Music workshop with Major Ian Davies

On Sunday 7 April, the band met for an afternoon music workshop to prepare for our upcoming concert, ‘An Evening of Song and Dance Music’.

Band practising at music workshop

Practising at our music workshop

Unlike our weekly two-hour rehearsals, the workshop ran for five hours. It offered the chance to get down to the nitty gritty in some of our more challenging pieces. Not only that, we welcomed guest conductor Major Ian Davies to the stand.

Ian is a friend and colleague of our own conductor Simon. Ian joined the Royal Marines Band Service as a solo clarinet player and was commissioned as a director of music around 2009. He has since worked in this capacity for Royal Marines Bands of Scotland, Portsmouth, and Collingwood. Ian now works as the staff officer for the Royal Marines Band Service.

We had a great turn-out, despite the workshop taking place on a Sunday rather than a Thursday. 45 out of our 65 musicians came along (attendance at our regular rehearsals is normally 50-55). We all arrived at 12:30pm and got set up ready to play.

The music workshop begins

To warm us up and get a feel for the band, Ian chose Jaime Texidor’s lively pasodoble, Amparito Roca.

Band practising at music workshop with conductor Major Ian

Major Ian Davies conducting as we play Illyrian Dances

After a quick run-through and a few hints and tips for improving our performance of the piece, we moved on to Guy Woolfenden’s Illyrian Dances.

This piece was one of the main focuses of the day’s workshop. Illyrian Dances is a suite of three dances adapted from music originally written for The Royal Shakespeare Company. And it’s one of the more challenging pieces in the programme for our upcoming concert. Under Ian’s expert musical guidance (and with a healthy dash of humour), the band made great progress.

Our next challenge was to play Jacques Offenberg’s Orpheus in the Underworld – more commonly known as the theme for the “Can-Can”. Ian worked us hard on this, too, before stopping for a cup of tea and a piece (or two!) of cake. All homemade by our multi-talented members.

After tea and cake…

Band practising at music workshop in school hall

The whole band practising for our next concert

Having had some refreshments and a quick catch-up with our bandmates, we headed back to our stands. Ian handed us over to our very own Simon who continued to challenge us as we worked our way through the rest of the pieces in our Spring concert programme.

Simon had a little more time on his hands than we normally have during our weekly rehearsal. This meant he was able to get right down into the depths of each piece. He used his talent for humourous and memorable analogies to bring out all the nuances of the music and bring it to life.

Time for more food and socialising…

Band members eating at a restaurant

After our workshop we treated ourselves to food at a local restaurant

After an afternoon of hard work and concentration, there wasn’t much else for it but to go to a local restaurant together for some well-deserved nosh. And a chance to reflect on what we had achieved during the workshop.

Everyone enjoyed the day. Bandmaster Nick said it was a “wonderful opportunity to make music for five hours with a bunch of talented friends.”

We’re now looking forward to putting all of our hard work into action in our performance in Wimborne Minster on 27 April!

By Kirsten on clarinet