NZ Music Teachers Online and you can contact me there or on my contact page.
Really hard to try and find an appropriate header image for this post. So I went with a little snippet from a Brian Ferneyhough work.
Epic. All I can say is, epic. This year as part of the Auckland Philharmonia education programme, a new initiative was their 'Bring It Together' day. This was where students from many of their partner schools, and of very different abilities, came together for a few hours to make music alongside APO musicians.
I was asked to write the arrangements and gosh it was hard work. For every instrument in the orchestra there needed to be three tiered parts to cater for the different abilities: beginner (up to grade 2); intermediate (grade 3-5); and advanced (grade 6+); plus a few additions like cornets, saxophones and baritones.
The programme was:
- Ode To Joy by Beethoven
- Happy Happy from Ren and Stimpy
- Tidal Fragments, a collaboration between Auckland schools
- March Slav by Tchaikovsky
The new piece, Tidal Fragments, was the APO's idea to create a piece from musical contributions 'inspired by the sea' from the participating schools. As I received them, seeing the different tempos, styles, keys, time signatures, timbres, etc, I wondered how I was going to bring them together. Eventually I decided to leave them in their existing state, and have an underlying 'seashore' idea which would tie everything together. Here's the programme note:
Tidal Fragments is made up of individual ideas from Auckland schools - all variations on the theme of water. These ideas have been elaborated and kept as very different ideas (even staying in their original keys) as they come and go throughout the piece - as if evoking different creatures in the water, different people coming and going on the coastline, or fishermen and yachtsmen going about their business. Tying all of these fragments together is an underlying ripple of waves on the coast as the tide moves from out to in.
Kind thanks to Mangere College, Rangitoto College, Avondale College, Baradene College of the Sacred Heart, James Cook High School, New Lynn School, Redoubt Normal School and Sancta Maria College for their contributions.
It's hard to know before you hear the first notes whether it'll be a success or a failure, but it all seemed to work tremendously well. Of course many observations to store away for next time, but everyone left with a smile on their face and I hope with their eyes open wider.
While conducting the wind band at the recent Bay of Plenty Music School I finally had the chance to test using digital scores. I’ve always been intrigued - have already blogged about it twice - but only with a new iPad have I had the chance of taking the full digital leap. Here are my thoughts... GETTING UNDERWAY
An iPad Air 2 sits, charged, ready for action. I already had some of the scores as PDFs which was a great start. Then I scanned the rest using Scanner Pro which kindly then drops the file into my Dropbox. Then in comes forScore - a sheet music reader app and the absolute hero of the equation - I import the files straight from Dropbox and then it’s all ready to go.
WHAT I LOVED
- Magnetic to stand - my iPad lives in an Apple Smart Case and to my surprise it latches itself to a metal stand so you can place it nice and high and it won’t fall off if knocked.
- Markings and highlights - I had loads of fun marking up my score, highlighting and bringing out the important info (see photo).
- Linking - okay, so we’ve got repeats and codas and so on - I set up links so you just click on the spot and it will take you there immediately. Fantastic.
- Metronome markings - not so much during the rehearsal, but while I was looking at a score in downtime, I really appreciated having the built-in metronome set on the tempos for each score.
- Setlist - once I knew the concert order I made a setlist and everything was there ready to go and flows from one score to the next. You can even remove title pages from each score so it’s just what you need.
- Plenty more features to explore in the future - you can bring up an onscreen piano to perhaps play a passage, you can click to record your ensemble playing, and much more.
WHAT I LEARNED
- No auto contrast - we rehearsed in a room with loads of natural light. During a massive climax in a piece the sun went behind a cloud, the room went dark and so did the screen on the iPad... couldn't see a thing. Lucky I knew the score, and I turned off the auto contrast after that.
- Battery life - to be honest, if the iPad isn’t on WIFI then that battery will last for ages. But, I took this for granted and late afternoon I needed an emergency trip back to the motel to pick up the charger.
- The screen size - I understand this will be an issue for some, but it really didn’t bother me. While it is obviously a little smaller than an A4 page, the clarity of the retina display made everything so clear and with the annotation, you can easily highlight what is important or write on the score in any colour of the rainbow. And of course with a quick gesture you can easily zoom in to more closely analyse a chord, rhythm or whatever.
WITH OTHER HATS ON
- As a composer/arranger and general creator of many (many!) scores, I used to print them constantly just to take to rehearsals for reference and to write on. I’d then look at the comments at home before putting it straight into the recycling. Not anymore… used digital scores at a recent rehearsal with the Auckland Philharmonia and it works a treat.
- As a teacher, having a variety of material available to students is important as well as having reference scores and so on. The close integration forScore has with Dropbox (or Google Drive or iCloud Drive) makes this usage even more trippy.
I thought there would be issues, but that the connivence of it would outweigh them. But, apart from those obvious things to consider with any digital device, it’s a dream. It's fast, effective, a little flash, and I think the best thing is that, as I briefly mentioned, I once printed excessive amounts of music at home - but now I print barely anything. Yay, save the planet! I'm a complete convert.
Have you got some little scallywags intrigued by music? And perhaps rainbows? You'd better get them along to the APO's latest concert for pre-schoolers, "Rainbow Connection". I've been working away at the arrangements and it's going to be a great show. Here's what this show is about:
The colours of the rainbow are so pretty in the sky! The Little Rainbow is especially lucky, because he can wear all of them at once. But one sad day the colours disappear and the Little Rainbow just cannot find them anywhere. He asks his friends, the Rainbow Sea Creature troupe and four APO musicians, who each have one colour, to come and help him…
These concerts are an entertaining sing-along, dance-along, conduct-along concert for children, 2 years and older, concluding with a walk through the orchestra to see and hear the instruments up close.
New arrangements I've done include:
- Row, Row, Row Your Boat (as a round for voice, audience and orchestra)
- Splish Splash (for voice and orchestra)
- The Rainbow Connection (for glockenspiel, voice and children's choir)
- Sing a Rainbow (for voice and orchestra)
- Over the Rainbow (for voice and orchestra)
- My Heart Will Go On (for french horn and strings)
Other works on the programme include:
- Vaughan Williams' Sea Songs
- Leroy Anderson's Plink, Plank, Plunk
- Brahms' Hungarian Dance No 5
- Saint-Saens' ‘The Swan’ from The Carnival of the Animals
- Sailor’s Hornpipe
Conducted by David Kay and presented by Kevin Keys, with special guest the North Shore Children's Choir.
10am & 11.30am, Saturday 11 April, Auckland Town Hall. $15. Tickets here.
Ahoy there me hearties!
Back in September I had the great pleasure of orchestrating five songs by Captain Festus McBoyle - the star of this weekend's four APO4Kids Christmas concerts.
On Wednesday it all came to life as the APO, conductor David Kay and all of the performers rehearsed and ran the show.
The Festus McBoyle tracks are:
- A Pirate's Life
- Bogey Bogey
- Hoist The Jolly Roger
- Sonia The Snake
- Walk The Plank
I also wrote two new arrangements of some classics to highlight some different instruments in the orchestra:
- O Tannenbaum (for solo bassoon and strings)
- Feliz Navidad (for solo tuba, singers and orchestra)
There are a few others on the programme too. It's sounding fantastic.
Captain Festus McBoyle and his pirate colleagues are stranded in Auckland just before Christmas. They have lots of songs to sing and stories to tell, but do they actually know what Christmas music sounds like? Let’s all dress up as pirates, polish our voices and give them a surprise! These interactive sing-along, dance-along, conduct-along concerts are for children age 2 – 5 and their families. And at the end, go for the famous walk through the orchestra as the musicians play and capture your costume on film with the pirate-themed photobooth provided by Voyager Maritime Museum.
Can life get much more fun than that? Not really, so gather your scallywags smartly, weigh anchor and set sail - I can guarantee there's a joke or two for the adults too.
All aboard. Magic carpets are passing now!
Ah yes, the lines for every Polkadots song still resonate in my head. In fact throughout the concert both my wife and I knew every word. I guess we had heard it hundreds of times at home as I worked on the arrangements.
Last Saturday was the first of the Polkadots "Magic Carpet" shows. It really was something quite special. While I've written a lot of arrangements - never a whole show for a pro orchestra with singing, dancing and narration.
I went to the rehearsal the day before the show hit the stage and only had a few minor tweaks to make before relaxing and enjoying the musicians put it together. They hired super-pro drummer Ron Samson, so he held it all together nicely and provided a great energy.
Then came concert day - two back-to-back performances at the Auckland Town Hall on Saturday 29th March. It was great to see the hall packed and so many young people having a great, great time! In fact, the APO musicians on stage looked as though they enjoy themselves too.
In a few weeks' time the show hits:
- Bruce Mason Centre, Takapuna - 23 April, 10am and 11:30am
- Vodafone Events Centre, Manukau - 24 April, 10am
Make sure you gather your little people, get along and enjoy!
Thanks to the Auckland Philharmonia, David Kay (conductor) and Robert Dill (director) for making this amazing show such a success. Stay tuned for similar shows...
Over the last few weeks I have been orchestrating and arranging the music of the Polkadots and writing some new material for their show, Magic Carpet Ride, with the Auckland Philharmonia in March. There are eight pieces in total for my contribution, each varies greatly in style from Caribbean, salsa, lullaby, Maori, ballad, storytelling, blues, and more - making it loads of fun to bring to life with the orchestra.
After transcribing each track into a piano/vocal reduction the fun began - unleashing the orchestra! Being a show for little people, the songs are often short, bold and simply structured so the challenge is to keep this while bringing in the massive presence of the orchestra, giving them some moments of their own, and giving the players material to get their teeth into.
I am in the closing days now, which is mainly just final touches to the orchestrations and part preparation to be done. Home straight!
I'm really looking forward to seeing the project come together and I hope to be at the rehearsals to see the magic carpet take off and the fine work of my friends Robert Dill (director) and David Kay (conductor).
MAGIC CARPET RIDE (event link here)
- Saturday 29th March 2014
- 10am and 11.30am
- Auckland Town Hall
- Adults/Senior: $15
- Child/Student: $15
And just like that, another year is coming to an end. Thanks so much to everyone who has supported me in some way this year - that may have been with work, with ideas or just with conversation.
It has been an incredible time of music making for me with many wonderful opportunities, inspiring people to work with and some stunning ensembles and musicians to bring the music to life. Some of these include:
Auckland Philharmonia, New Zealand Symphony, Auckland Symphony, Christchurch Symphony, Auckland Youth Orchestra, St Matthew's Chamber Orchestra, Manukau Concert Band, Victoria Kelly, Neil Finn, NZTrio and Horomona Horo, Tecwyn Evans, Michael Norris, Leonie Holmes, John Rowles, Ben Hoadley, Val Landi and Scott Hunt (USA), Bluebird Avenue, Fatcat & Fishface, Alexandros Pappas (Greece), Sideways Productions, Elizabeth Mandeno and David Kelly, the Polkadots, the KBB Music Festival and The Big Sing.
Next year is going to be a big year and absolutely business as usual so get in touch to get me involved with your projects - either as a music preparer, typesetter or editor, or as an arranger and orchestrator.
Over Christmas and New Year I'll be fishing and eating too much near here, chill-axing and probably still eating too much here, and then tramping and working off the Christmas food here. I'll be back working full-time on Monday 6th January, but feel free to get in touch over the break.
To leave you with some music, earlier this year I received the New Zealand Symphony recording of my original work, Rakaia. Auckland Symphony commissioned it in 2007, the NZSO workshopped it in 2008 and then this is their recording from 2010:
[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/5080029" params="color=ff6600&auto_play=false&show_artwork=false" width="100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]
Enjoy, and have an absolutely wonderful Christmas!
Over the last few weeks my Christmas arrangements have been popping up all over the place. The concert I'm most looking forward to is...
AUCKLAND SYMPHONY CHRISTMAS CONCERT
Tonight the Auckland Symphony Orchestra give their hugely popular and FREE Christmas concert at the Auckland Town Hall. The 90-strong orchestra team up with the Choir from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, along with combined Auckland church choirs, in this annual Christmas Celebration under the direction of Peter Thomas.
Each year I orchestrate a selection of the stunning choral arrangements by Niu Syddall and they also include some of my own arrangements.
This year they are:
- "Don't Save It All For Christmas Day"
- "Hark the Herald"
- "Silent Night"
- "The First Noel"
- "Who Would Imagine A King?"
The orchestra is also performing my arrangement of Snoopy's Christmas in their Sunday concert in Milford.
Last night's dress rehearsal sounding mightily impressive so get there if you can. Click here to find all of the details, be early, it fills up fast.
AUCKLAND PHILHARMONIA APO4KIDS XMAS
It was great to see my arrangements of "Little Drummer Boy", "Snoopy's Christmas" and my new "Frosty the Snowman" for solo bass trombone and orchestra got outings at the hugely popular APO4Kids Xmas concerts recently. They performed them at Massey High School on the 24th November and two concerts at the Auckland Town Hall on the 30th.
"Frosty" seemed a particular favourite, thanks to Tim Sutton on bass trombone for his superb efforts, and to my good friend, conductor David Kay.
ARRANGEMENTS TO SWEDEN AND THE UK
This year I shipped a number of Christmas arrangements off around the world. By shipped, of course, I mean whizzing PDF through cyberspace. They were to Stockholm in Sweden:
- "Joy to the World"
- "Drummer Boy"
- "When You Wish Upon a Star" (I agree, not entirely Christmas)
And to the UK:
- "All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth"
- "Lullaby for Christmas Eve"
- "When You Wish Upon A Star"
CHRISTMAS CAROLS FOR SOLO VIOLIN
Each year my violin students get a book of Christmas Carols to play leading up to Christmas. There are thirteen in total, they are easy, bowed and jolly good fun, so feel free to download the PDF below. If you want them for another instrument, let me know and I'm sure my arm could be twisted.
Download it here and have a very Merry Christmas!
It went fantastically well, I was very happy, as was my fantastic organist, Nick Forbes. The overall structure worked, we developed an exciting organ part and the orchestrations were exactly how I envisioned.
Thanks to everyone who came to the concert or tuned in live on Radio NZ and provided us with such positive comments about the piece.
Congratulations also goes to the wonderful David Hamilton, Anthony Young, Robbie Ellis, Ben Hoadley and Chris Adams for their superb premieres.
Here is an interview from Radio New Zealand's Arts On Sunday programme on 26th May with Hamish McKeich, Kerry Stevens, Nick Forbes and myself talking about the collaboration and concert (recorded before the concert, broadcast after the concert).
[soundcloud url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/94380327" params="" width=" 100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]
Organ Spectacular - 8pm, Thursday 23rd May, Auckland Town Hall, BUY TICKETS HERE
- David Hamilton, Chimera, John Wells
- Anthony Young, Theme & Variations for Organ & Orchestra, Rachael Griffiths-Hughes
- Robbie Ellis, Relish in Immature Bombast, Timothy Noon (+ Jono Sawyer drumkit)
- Ryan Youens, Tiraki, Nicholas Forbes
- Ben Hoadley, Huia, Indra Hughes
- Chris Adams, Mahuika, Nicholas Sutcliffe
Here is a collation of various details about my work:
'Tiraki' is a verb meaning 'to clear the sky of clouds'. In it I have explored the different layerings and textures created between the organ and orchestra, illustrating the nature and behaviour of the clouds. The work is structured in three sections and focuses entirely on the programmatic meaning of 'Tiraki'.
The first 'rather angry' section is very dense and fast moving with surprises along the way - representing a storm. The middle 'mysteriously calm' section is the calm after the storm - the music empties out but retains a slightly ominous feel to it. It finishes with a 'pleasantly refreshing' section where the music, and the clouds, gather life and a playful spirit once again.
It has been an absolute pleasure combining the two kings of music - an organ and a symphony orchestra - with an idea that had been simmering away for some time. Huge thanks goes to Nicholas Forbes who has been a superb collaborator and to the Auckland Philharmonia for this opportunity.
Q AND A WITH SOUNZ
1. You’ve talked about using single-note melodies in the organ part – do you also use a range of organ stops to compare with various orchestral instruments? 2. What particular ideas did Nicholas bring to the development of the piece? 3. What do you want listeners to take away with them after hearing the piece?
Q AND A WITH THE APO
1. things you discovered about the Town Hall organ After my first tour of the organ I was absolutely blown away with its complexity and beauty - which of course most people never get to see. While the possibilities are (almost!) endless, it became clear early that I was never going to be able to show off all of it and I needed to stick with the sound world of 'Tiraki' and the stops that supported that.
2. what you utilised in particular of the organ in your piece There are huge heavily chordal climaxes in 'Tiraki' where the organ can easily overpower the orchestra, then there are light, playful, polyphonic passages where the organ is on par with the woodwinds. So I've utilised the massive capabilities of volume and texture and also the function that goes with that - where the orchestra and organ can really fight each other and develop huge tension, or can work together amazingly well towards a single goal.
3. how your piece may have evolved as you learned more about the organ I really had no idea how an organ worked before this opportunity. That soon changed, but with loads of experience in orchestral writing, the initial orchestrations are what gave me my first insight into how the piece was going to evolve. I knew I didn't want the organ always in the forefront, but rather let it have moments and then let it sink into the texture and play other functions above that of a soloist. So I think what developed during the process for me was how quickly and easily you could change colours, the extent in which you could change them and how much those changes affected where the organ sat in the overall texture.
4. what you like most about the organ part for your piece One of my favourite passages is in the middle of the work where the strings have sustained chords mixed with glissandi and the organ has high, clean and clear thematic lines, occasionally highlighted by the woodwinds, over a very low, very breathy and pulsating rumble - such contrasts which are only simultaneously possible on the organ.
5. what you are looking forward to most about the performance of the piece in May Just to hear a really great concert of new organ music - the pieces are all so different so it's going to be a great night. Us composers have all heard the pieces in various stages during 2012, with different ideas being tried and options explored - so I'm just really looking forward to hearing the final versions, to see how we've all used the organ differently and how we've all tamed the beautiful beast that is the Auckland Town Hall Organ.
See you there!