For Christmas 2017, I decided to go all out and delve into the unknown… I decided to write my own arrangement of Walking in the Air from The Snowman, and play all five parts. Traditionally, a wind quintet would have a French Horn rather than a Tenor Saxophone, but seeing as that’s not one of the instruments I own (or can play!), I decided to pop a saxophone in there instead. (We all know reeds are better anyway…)
I think the arrangement works fairly well. I do love the music from the Snowman, and it always makes me feel very Christmassy, so it was nice to be able to spend a bit of time working on the arrangement. Every instrument gets the tune at some point, although in retrospect, the bassoon part really is very exhausting as there is nowhere to breathe! I’ve sat in many band rehearsals over the years complaining about the bassoon part always being repetitive and having no rests, so I really ought to have known better. Whoops!
One of the biggest issues with putting this arrangement together was actually dealing with the difficulties in maintaining decent tuning. When you play in a band, you automatically tune and adjust to the instruments around you. Unfortunately, when you are recording each instrument separately, you don’t have this luxury. Although the timing is fairly accurate, thanks to the metronome in my earpiece, there are definitely one or two dodgy moments in here!
But you get the idea. And anyway, it wouldn’t really be Christmas without one of my silly videos, would it?
I’m not aware of Banana Sandwich ever featuring on the oboe exam syllabus (please correct me if I’m wrong), but it’s a fun piece and it has quite a few tricky rhythms in it, so I thought a video might be helpful. It’s probably around Grade 4 standard, so great for an intermediate player.
I hope you like it!
You can find the music for this delightful little number in Microjazz for Oboe.
Watch out for the accidentals! The piece has two flats in the key signature (Bb and Eb), but a lot of these flats are cancelled out by accidentals throughout the piece. Remember, this only lasts for one bar, and then you need to go back to the original key signature.
Try to keep your style very light in this piece. Imagine someone is dancing as you play.
As always, make the most of your dynamics – the piece begins at piano (soft) and your examiner will want to know you have observed this marking!
Keep an eye on the tempo (speed) changes towards the end of the piece. In bar 29, you will need to slightly slow down (poco rit) and immediately go back to the original speed from the upbeat into bar 31 (a tempo). Your pause in bar 34 should be long and dramatic, but make sure you go back to your original speed straight afterwards – there are no further speed changes until the final 2 bars.
Both pieces feature in Four Sketches by Gordon Jacob. Grab a copy below!
The only way I can describe L’aprés-midi d’un dinosaur is that is “very bassoon-y”. I’m not really sure what else there is to say – it’s slow and low. The 3/2 time signature and the performance marking of pesante (heavy) gives this piece a classic bassoon sound. Try to make your notes as long as possible, and don’t leave too much of a gap between notes if you need to catch a sneaky breath.
For the Grade 4 syllabus, L’aprés-midi d’un dinosaur features in List B, and should be presented with Little Waltz. Make sure you dedicate equal time to practising both movements!
Both pieces feature in Four Sketches by Gordon Jacob.
For some crazy reason, in 2015 I decided it would be fun to learn a new instrument. So I picked up a copy of A Tune A Day for cornet, and joined a local brass band.
After nearly 25 years of playing woodwind, I really wasn’t prepared for how different it would feel to play the cornet. Not only was it tricky learning to cope with only having 3 valves, but also the slightest movement of my lips would drastically change the pitch of the note I was playing.
Inspired by the success of my flute duet that I had recorded a few weeks earlier, Jingle Bell Rock, I decided it would be fun to attempt a cornet trio. This version of Deck The Halls features in A Tune A Day! At its peak, it goes right up to a high F, which really is very high for an inexperienced player. I was quite pleased I just about managed to squeeze it out for this video, but I’ve never managed it since!
Anyway, this funny little phase of playing the cornet lasted just under 12 months. In the end, I was having to do so much practice just to keep up with the brass band that I never had any time to play any woodwind instruments. But it was fun whilst it lasted!
This video of Jingle Bell Rock was just a bit of Christmas fun, but to my surprise, it has become one of my most-viewed videos ever!
One of the trickiest things about playing a duet with yourself is getting the timing right, and also managing the tuning. What you probably can’t see in this video is that I’m wearing an earpiece, which is playing a metronome to keep me strictly in time! In terms of tuning, I think this video works quite well because I’m using the same instrument to play both parts. It’s much more tricky to navigate tuning issues when you’re dealing with different issues, as you will see in some of my later videos! (I’m looking at you, Walking in the Air)
Anyway, no particular technical tips on this one. If you want to play it, just pop on a Christmas hat and enjoy the festivities! Merry Christmas one and all x
And if you want to play along, just click on the picture of this book to get your own copy of the sheet music!