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El Huerto de los Olivos – CD Release on Behalf of HUMSA

Category : Ensembles , News


The classical guitar ensemble from the Huntingdonshire Music School spent nearly 5 hours recording in Old Hurst at St. Peter’s Church one weekend in March. There’s not much you can do in gloves! Anyway the end result was worth it and we now have a CD for sale (£5) with the proceeds going towards HUMSA and therefore future music-making at the music school.

The tracks include:

        • Boureé (Mozart arr K. Marx)
        • The Olive Grove – 1) Il Pensieroso 2) L’allegro (Peter Nuttall)
        • Contradanza (Ian Gammie)
        • Jeux Interdits (Narcisio Yepes arr. Remi Laredo)
        • Beginners’ Rag (Susan Sharp)
        • Ashokan Farewell (Trad.)
        • Arena y Sol (Ian Gammie)
        • Sarabande Varieé (G.F. Handel)
        • Jamaica Farewell (Trad.)

A sample of the tracks from the CD can be heard on the Music Alley site (used to be the Podcast Music Network).

IMG_0315 DSC_0148

Posted by madmusician

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HUMS Dating Agency – Meet Your Fantasy Instrument!

Category : Events

Taster Day, Saturday 23rd May


The music school are holding a taster day on Saturday 23rd May between 09:00 to 13:00 at the Huntingdonshire Regional College in Huntingdon.

Come and find out what happens. Have a try on various instruments and see if we can [pair you up with one. Ever fancied trying and instrument but never quite summoned up the courage? Don’t be put off – don’t let age or anything else stop you – just come and have a chat.

There will be lots of students of all ages and teachers to talk to you. You can listen to a band rehearsing (we’ll be practising for our Norfolk tour this summer). You can find out about the different ways of begging, borrowing, leasing or buying an instrument (and we should have some local suppliers on hand to provide expert advice). Come and see what we get up to when we’re not in the college – either by way of performing outside (e.g. 14th June at the Riverside Park in Huntingdon between 14:30 and 16:30) or travelling elsewhere.

It’s good fun, it’s very sociable and you’re never too old or too young to have a go.

Don’t put it off. This isn’t a dress rehearsal and it’s no good wondering ‘what if’ later on!




  • BBC Play It Again – where famous celebrities, not exactly in their first flush of youth, learned to play an instrument and performed in the public eye
  • Fun education site – good guide to instruments and learning music

Posted by madmusician

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HUMS Clarinettist Stuns Emperor Penguin

Category : Concerts , Events

Keith Stuns Penguin

Keith Stuns Penguin

I suppose it had to happen. Not content with playing in the bowels of the RRS Les Dawson, Keith decided to practice in front of a larger audience. Usually this is a good thing and we would advise any music student to practice in front of strange folks in order to build up confidence. Keith took this advice to heart but being unable to find any humans willing to endure instead decided that the local wildlife in Antarctica would do. I don’t think that the BAS have conducted any studies on the tolerance of the penguin to such noise but hope that it doesn’t affect fertility (penguins!). Those with a keen eye will notice that 1 penguin in the centre appears to have been stunned (or at least has found something better to do). 😉

It does remind of a Creature Comforts clip. I just wonder what the penguins are saying…!

As Keith himself says:-

I was on the afterdeck working when this lot turned up. They’ve been loitering around the ship (which is moored up at Brunt Ice Shelf at the moment) for a couple of days now, and I got Bruce to take this. As you will see, he’s enthusiastic about fill-in flash. These are Emperor Penguins (as if you didn’t know).

Nice scenery.

Posted by maestro

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All at Sea in the Southern Ocean: A HUMS Clarinettist in the Antarctic

Category : Ensembles , Tours

Dad with clarinet in Antarctica

The following is an example of how desperate some in the Huntingdonshire Music School get when faced with band practice. Keith Nicholls works for the British Antarctic Survey based near Cambridge and every now and then we lose him as he heads down south to do scientific work at the other end of the world. Or so he claims – personally it looks like a thinly-disguised excuse to get away. Of course a photograph doesn’t actually prove that he’s practising! 😉

If anyone else has interesting pictures of where they practice or interesting or funny tales of practice sessions that they’d like to share please do so!

Anyway, the story according to Keith is:-

“Have you brought your oboe again, or whatever it is?”
“It’s a clarinet, and yes I have – a nice new one, a Yamaha”.
“Humph…perhaps this one’s in tune”.

I’m not sure the Chief Mate of the RRS Ernest Shackleton was too impressed with my clarinet practice sessions in 2007, the last time I was on board. But I’m told I should practice every day – lots of scales and arpeggios – so when I do my day job for the British Antarctic Survey on an oceanographic research ship in the Antarctic, the clarinet comes with me. Unfortunately, this cruise is a very busy one, and opportunities for practice have been few and far between, certainly not daily. And preferring to practice in solitude makes it especially difficult. I’ve sought out a laboratory that’s rarely occupied, and sneak off there for the odd twenty minutes or so as often as I can manage.

The cold isn’t an issue, as the ship is heated to a comfortable temperature, but it can be exciting chasing the music around the lab when we’re in rougher seas. Luckily, we spend most of our time in the depths of the sea ice, which completely suppresses the waves. The only problem then is the banging and crashing through the ice, which jolts and jars the ship in a much more disorientating way than the waves.

Music is important to everyone on board, yet there seem to be no other active musicians. At one of our Antarctic bases, Rothera, we have a lively music scene, with a home-grown band called Nunatak giving regular performances. In fact, they shot to fame when they featured in the Live Earth 2007 concert in July 2007 (Nunatek & Live Earth – British Antarctic Survey is a site well-worth visiting). However, I seem to be the solitary active musician on board this ship, though I’ve seen guitars secreted in cabins here and there, including the Captain’s.

Ah well, on with the practice. Mike, the Second Engineer pops his head into the lab. “Oh, it’s you,” he said. “I thought one of my engines had gone wrong”.

Posted by madmusician

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1940s Night

Category : Concerts , Events

old_microphoneOn Saturday 27 September, the HUMS Big Band (Swing Band) will be presenting an evening of music and dancing from the 1940’s.
The venue is Buckden Millennium Hall and tickets cost £10 each, which includes a fish & chip supper and your first drink. A licensed bar is available for any further drinks!

It will be a fun evening and 1940’s costume is optional but encouraged!

If you would like tickets, contact Lesley Scanlon phone: 01487 822930. A poster is attached. Ticket numbers are limited, so don’t miss out!
Open to: Everyone / Public
Cost: £10

Posted by maestro

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Sax in the Cafe

Category : Ensembles


It’s not just cappuccino and latte that are served in our cafe. Oh, no! If you want something hot leave the drinks alone and come and listen to what happens when musicians meet each other in a warm and friendly setting….

It’s fat-free, doesn’t damage the New Year’s resolution and far better for the figure and soul than Atkins’. It also lasts you a lifetime.

Posted by maestro

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Back from the Isle of Man (Windy Isle)

Category : Tours


Well – what a tour! As usual (for these summer tours) it was a hectic combination of sight-seeing, rehearsals, performance and the occasional late night relaxation. Indeed – and again as ever – the weather was brilliant. This was a bit of a worry after the previous tours to France/Germany and Austria which were very hot and sunny. We needn’t have worried as the weather was organised to perfection.

After a very early start at stupid o’clock in the morning (traditional) we sailed from Liverpool on the Seacat ferry. Like a mill pond – don’t know what all the fuss was about. 😉 Luckily for those of us with large instruments the hotel was a short walk from the ferry terminal in Douglas and we had Jem and his ‘burger van’ to ferry kit around.

In brief the itinery was:-

  • Thurs 24th July. Rehearse. Outing to the Calf of Man and Craig. Performance at the Ballerkermeen High School together with the Isle of Man Wind Orchestra and Manx Saxophone Ensemble
  • Friday 25th July. Trip to Peel. BBQ on beach. Rehearse. Concert in Peel Cathedral with the
  • Saturday 26th July. Southern Agricultural Show near Castletown. Brass band and Swing Band perform. Return to Douglas on steam train. Take Manx Electric Railway to Laxey. Visit wheel / Snaefell on mountain railway. Farewell meal.
  • Sunday 27th July. Performance at Villa Marina Gardens in Douglas. Ferry back ‘across’ and thence back home.

We all had a great time and made many new friends whilst over there. This was only possible with a lot of hard work, both here at home and also those in the Isle of Man – not just ex-HUMS-pats like Jem (& family) but also the Manx Sax Ensemble and luminaries like Paul Dunderdale and the Isle of Man Arts Council, Ballerkermeen High School and many, many more.

These trips are now very much part of the annual calendar for the music school and are organised by HUMSA for the benefit of everyone. They are very social affairs and good opportunities to get to know others who you may know by sight across the school or even orchestra or band but never have the time to speak to (yes, it is really that busy on Saturday mornings!).

Next year (2009) we’re off to Norfolk.

Posted by maestro

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A Typical Saturday Morning

Here we try to illustrate what goes on on a typical Saturday morning at the Huntingdonshire Music School.

The activities are split into the following categories:-

  • lessons. These happen throughout the morning with pupils dipping into and out of theory and/or group playing to take their lesson. Not everyone takes lessons.
  • theory tuition. Where you learn the theory (that makes sense of the black sqiggles on the page) and, if appropriate, prepare for exams. Not everyone takes exams.
  • group playing. Getting together in groups to practice, usually for a concert at the school or externally. Sometimes we do daft things, like turning the music upside down and seeing what it sounds like …
  • socialising / eating / drinking. Catching up with the gossip, in the cafe when we have quieter moments. Some even practice their pieces for the benefit ( 😉 ) of everyone else.

Theory Tuition

Theory is important when learning an instrument. It is so much easier to read and understand music if you understand the basic building blocks.

Theory classes are organised by Grade. This aligns with the Associated Board of the Royal School of Music (ABRSM) examination grades. In terms of difficulty we start at Grade 1 and finish at Grade 8 (the hardest). We currently have two theory groups which take students up to grade 5, further grades can ba arranged as an individual lesson. You do not have to take exams and anyone can take theory lessons.

There are two types of theory tuition:-

  • written. This is covered by a range of set books, by teacher-derived quizzes, tests, games and learning aids. Often a piano or other instrument may be used to help illustrate theory principles, or practice such as key signatures, scales, chords or timing. Practice theory exam papers are available for those taking theory and practical exams or those who want to see how far they’ve reached.
  • aural. This aims to make the student better at listening to and analysing music. Aural is a requirement for ABRSM music exams. For all grades these are covered in the students individual lessons. If you feel you need more Aural this can be arranged as an individual lesson.

Groups Playing

You don’t have to learn an instrument with us to play. You might take lessons privately elsewhere and want to learn the skills of playing as a member of a larger team (albeit in loose formation at times!). This sort of experience is very hard to get and almost impossible to get as an adult (most things are geared up towards the little dots, youngsters and teenagers (a decidely different species 😉 ). Not only that, but it’s convenient, sociable and you can join as many as you want.
We are also looking at forming new ensembles, particularly choral/singing and perhaps blending music technology with classical instruments.
Groups below are all open to all age groups.

  • Saturdays:
  • 9.00-9.30 Junior Theory (Moving to 08.45 spring term 2016)
  • 9.30- 10.00 Grade 5 Theory (moving to 09.15 – 10.00 Spring term 2016)
  • 9.00-10.00 Brass Group
  • 10.00-11.00 Family Community Choir
  • 10.00 -11.00 Intermediate Concert Band
  • 11.00 -12.00 Advanced Concert Band
  • 11.15 – 12.00 Beginner Strings
  • 12.00 -13.30 Big Band
  • register your interest at music-school@huntingdon.ac.uk
  • Tuesdays:
  • 17.30- 18.30 Folk Group (taking a break Autumn Term 2015)

Posted by maestro

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