Tag Archives: woodwind

Deck the shelves…

Opal Flutes at Westminster Music Library, December 2016So it’s that time of year again, the tree has gone up, we’ve covered the place in tinsel, the Santa hats have been dusted off and we’re starting to get sick of certain songs already… yes, Christmas time is officially upon us.

And it wouldn’t be Christmas without us sharing the many festive musical events we’ve held in Westminster Music Library since the start of December…

Opal Flutes at Westminster Music Library, December 2016

Opening proceedings with a cracking selection of winter themed arrangements were the fabulous Opal Flutes flute choir, a bunch of keen amateur musicians of all standards and from many walks of life; as well as the standard flute we’re all familiar with, they also boast players of piccolo, alto flute and bass flute. So popular are they that they even have music specially arranged for them, Jingle Bells never sounded so good.

Staff get into the swing of the under fives' Christmas party at Westminster Music Library, December 2016

Having bid them all the very best for the festive season, it was time for the Music Library staff to take over and present the madness and mayhem that is the Under Fives Christmas Party, as ever with the help of the indispensable Georgina from Victoria Children’s Library:

Father Christmas came to the under fives' Christmas party at Westminster Music Library! December 2016“Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without the Under Fives Christmas Party in the Music Library, it’s right up there with the Queen’s Speech”

And of course there was a visit from the one and only Father Christmas (we know who you are, and your secret’s safe with us…).

Our musical entertainment managed to conjure up a lot of happy faces although there were a few tears. It’s amazing how competitive parents can be when it comes to the race for getting a Christmas present for being “good all year”…

Carols with Knightsbridge Brass at Westminster Music Library, December 2016

Once Santa had departed to continue his gift distribution and we’d tidied up the tinsel, our thoughts turned to our grand finale Westminster Music Library Christmas event – a carol evening including mince pies and silly stories, and the amazing musical accompaniment of Knightsbridge Brass, a quintet of brass players from The Band of the Scots Guards.

Carols with Knightsbridge Brass at Westminster Music Library, December 2016A little different from Trooping the Colour, they were all game enough to trade in their bearskins for Santa Hats and provide exceptional musical back up for the carolling crowd – which reached a record breaking number this Christmas.

And that’s us done for this year’s Christmas celebrations in the Music Library, although we’re still eating the mince pies…


A victorious evening

Another sultry night in Westminster Music Library and this time we were playing host to the Victory Wind Quintet, a group of professional musicians who have been working together for over ten years, primarily within the Guards Bands. The players have busy careers combining solo work, chamber music and freelancing. Lucky for us they had time to pay us a visit, and even luckier that what they had in mind for repertoire chimed beautifully with our First World War music and composers project – Behind the Lines – although this concert was set to embrace music from both World Wars (I can feel another project coming on…).

Victory Wind Quintet at Westminster Music Library, August 2014

Tuning up complete, our audience settled and suitably refreshed with a cooling drink, The “Victory” marched off with renditions of some First World War music, some of which was already familiar to us in Westminster Music Library, including George Butterworth’s The banks of green willow. Described by its composer as an “Idyll”, and written in 1913, he based The Banks of Green Willow on two folk song melodies. Butterworth was a lieutenant in the Durham Light infantry and was killed on 5 August 1916, during the Battle of the Somme.

Our First World War selection ended with a wonderful arrangement of It’s a long way to Tipperary by John Whitfield, but then it was fast forward to World War Two and an arrangement of the famous song A nightingale sang in Berkeley Square. Written in 1939 by Manning Sherwin in the then small French fishing village of Le lavandou shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, it became one of the best selling and most popular songs of the era.

No recital of war-inspired music would be complete without some marching songs and we were treated to a rousing medley, but not wishing to monopolise the show with the army (our musicians variously play with The Coldstream Guards Band, the Band of the Irish Guards, the Band of the Welsh and Scots Guards), we turned our attention to the air with Aces High, a march  written by Ron Goodwin for the 1969 film “The Battle of Britain”, and a grand finale comprising a selection of sea songs. According to Nick (our horn player) the Navy hasn’t written much in the way of songs since the eighteenth century, but that hasn’t stopped them re-working some old favourites with often slightly more risqué lyrics… however our quintet had plenty of mariner-themed tunes up their talented sleeves and with a sailor’s hornpipe taken at a dazzling tempo, all too soon it was time for anchors away as The “Victory” set sail.

Victory Wind Quintet at Westminster Music Library, August 2014

All five musicians gave a faultless and captivating performance, and I hope they’ll hold good to their promise and march our way again soon.


A mighty wind

Apollo Wind Quintet at Westminster Music Library, July 2013

Last Thursday, on possibly the warmest evening of the year so far, Westminster Music Library played host to a recital by the Apollo Wind Quintet, a group of professional musicians who have played with some of the most prestigious orchestras in the country, and whose engagements have taken them across Europe, Russia and the USA.

For wind ensembles, it’s not enough to be fine exponents of your instruments; the lack of much suitable repertoire means players must also be inventive with programming. With this in mind we were looking forward to a selection of music either arranged or composed for this combination.

Tuning up complete, our audience settled and suitably refreshed with a cooling drink, Apollo took off like a rocket with an arrangement of Schubert’s Marche Militaire for piano duet. A somewhat fitting choice, as for their “day job” this outstanding Quintet plays with The Welsh Guards Band.

There followed an arrangement of Gounod’s Petite Symphonie (originally scored for flute and wind octet), described by the composer in 1885 as “just a trifle”, but to our ears it was anything but.

Apollo Wind Quintet at Westminster Music Library, July 2013Following the interval, when our stars took a well earned break to get their “puff” back, we heard more arrangements of well known classics such as Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Elgar’s Salut D’amour, both played with sparkle, polish and a good deal of panache.

However, the best was yet to come.

Since the twentieth century, the combination of flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn has been enjoying a renaissance, and with their next piece: Charleston from Norman Hallam’s light hearted Dance Suite, Apollo demonstrated just how versatile they are. This piece is something of a challenge for a classical horn player, but he rose to it with consummate skill. We loved it, and clearly this piece is also a firm favourite with the performers.

To round the concert off we were taken back to the eighteenth century with Tambourin – a dance tune by François Joseph Gossec – originally written for the flute.

Apollo Wind Quintet at Westminster Music Library, July 2013

All five musicians demonstrated so clearly the art of successful ensemble playing, this was a thoroughly enjoyable concert given by a group of versatile and committed musicians. More please!

“An excellent event – playing of a very high standard and a most attractive programme. An ideal combination for a summer evening!”

“I appreciate the informality and intimacy of these performances, my wife and I have become addicts.”

“Faultless and captivating performance. Nice un-stuffy atmosphere, thank you for a pleasant evening.”


Blowing up a storm

“I run a woodwind ensemble in central London. It would be great to perform in the Music Library and draw people’s attention to the facilities available here, especially for local performers…”

Music to my ears, and this was not just any old woodwind ensemble, this was a group of professional musicians who live locally and use Westminster Music Library offering their services.  The Coloratura Ensemble definitely “gave something back” last week, taking time out from their formal engagements to give a free recital to a packed audience in the Music Library.

Coloratura Enemble at Westminster Music Library, October 2012

These outstanding and talented musicians entertained us with a diverting mix of music and styles; from Malcolm Arnold to Mozart, everything was played with artistry and virtuosity.

We also got to learn a bit about the pieces and the composers who wrote them (Ignace Joseph Pleyel was the 24th of 38 children in the family, Malcolm Arnold penned the music for the film ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’). Let’s hope these enthusiastic musicians come back and entertain us again soon, I for one will be booking my place.

Don’t just take my word for it, here are just a few of the comments from our audience:

“The group were excellent, the staff were extremely welcoming, helpful and friendly”

“Ideal venue for chamber music – privilege to be invited. Really interesting programme of worthwhile pieces”

“A very enjoyable and special musical evening. More please!”

“Very well performed, lovely to listen to”