Adopt a Composer

In 2010 Harmonie Concert Band successfully applied for a place in the Making Music Adopt a Composer programme which gives amateur music groups the opportunity to collaborate with an emerging composer over a 12 month period to produce a new piece of music, culminating in a premiere performance recorded by the BBC. To find out more visit the website

Applicants face stiff competition from across the country, and Harmonie was delighted to come through the selection process and win one of only 6 places on the programme, as well as being the only Wind Band taking part that year.

Harmonie Concert Band were paired with Aaron Parker, who at the time was in the second year of his studies at the Royal Northern College of Music. To find out more about Aaron visit his website

November 2010 saw Aaron’s first rehearsal with the band, for which Aaron had adapted one of his previous compositions, originally for a saxophone quartet, into a piece for a 50-strong wind band. This was subsequently premiered the BASBWE London Festival in March 2011.

This was a precursor to the main collaboration on a major original work based on the theme of the Olympic Games, with the goal of integrating this into Harmonie?s participation in the prestigious Music Nation project, part of the Cultural Olympiad project for London 2012.

The project proved to be both exciting and challenging, with Aaron visiting the band several times over the subsequent months, producing an evolving series of drafts of his piece, responding to feedback from the band, and developing his knowledge and skills in relation to wind band music.

The result was a major work entitled Dancing Rings, consisting of five movements which drew on inspiration from a sculpture designed for the Bejing Olympics.

Three of the movements were showcased at a concert in July 2011 which was recorded by the BBC, with excerpts subsequently broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on 1st March 2012.  The full five movement piece was premiered at Harmonie’s gala concert on 3rd March 2012, which was officially sanctioned as part of the Cultural Olympiad Making Music weekend.

BASBWE London Festival 2011

On 27th March 2011 Harmonie Concert Band crossed the River Thames heading for Bromley and the first London Festival hosted by BASBWE (the British Association of Symphonic and Wind Ensembles) in nearly two decades. We were honoured to be invited by BASBWE to play at such a prestigious event.

The day began with a massed band event, with 150+ players from all the bands represented on the day rehearsing two pieces: ‘Towards the Western Horizon’ conducted by its composer, Philip Sparke, ‘Sentinel’ composed by Peter Meechan conducted on this occasion by Guy Woolfenden. This was followed by a full performance of these two works (which were their UK and World Premieres, respectively) marking the formal opening of the Festival. Harmonie have in the past had the privilege of spending a day with both Philip and Guy (see here).

The opening massed bands performance was followed by concert presentations by each of the bands who had been invited to the Festival. Harmonie was first on stage presenting three pieces.
‘Tatarian Dances’ by the Russian pianist-composer Elena Roussanova Lucas, was a four-movement suite incorporating music from Tatar culture. With a slightly unfamiliar musical language and the unusual sound of solo recorder in the slow movement, this accessible work offers a good alternative to the well-worn dance suites bands know so well.

‘Tango’ by Aaron Parker, a student at the Royal Northern College of Music who was working with the band as part of the Making Music’s ‘Adopt a Composer’ scheme, is a short and highly character piece specially composed for Harmonie.

Finally, Harmonie presented another world premiere, ‘Heroes and Villains’, which was specially commissioned for the Festival from composer Rob Davies. The composer describes this as ‘a story of a superhero and his nemesis’, and the piece certainly seems cram a full film score into 10 minutes, eliciting a dynamic performance from the band.

The day continued with performances from the other invited bands, and each benefited from critique and feedback from one of the professional composers and conductors attending the event.

As the band packed up and headed home back across the River Thames we all agreed that it was a wonderful experience and were looking forward to returning in the future.

 

 

Royal Festival Hall 2010

During 2009 Making Music offered its members the opportunity to take part in the Bernstein Project, a nine month long festival at the Royal Festival Hall celebrating the life and works of the great man through concerts, talks and workshops, all produced under the curatorship of Marin Alsop, internationally renowned conductor and student of Leonard Bernstein himself (see here). Both professional and amateur organisations from choirs and string quartets to symphony orchestras were part of the series highlighting his most well known works as well as those which are lesser well known.

Harmonie Concert Band applied to be part of this and were delighted to be invited to present a joint concert with Lewisham Concert Band in the Clore Ballroom at the Royal Festival Hall on 10th April 2010. Harmonie kept very much to the repertoire of Bernstein himself with Lewisham Concert Band including music of associated composers such as Don Gillis and Morton Gould.

The concert opened with the two bands of over 100 musicians giving a rousing rendition of Don Gillis’ The January February March. The bands then presented individual pieces, Harmonie’s programme including selections from West Side Story, Slava and Wrong Note Rag. The performance finished with a joint performance of West Side Story Selection.

As Harmonie members boarded the coach to head back to Rayleigh we reflected on the experience of having played at such a prestigious venue as the Royal Festival Hall, and in a festival of such significance.