Featured Member – Roy

 

Roy playing the bass clarinet
Roy playing the bass clarinet

Name: Roy Newham

Instrument: Bass Clarinet

When did you join?: 2003

Why did you join Harmonie? 

To improve my playing and to meet like minded people

What do you enjoy about being with Harmonie? 

The wide range of pieces. Even the horrible pieces grow on you!

What has been your favourite experience with Harmonie? 

The French trip – the coach was rubbish, but it was really good fun.

What else would you like to say about being in Harmonie? 

The MD likes to laugh, but also to get it right, we have a strong committee who is very hard working. Being a member has improved my dotage – thanks to all!

From Holst to Hess

Our Holst to Hess concert celebrates over 100 years of music written specifically for wind band with music by Phillip Sparke, Guy Woolfenden as well as Gustav Holst and our good friend Nigel Hess. We are delighted to be working with our guest soloist William Knight, who will be performing the Phillip Sparke clarinet Concerto.

William Knight

Born in Essex and educated at Westcliff High School for Boys, William Knight began learning the clarinet under the tutelage of local teacher, Gill Thorn, at the age of seven. Having been a member of the National Children’s Orchestras and the National Youth Orchestra, he went on to study at the Royal College of Music in London under Richard Hosford, Timothy Lines and Michael Collins, supported by a John Nickson scholarship award. He graduated in 2017 with first class honours having won the RCM Clarinet Prize and the Stephen Trier award for Bass Clarinet and having performed under conductors such as Bernard Haitink, Vladimir Jurowski and John Wilson.

Since graduating, he has gone on to forge the beginnings of a successful career as an orchestral clarinettist, and has performed with ensembles such as the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Royal Northern Sinfonia, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. He has recently performed concertos and recitals in Essex and Suffolk and is excited to once again be performing locally.

Harmonie had the great pleasure of working with composer Nigel Hess in March this year.

Download a flyer.

The concert is on Saturday 13th October 2018, 7.30pm
Kings Road United Reform Church
91 Crowstone Road
Westcliff-on-Sea
SS0 8LH
Google map of location

To purchase tickets at £10 each: email enquiries AT harmonie.org.uk or call 07815 578998 (after 7pm)

Featured Member – Sarah

Sarah playing the clarinet
Sarah playing the clarinet

Name: Sarah Dignum

Instrument:  Clarinet

When did you join? 1996

Why did you join Harmonie?

We moved to South Ockendon from Croydon in 1996. I had been playing in symphonic wind bands since I was 12 and needed somewhere to play. Music and specifically wind bands has been part of my life since my schooldays and I cannot imagine not being able to play in this kind of ensemble.

What do you enjoy about being with Harmonie? 

Everyone is welcome, we don’t stand on ceremony but we take our music-making seriously. The music is wide-ranging in style and level of difficulty,

What has been your favourite experience with Harmonie? 

I love the band stand concerts but going on tour has been amazing because you have time to talk to people and socialise with them. The concerts we have done with the Julie Noble Dance School have also been amazing, especially the concert we did in 2012 for the Cultural Olympiad.

What else would you like to say about being in Harmonie?

Harmonie makes the week – always look forward to Wednesday evenings.

Award-winning composer comes to Essex

Sunday 25th March not only heralded the start of British Summer Time but was also the start of the performance season for Harmonie Concert Band.  In preparation for its busy year ahead (including performances in Southend, at the Orsett Show, and on the Eastbourne Bandstand) the band had invited the award-winning composer Nigel Hess to work with them for the day.  Many will know his TV themes including Dangerfield, Hetty Wainthropp, Campion and New Tricks as well as his film score to Ladies in Lavender.  Although Harmonie is based in Rayleigh in Essex, the band travelled to High House Production Park in Purfleet for its rehearsal day with the composer.

Nigel Hess has written extensively for the windbands having received composing commissions from the Royal Air Force Music Services and the Band of the Coldstream Guards.

At its rehearsal day Harmonie Concert Band worked on some of his pieces that will be featured in their concert programmes this year and everyone felt honoured to have had the opportunity to work with the composer himself.  Band Chairman, David Adlington said “Working with a well-known and award-winning composer such as Nigel Hess is a fantastic opportunity for a community music group like Harmonie Concert Band. Working with the actual composer of some of the music that will feature in our 2018 programme certainly gave us additional insight and helped us raise the bar – and we hope this will shine through in our forthcoming concerts”

The band were in an up-beat mood after the rehearsal with everyone expressing what a fantastic day it had been.  In response Nigel Hess complimented the band on being “absolutely terrific” and great fun to work with.

 

images: Roy Dignum

Featured Member – Kevin

Kevin playing the bassoon
Kevin playing the bassoon

Name: Kevin Hale

Instrument: Bassoon & Tenor Saxophone

When did you join?

I originally joined the band in 1996 when it was then known as The Basildon Concert Band, and after 10 year break due to family illness, I re-joined for the second time in January 2016.

Why did you join Harmonie?

Having been a Musician in the Army for 24 years I was looking for a local band that would allow me to continue playing after the end of my service and the band fitted that.

What do you enjoy about being with Harmonie? 

There are so many reasons why I enjoy being with Harmonie, but I think the top of the list has to be, the friendship and comradery, the music we play and the challenges it brings and the sense of achievement felt by all members at the end of a successful concert.

What has been your favourite experience with Harmonie?

I don’t have one single favourite experience I have a couple, the first one happened quite a number of years ago when I has in the band for the first time and it was when we spent a weekend making a CD and the second was last year when we performed in the Towngate Theatre, Basildon, for our 40th Anniversary Concert, where band members past and present came together for a very memorable concert.

What else would you like to say about being in Harmonie?

Harmonie is a very open band full of players of all standards and musical backgrounds, it is a true community band where all are welcome.

 

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Harmonie 40th Anniversary Concert

 

2016 marks 40 years of the band making music in Essex, and to celebrate this important milestone in our history we recently presented a Gala Concert at Basildon’s Towngate Theatre.

The band was formed in 1976 as Basildon Concert Band and the passing years have seen us move to various rehearsal locations and a couple of changes to the name, but the core purpose has remained the same: bringing people together to enjoy music-making.

We have undertaken several major projects this anniversary year, including commissioning a brand new piece of music, our concert tour to Belgium in the summer, and culminating in the Gala Concert, as well as numerous other concerts and engagements in between.

The event took a lot of planning. Starting about a year ago, this included everything from choosing and hiring the venue, to selecting the repertoire, commissioning the new work and liaising with the composer (including a special weekend rehearsal workshop), publicising the concert, writing and designing the programme, inviting VIP guests, selling tickets, and lots of other details.

So we were delighted when on a Saturday evening in October we presented the concert to an enthusiastic and appreciative audience of about 250, and the whole event was a great success.

The concert featured a variety of our favourite music representing four decades of making music and drawing on programmes and themes from many of the memorable events from throughout the band’s history. We included music from the 2010 Bernstein Festival when we played at the Royal Festival Hall, 2012 Olympic year, right up to date with some of the music we played on our 2016 tour of Belgium, and much more in between.

We were particularly pleased to present the world premiere of a new composition entitled ‘Scenes of Essex’, composed specially for the occasion by internationally renowned composer of wind band music Colin Touchin.

We are also honoured to be performing alongside the talented dancers from the Julie Noble School of Performing Arts who added a tremendous additional dimension to the spectacle with their high quality and imaginative dance interpretations to accompany some of our musical items.

It certainly was an evening to remember, and grateful thanks go to everyone who helped to make it a success, especially the hardworking members of the Committee, and of course to the audience for turning up and supporting us!

You can see a full gallery here

Harmonie tour to Belgium!

2016 is the 40th Anniversary Year of Harmonie Concert band, a community band based in Rayleigh, and the band has chosen to mark the occasion in three ways: 1 – the commissioning of a new piece of music for windband, 2 – a gala concert to be held in Basildon on the 15th October and 3 – a tour to Belgium.

The tour took place during the summer holidays and is the second time this community band has travelled to the continent but the first time it has performed in Belgium. The beautiful, historic town of Ghent provided the accommodation for the band and offered sight-seeing opportunities for the band members before heading to Oostende for the first concert on the bandstand in the town square. The sun broke through the clouds at exactly the right moment and Harmonie Concert Band performed to those sat in the cafes that surrounded the square as well as those who came to sit and listen.

The next morning the band stopped at the Tyne Cot Cemetery, the largest WW1 cemetery for British soldiers in Belgium. This was a very moving experience and brought home the scale of the atrocities and waste of life of this conflict. This theme continued for the rest of the day as the band headed for Ypres (decimated in the First World War) for its second concert. The weather was not as accommodating as it had been with the skies growing ominously dark but the rain held off for two hours and an appreciative audience gathered to listen to the band and requested the band play on beyond its two-hour performance slot. After dinner the band was able to witness the last post ceremony at the Menin Gate (dedicated to those fallen in WW1) before heading back to the hotel to relax, unwind and reflect on a very successful tour.

The band begins rehearsing again in September in preparation for its Gala Concert at the Towngate Theatre in Basildon, the town where the band was formed. The Concert takes place on the 15th October and tickets are available from the Box Office 01268 465 465.

You can see a photo gallery here

All day rehearsal for world premier!

If you travel the length and breadth of the country, you will not be far from a community band.  This might be a brass band or a wind / concert band.  But whatever their make-up, these bands have one thing in common: the bringing together of a disparate group of musicians to make music for the benefit of themselves and others.  The challenges faced by such groups are enormous, if the group is truly a community group then there should be few barriers to joining.

IMG_0012

Yes, you need to own and be able to play an instrument (some groups particularly youth groups might have instruments to loan and teaching programmes as well) but the entry standard should not exclude a large percentage of players.  So if community groups state they have an entry level of Grade 8 standard (to keep the quality of performance high) they are not truly representing their community.  But having a membership ranging from the enthusiastic but inexperienced amateur to the semi-professional or retired professional makes programming very difficult.  How do you find music that will not bore the experienced players whilst at the same time will not be so challenging to the novice that they are demotivated and leave?

So how does a community band like Harmonie manage to flourish when many other bands up and down the country struggle?  The key to this has to be ‘opportunity’.  Finding new and engaging experiences that will both inspire and motivate all band members.  This does not mean finding new performance venues and new but ‘safe’ repertoire, both important in their own way but not essential in the development of a band.

IMG_0010All band members have a fundamental desire to learn and improve, which is often why they join a band in the first place. So engaging with professional musicians who can bring their expertise and wealth of experiences to the band is an important (and arguably an essential) aspect of what a community band has to offer its members.  Finding someone who works at the highest levels of music-making around the world who is prepared to work with a community band and be both challenging and supportive is in itself a challenge but Harmonie has been fortunate to find several such people to work with over the years including the late Guy Woolfenden, Malcolm Binney and Philip Sparke.

IMG_0006The association with Colin Touchin began many years ago when the band participated in the National Concert Band Festival and Colin adjudicated the band.  A couple of the band members knew Colin from their days at Warwick University where Colin lectured in music and suggested that he would be an excellent workshop leader.  At the subsequent rehearsal day Colin’s ability to transform the sound of the band by focussing on balancing the sections, bringing the warmth of sound of the lower end of the band to the fore whilst calming the ‘enthusiasm’ of the shrill top end and high-lighting the challenges of tuning and intonation faced by sections was truly remarkable.

IMG_0009So for the band’s 40th Anniversary celebration it was not a hard decision to further the relationship with Colin and commission a new piece for band.  Scenes of Essex is a three movement piece based on the geographical / historical areas of relevance to the band, Hadleigh Castle (built during the reign of Henry 111) being a prominent landmark near to where the band rehearses, Basildon – the town where the band was formed and Rayleigh Mount the site of a Medieval Castle (and the only Essex Castle to be mentioned in the Doomesday book of 1086) near to where the band is now based.

As part of the commission Colin again spent a day with the band working on the new piece and again bringing his insights into developing the quality of sound.  Explaining the importance of using the diaphragm to support note production in the clarinet section produced instant improvements.  Thinking of dynamics numerically, tuning up from the bass end of the band were just some of the techniques employed to move the band forward.

Unfortunately, the concept of spending a whole day together as a band is a luxury that only happens once a year on average.  However, days of this nature are again essential for community bands to develop.  The level of detail that can be worked on and the depth of understanding that can be gained is far more than if the band spent the same time spread out over several rehearsals.

IMG_0005Our challenge now is to ensure that the time and investment is not wasted and we give an inspiring performance of Scenes of Essex at our 40th Anniversary concert in the 15th October in Basildon.

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Written by Roy Dignum.
Photos by Kevin Hale, used with permission. 

 

Harmonie’s First Trip Abroad

On 21st July 2012, 36 members of Harmonie Concert Band plus a few family members set sail bound for France and Harmonie’s first concert tour abroad.

The band were celebrating their Musical Director, Roy Dignum’s 10 years of conducting the band before he stepped down at the end of the tour.

As the band left Dover on a sunny Saturday morning they hoped that including ‘Titanic’ in the programme for the tour would not prove an omen. After a long but uneventful journey, the band arrived at their hotel in Rouen late Saturday afternoon, and, much to the bemusement of other hotel guests, commandeered the hotel dining room for a rehearsal before venturing out into the town for an evening meal.

On Sunday, following a morning visit to a nearby calvados distillery, and lunch at the very pleasant harbour town of Honfleur, the band played its first concert Le Havre Jardins Suspendus as part of the Festival de Musiques des Mondes MoZ’aÔque.

An early start on Monday morning allowed time for a visit to the picturesque gardens at Giverny made famous by the paintings of artist Claude Monet before returning to Rouen for a concert at Les Jardins Des Plantes Bandstand.

Although anxious about how the French crowd would react and how large the audiences would be, both concerts proved to be hugely popular, helped in part by the non stop sunshine. Concerns about how the band would suit the world music concert at Le Harve soon melted away as Harmonie played to their largest ever outdoor audience in a wonderfully festive and appreciative atmosphere. Some onlookers joined in by singing, dancing and clapping along to the music. Demands for encores on both days were met with enthusiasm from the band with ‘Candyman’ and ‘I Will Follow Him’ proving particular favourites.

Although there was an air of sadness as Roy’s baton fell for the last time in Rouen, Harmonie gave Roy a good send off and proved that the last 10 years of his commitment were not wasted.

On return to the UK Harmonie were excited to see press reports from local French newspapers. One commented that we had “br˚le les planches” which literally means burning the planks but is meant in the sense of playing with passion and being in the spotlight. Harmonie certainly did that!

“Two concerts at the bandstand in the Botanic Gardens”.

Today, Monday (23rd July), the bandstand in the Botanic Gardens will
resume its original purpose and welcome two bands from 15H30. The first to”burn the planks” come form Belgium; they are the Southern Brussels
Concert Band. The second, the Harmony Concert Band, are arriving from the UK, more specifically from Raleigh, Essex, in the south of the country.

In the programme, varied works taken from various repertoires including rock, pop, jazz and even classical music. In all, there are approximately one hundred musicians who will be sharing their passion for music with the people of Rouen. Concerts at 15H30 with the Southern Brussles Concert
Band, and at 17H30 with the Harmonie Concert Band. Entrance is free.