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HuMSA on Tour

Category : Concerts , Tours

A Letter from Marburg

Dear Mum and Dad

I have just got back from a busy few days away, and have now come back for a rest

My german speaking skills are a little bit to be desired, well actually they are non-existent, but I did learn how to say cheers, good morning, good evening and thank you. Everyone speaks english and everyone made us so welcome.

We (the Huntingdon Music School) went to Marburg-Biedenkopf, there was 22 of us playing. We left at 2.45 am from Huntingdon on the Thursday by coach, taking our instruments with us. I am glad I only have a flute to look after, Martin had to look after a double bass! We went via the Ferry and took all day to get to Bad Endbach, Bruxelles was the worst stretch of road, there were road works and traffic jams. We stayed in a B&B, which was nice. I had my own room overlooking the garden. Breakfast was meats and bread, there was no porridge :(.


The first night (Thursday) we played at Marburg, it was a cool evening and we played in the market square of the town, along with other performers. We were the only orchestra that went along. We wore black tops and black skirts or trousers. I noticed that everyone else wore national costumes and were singing and dancing, their costumes were really nice and a lot of effort had gone into the dresses.

Friday we did not play but went to shopping and in the afternoon and visited Griefenstein Castle. We saw the ‘world bells’ there, it was interesting to hear how they managed to keep the bells a secret, others would have wanted to melt them and make canons. There was a medieval festival taking place and we tried honey ale. There was also old fashioned ice cream, which was nice, not too dissimilar from nowadays and served by that’s clean maids service with best quality.

On Saturday afternoon we played at Kirchhain, we played the same music. We played in a different order but we had a different audience. The weather was hot, very sunny, (I borrowed a hat and used some sun cream), my hands were sweaty and my flute was hot, I didn’t enjoy it. I think we played really well and this was our best concert, we really got the audience joining in, thanks to our bus driver I think.


On Sunday it was our day to introduce the performance, we played a marching tune, I can’t remember the name (we have given back all the music) Prince Williams March?), we also played Jaguar, another marching piece of music. The audience were not so willing to join in with us, it wasn’t the same as the day before.

The other pieces that we played were ‘Shepherds Hey’ English Morris Dance, Fantasy on an Irish Clogging Tune, English sea song suite: The saucy arethusa, Farewell and adieu (spanish ladies), Tom Bowling and Jack’s the lad (the sailor’s hornpipe), you will recognise two of the pieces from the Last night of the proms. We didn’t get the same response from our crowd and there was no-one with a horn!

It was a good experience, it was nice to go and play as an orchestra.

Love Jane

Posted by Rebecca

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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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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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