|And so the day arrived...|
After the slightly nerve-wracking dress rehearsal, on Monday 7th November we had a fantastic rehearsal back at BWAFE HQ. Everything came together, and confidence levels and morale were high - it was a great place to end two-and-a-bit months of rehearsals (which isn't very long when you meet for two hours once a week!). We ran Brushstrokes right through, recording it to listen back to in the week. Those recordings were important for our very valued long-distance members who join us for concerts but can't make all rehearsals. It also gave Liz an opportunity to give us some detailed notes on the five movements, based on the recordings, so we could improve right up to the day of the premiere.
On 13th November, we headed to the Sky Room of Milton Keynes gallery. With Edgar there waiting for us, along with our lovely Making Music Mentor, Jenni - and Edgar's wife Emily joining our first flutes, it was suddenly very real. Then, time to set up, warm up and dress up - that's right, our traditional red ties were gone, replaced with ones in the five different colours of the suite - the word snazzy does not do us justice. Soundcheck and a partial play-through done, we cleared the room to let our audience in. We pretty much had a full house!
We began with our performance of Shostakovich's Ballet Suite, fresh from the recent Bedfordshire Festival of Music, Speech and Drama's Centenary Concert, followed by a new favourite - The Teddy Bear's Picnic.
Jenni then introduced Making Music and explained what the Adopt a Music Creator project was about, and how we'd all worked together over the past few months. Edgar then introduced Brushstrokes, from where his original idea to put paint shades to music had come from (thank you Emily), to how he had worked with the Ensemble to establish sounds and themes, creating the full suite from there. He illustrated this with excerpts from each movement that honed in on elements the audience could listen for later - the Contrabass and Bass sounds in Elephant's Breath, and the eerie combination of the Piccolo, G-flute and Altos in the opening bars of Red Earth, for example.
And then - we played. It's difficult to recall much of the performance - concentration levels were at an all-time high - and none of us could believe how quickly it went: Green Smoke, Elephant's Breath, Red Earth, Borrowed Light and Citron, the now familiar sounds finally premiered! You don't need to hear it from us anyway - we had a fantastic reaction from everyone and so it's probably a good idea to hear from the audience:
"I loved Green Smoke, it was spooky and really different", Flynn 15.
“In contrast to the rather muted colours that inspired Brushstrokes, the Bedfordshire Woodwind Academy Flute Ensemble’s performance was vivid and rich. Each movement told its own distinct story from swirling scales of Green Mist and commanding weight from the bass flutes in Elephants Breath to the discordant rhythms of Red Earth. Borrowed Light provided a soothing ethereal interlude before an eye-watering squirt of Citron rounded off the piece. Fantastic!”
“…an interesting concept and a very entertaining piece of music”
“Imaginative and very enjoyable”
"Amazingly clever" Samuel (15)
"Liked the fluidity between the pieces" Jasmine
“Edgar’s talk at the beginning, with little snippets of the piece, really helped me to understand it and know what to listen out for.”
“Great performance – I’d love to hear it again”
“We very much enjoyed the whole programme - something for all the family.”
As the notes and clapping died away, Edgar took his much-deserved bow and we presented him with a framed promotional poster of his Brushstrokes suite.
And we ended the performance with our signature tune: You've got a friend in me, much to the delight of the youngest members of the audience!
And relax...The heady combination of a glass of wine and a slice of Colin the Caterpillar (other caterpillar cakes are available) was enjoyed by most of us before heading home - tired but happy.
This is another opportunity for us to say a huge thank you to Jenni and Making Music for all their support, and for creating this unique project that is so valuable in so many ways. And to Edgar for his open-minded and generous approach to working with a group of people he had never met, for his hard work, creativity and trust in us.
And, as with everything that we do, none of it would be possible without our Musical Director Liz for taking us through this process step-by-step, week-by week and bringing Edgar's notes to life, with almost un-ending patience...
So, what next? Well, that would be Brushstrokes' premiere on BBC Radio 3! Watch this space for more information soon...
|October 31st 2022 marked a few things - trick or treating, less than two weeks to go until we premiere Brushstrokes, and our dress rehearsal and introduction to the Sky Room at Milton Keynes Gallery.|
It was our first chance to see the space in which we'll be playing, a fabulous high-ceilinged, theatre-style room with a floor to ceiling view over Campbell Park, and the biggest curtains any of us have ever seen. We were warmly welcomed by Niki and introduced to Olly, our sound engineer, who would be working out the best set up for the concert while we played that evening.
The first thing we needed to do was work out how we will present ourselves to play comfortably, balance the sound, and make sure the audience can see us, and the instruments, properly. There was one rule given to us by the gallery team - don't step over the line, so we didn't. With an expansive stage area available, it wasn't too difficult, and we'll be able to showcase the gorgeous low flutes by using a raised stage behind the other players. Some players change parts, and even flutes, between pieces, so this was also an opportunity to work out when and how to move with minimal disruption.
As well as playing Edgar's Brushstrokes on 13th November, we'll be playing a few of our favourite pieces. So, at the dress rehearsal we warmed up by playing...well, we can't tell you, or it will spoil the programme, so you'll have to wait and see. The sound within the Sky Room is very different to anywhere we've played before - the sound is contained, it doesn't disappear, as it can in spaces with less professional acoustic properties! Getting used to sounding different, and knowing how other players now sound to you, is one of the reasons a dress rehearsal is so important.
Once comfortable, we ran through each movement of Brushstrokes. It's a rhythmically complex suite and getting this right has been the focus of recent rehearsals. From the start Edgar wanted each part to shine, so while it's tempting to focus on playing at the right speed and in time, we've spent time listening to what each part is doing. We can then appreciate the richness of the suite and each part's role in it, but actually, being so familiar with each part naturally helps you learn your own and where it fits in to the overall sound.
The time went all too quickly and we left Milton Keynes, with just one more rehearsal left before the premiere performance. We can't wait!
|For more information, see:||mkgallery.org/whats-on/?event-category=music|
|The Ensemble are very excited to annouce that the Premier of Brushstrokes will be on Sunday November 13th hosted by the Milton Keynes Gallery! The fabulous SkyRoom with its colour-pallette decor will be the perfect venue for the premier of Brushstrokes. A big thankyou to the team at the Gallery MK for their help bringing this together.|
|Last week we held a Saturday work shop so that Edgar could introduce us to parts of each of the five movements of the Brushstrokes suite. This is the moment we'd had all been waiting for!|
In our February work shop we had experimented with sounds, inspired by the five paint shades: Citron, Green Smoke, Red Earth, Elephant's Breath and Borrowed Light. It was hard to imagine how Edgar could take our sounds, thoughts and opinions and combine them with his own expertise and creativity. Edgar had composed 4-5 minutes of each movement, with parts for C flute, Piccolo, Alto, Bass and Contrabass. With most of the Ensemble attending (we forgave those who had already gone on their summer holiday), we had each part covered and could get a true sense of what the final piece will sound like.
We played through each movement, first all the way through, then stopping and starting to get a better handle on rhythms and dynamics, and to get Edgar's direction and feedback as we went. Each movement is totally different - the sweet melody of Borrowed Light contrasting with the eerie, building tones of Red Earth, for example. Very quickly we started to recognise bursts of notes that were familiar - Edgar really had taken a lot of what we'd contributed in the original workship and included it. This was amazing to hear - not many of us would ever be in a position to compose something ourselves, so to hear the sounds we had created was incredible, and exciting!
Something else that was apparent very quickly is that Edgar is focussing on each type of flute equally. Generally, flute ensemble pieces are mainly C flute-focussed, with accompaniment from the low flutes and with Piccolo as an embellishment. Not only movement to movement but even within them the emphasis changes. It had always been likely that the low flutes would shine in Elephant's Breath - and indeed they do - but it's far more than that, such as pairing the Piccolo and Alto in Green Smoke.
After a break for cake - you will have gathered by now that we do like cake - we regrouped to go through the movements again. We did this first with Edgar conducting and then with our Musical Director, Liz - after all, Liz will be guiding us through as we rehearse each week. Finally, we ran through the sections of all five movements without breaking between. This was a good chance to hear how the movements sound, contrasts and all, as our audience will eventually hear them - or maybe not...Edgar's using that opportunity as food for thought in terms of what order the movements will eventually run in.
Before we left for the day, we talked through what we had liked, and particularly what we would like to hear coming through as Edgar builds on the foundation sections. There were general ideas, and some very specific ones - you'll have to wait until next time to find out what Edgar decides to do with that feedback - as will we!
Thanks once again to Edgar for making the trip, along with his wife Emily, who joined us for the day, which was fab! And, as always, to Jenni, our Making Music Mentor for her support and guidance.
|Tonight we had our first meeting with Edgar and Jenni since our workshop a couple of months ago. Edgar brought us up to speed with what's he done with the thoughts, sounds and ideas that we developed that day. Edgar has been listening to the recordings we made that day of all our workshopped thoughts and is becoming more familiar with our flute sounds - from Piccolo to Contra Bass. |
We talked through his concept of five movements based on different paint shades and Edgar talked about which flutes might naturally work with each one - for example a low flute focus for 'Elephant's Breath'.
As Edgar spoke about using the lower octave of the piccolo, we challenged him with including the G flute we won at a flute competition a few years ago. The G Flute has a range in between the Piccolo and the C Flute and can sound quite etherial. It doesn't get used as much as we'd like as it's not often written for, so this seems the perfect opportunity to change that! Despite the curveballs we threw at him, Edgar let us know he's on track to develop our piece for September, so we're all clear what we'll be rehearing come the autumn term. We also now know that Edgar is aiming at around 20 minutes for the final piece and that, so far, there is only one very fast movement (intriguing).
When we're ready to perform the final piece, we'll need a venue. We think a gallery would make sense in terms of the theme, and the ideal surroundings for creating some art! We chatted through who has contacts in the art world and why we shouldn't just aim for the Tate Modern...we're now on a mission to see who has which contacts in the art world. We may start local and move to the Tate later...Hopefully we'll have a venue when we bring you our next update. We also need a date to perform, so lots of talk around the virtues of aiming for October half-term or not but the feeling was, let's get our perfect venue first.
We'll next get to meet with Edgar on June 20st, when he'll make the trip to one of our regular rehearsals to catch up and maybe give us a sneaky peek at what he's working on. We've also booked 23rd July for a proper workshop to play what Edgar has composed so far, and continue development.
It was a great catch up and fantastic to have some dates and decisions in place. Roll on June 20st - right, we're off gallery hunting...
|Workshop - Saturday 19th Feb|
Today, members of BWAFE met Edgar, our 'Adopt a Music Creator' composer face-to-face for the first time. Storm Eunice had tried her best but fallen fences and trees along the way didn't manage to disrupt our plans.
The aim of the morning was for us to get to know each other better and start to workshop some sounds, based on Edgar's creative theme for the suite he will compose for us (more on that later).
After a chat and a cuppa, plus comparisons on who had witnessed most storm carnage on the journey in, Edgar and Jenni, our Making Music mentor, took us through some intro exercises. While these seemed aimed at warming us up (quite literally as the heating wasn't on at that point), Jenni explained afterwards that they give a real insight into how we work together as a group - how we listen to each other and interact. We ran through a rhythmic clapping exercise, and provided a lively soundtrack to a walk through the Antarctic, complete with creaking doors, wind, Huskies and penguins (what sound DOES a penguin make??).
Once the laughter had died down, it was time to get the flutes out and rehearse a piece we've been working on for just a few weeks: Smetana's Dance of the Comedians from the The Bartered Bride. Liz led this as a 'normal' rehearsal, giving Edgar the chance to listen in, moving around the room to hear the different flutes and different players. It's a fast piece with lots of shifting dynamics and contrasting sections, so a good example of the different sounds we can make together. Kudos to Annette who sight-read the piccolo part, which isn't easy!
We stopped for cake - and more tea - we have some brilliant bakers in the group so there were some tough decisions to make, but we coped!
Then it was over to Edgar, who revealed the theme for our future suite. While deciding how to decorate his house, he had picked up on the weird and wonderful names given to shades of paint, and selected five for us, along with a colour swatch. These are: Elephant's Breath; Citron; Green Smoke; Borrowed Light, and Earth Red. Edgar explained how both the names and the shades themselves make you feel a certain way, that can be translated into music. Edgar has made it clear from the beginning that this composition is very much a collaboration and that our ideas, thoughts and opinions would be taken through into the final suite - so now he put us to work.
We split into groups, took a shade each and worked together on the sort of sounds and notes that we felt represented it - just a short burst - and played it back to the wider group, with Edgar recording them all to listen back to later. Many of us haven't done anything like that before but some of the sounds we came up were pretty impressive! It also freed us up to be a bit adventurous - as our musical director Liz pointed out, if we'd been presented with these as sheet music, we would have thought them too difficult, and definitely not our usual style.
It was a rewarding, fun morning and we really achieved something together. We'll be spending our next few rehearsals working on our entry for the Bedfordshire Festival of Music and Drama, but will putting in a date to catch up with Edgar and Jenni soon, and are excited to see what Edgar will have for us by then.
|Tonight was our first opportunity to meet with our ‘Adopt a Music Creator’ composer, Edgar Divver, and mentor Jenni Pinnock, so an exciting night for us all! Jenni came to meet us in person and masterfully managed to coordinate getting all of us on a Zoom call with Edgar. It would have been lovely to meet Edgar in person but we all agreed that a 3-hour each way journey wouldn’t be fair on a Monday evening…It was a little like Blind Date for most of us, although Jenni and Edgar had already met Musical Director Liz and Secretary Nicky, when the pairings were announced by Making Music. It was probably more nerve-wracking for Edgar than us, meeting 19 Flautists all at once! We looked friendly and waved a lot so hopefully he felt welcome.|
We started the evening rehearsing the Ballet Suite by Shostakovich, a piece we’ll be playing at Bedfordshire Festival of Music and Drama in March, with Edgar and Jenni listening to how we all sound together, and how we interact with Liz as she coaches us through the piece. It was then our turn to listen to parts of five pieces Edgar has composed, giving us a real insight into his style – and reminding us how exciting this project is: we’re going to have music composed especially for us! Before the rehearsal Edgar had given us some questions: what we like about playing together; why we like playing the flute, and what music we enjoy playing (Blind Date again). We went through the responses together – it was a great idea – it felt as though Edgar ‘gets us’ already.
Next up for us: on February 19 we’ll finally have the chance to all meet face-to-face when we come together for a workshop, trying out some music and chatting through ideas, putting us well and truly on the path towards our musical creation.
|Bedfordshire Woodwind Academy Flute Ensemble (BWAFE) is one of just six music groups chosen to be part of Making Music’s ‘Adopt a Music Creator’ 2022 programme. The programme celebrates the range and breadth of music being made by music makers and creators in all its forms. BWAFE has been paired with emerging music creator Edgar Divver, working together for up to a year to create an original piece, leading to a premiere, recording and possible radio broadcast. |
The selected music creators have the opportunity to get to know performing groups and write a piece especially for them, while groups have the chance to contribute to the creation of a new work by some of the UK’s most promising music creators. Each pairing is assigned an experienced mentor to support and guide the music creator and group, and help the creative process run smoothly.
Liz Childs, BWAFE’s Musical Director said: “We are so thrilled to have been chosen to be part of the ‘Adopt a Music Creator’ programme. We’ve met Edgar already, and he’ll be coming to our regular rehearsal soon to properly set our partnership in motion – we’re looking forward to showing him what we can do, and hopefully inspiring his plans for us! As well as experiencing something totally unique, we recognise this as an opportunity to showcase the joy of playing in an ensemble and, more specifically, of playing the flute - encouraging more people to give it a go!”
About Edgar Divver: Edgar is an award-winning composer and educator who has had works performed by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, BBC Singers, Psappha and The Ossian Ensemble, amongst others. He studied at the University of Birmingham and Royal Northern College of Music. He balances his freelance composing and instrumental teaching career with working for the Hallé in Manchester as part of their Youth Ensembles team.
About Making Music: Making Music supports and champions leisure-time music across the UK, providing practical services, artistic opportunities and a collective voice for over 3,800 member groups.
Adopt a Music Creator is run by Making Music in partnership with Sound and Music, and is funded by the PRS Foundation and the Philip & Dorothy Green Music Trust.