Firstly, let me wish all of you a very Happy New Year. I hope you all had the chance to relax a little bit. It seems to me that the last two months of the year are especially hectic. I guess we bring a lot of this on ourselves! This is probably true in my case as I had back-to-back events from around 10 November until the 23rd of December.
Despite the hectic schedule of course I have no regrets, and so much enjoyed it all.
In order firstly was my trip to the north west of the USA, incorporating stops in Portland and Seattle, where I enjoyed working my good friend Jamie Hood and his Brass Spectacular programme. In Seattle I really enjoyed their concert with Puget Brass, and I have to give special thanks to my friend Terry Paananen for being the instigator of the concert and my collaboration with the band. From there I went with Misa straight to one of my favourite Italian cities, Trento, and gave a two day masterclass as well as rehearse and perform with two excellent local wind bands. Following the last session of masterclass, I was taken to the Christmas market in Trento. Now I could sense that we were really entering the holiday season, and the hospitality shown to us was quite spectacular.
The following weekend I was in Slovenia working with my good friend Luka Einfalt. We had some great chats about low brass music in Slovenia and how to shape the future for the young people. I had over 25 attend the masterclass sessions and they were very attentive and dedicated. I also gave a recital, which included the Euphonium Concerto by Martin Ellerby, which I will be playing at the RNCM Festival of Brass at the end of January, with the Fairey Band. It was starting to get cold in Ljubjana, but I was kept very busy, to say the least, and so didn't really think about the weather!
Just days later I was arriving in Detroit Michigan ready for some busy days with the Band of Battle Creek (BBBC), and it was warm enough on the day I arrived to go outside and play in the garden of my good friend Bill Gray's house. The band was on splendid form these days and it was great also to have Richard Scott, sound engineer extraordinaire, to also travel from England to start more regular recordings with the band. The reaction to our concert in Battle Creek on Saturday evening was just great, and everybody left in very good spirits.
With just one day back in the UK, which consisted of nine hours teaching at the RNCM, I was experiencing various 'layers' of jetlag to the point where I'd even forgotten what day of the week it was. You know it's pretty bad when that happens!
The next day Misa and I made it down to London Heathrow in good time ready for our 5:30 PM Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong. It's a long flight, but at least it was an overnight flight, and when we awoke it was virtually midday Hong Kong time, and after checking in to our lovely hotel in the Mon Kok district, we had just a little time to relax before our first rehearsal with the Tak Ming Philharmonic Winds ready for our concert on Sunday (11th Dec). The very next day we went to Macau for a recital that had been organised at relatively short notice, as our concert in nearby Shenzhen (China) had fallen through as the organisers couldn't find a suitable hall! We took the super jet ferry to Macau (about one hours journey from Hong Kong), and went straight to the beautiful recital hall inside a christian school, quite close to the ferry port. The afternoon rehearsal went perfectly and it was so nice at the end of this to meet up with my good friend Howard Evans, The salvation Army bandmaster at Boscombe. We shared the coffee and some stories, as he had been there for seven weeks judging Music examinations for the Associated Board.
The recital went beautifully, even though we were fighting jetlag and I'll be posting some videos soon. We had a post recital dinner with friends and associates of the Macau Bandmasters Association and then it was time to catch a late ferry back to Hong Kong. The rest of our time there in HK was so enjoyable, nice warm weather, very friendly people, although always difficult to move around as there are so many people in HK these days, especially Chinese tourists!! We enjoyed the concert with Tak Ming, which was held at the concert Hall of the Academy of the Performing Arts, a very prestigious and important venue in Hong Kong. Many thanks to Scott Lui for being our chaperone during our last days there.
On Wednesday 14th of December we flew from Hong Kong to Osaka, and then took the train to Hiroshima. We spent three days in this beautiful and important city, including a recital on the second day, which also featured several excellent students from the surrounding area. I gave lessons to these students the following day. Once again we were overcome with the kindness and generosity of our hosts in particular, Yuka Tada. On the 17th we took the bullet train to Nagano, and went straight to a lunch in a restaurant with the organisers of our two days of activities there. After lunch was the first open masterclass with about 20 participants. At the end of the afternoon, the musicians performed the pieces they'd been studying in the afternoon in groups, and Misa and I performed a recital. There was a terrific atmosphere there and it was such an honour to be with these enthusiastic Japanese musicians.
The final stop of our tour was in Kyoto, where we rehearsed in the nearby town of Shiga with two combined high school wind orchestras, who both played to I'm very high standard. We had the pleasure of working with our good friend Roger Bobo who was there as guest conductor. Thanks especially to Kazuhiro Nakamura who organised everything so perfectly. After this, our final concert of 2016, we had many photographs taken with the participants, and everybody left in such a positive mood after are successful concert.
We made it safely back to Heathrow, via Hong Kong airport and arrived home late evening Thursday 22nd December.
It rounded off what is been a very busy and successful year.
Of course the Brexit vote still seems unbelievable, unreal, and still feels just as horrific as the morning after the vote, back in June. We don't know yet how this will impact our lives, but as in the equally unbelievable US election, many people who voted for Brexit and Trump will probably come off worse as the ramifications of these referendum/election decisions become apparent. It seemed to be a year when truth and logic became irrelevant to a huge percentage of the populations of the UK and USA. But we should be pleased that we live in a democracy, no doubt about it, but now we have to put faith in politicians (that we honestly don't trust right now). It's a dangerous time, and my hope for 2017 is that we all strive for peace, happiness and to live in harmony with one another.
I will be publishing my travelling schedule for 2017 under the Events page on this site, in the next few days. I'll also try to keep this site much more updated, and we have new features coming to the site in the next weeks.
My practice focus for the next couple weeks, in addition to the duet CD recording with Misa (5-6 Jan) is the RNCM Festival of Brass 27-29 Jan, where I will be performing the Euphonium Concerto by Martin Ellerby, as part of a celebration of the 60th birthday of the composer!! I'll also be giving a lecture recital of some works that I have being involved with commissioning and premiering! The Ellerby performance will be 11am on Saturday 28th, and the lecture recital on the following day, Sunday the 29th at 1pm.
So once again I wish you all a very Happy New Year, and hope that 2017 is not only kind to you, but also memorable and fantastic!!.