Colab begins…

Harry, Charlie and Louis while arranging the Paragon Rag for a group of 9

Today I start the glorious fortnight at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance that is Colab! The college is becoming well know for its fortnight of creative project making that has now been running annually for several years.  It is a wonderful opportunity to learn something new either with your instrument or without, it’s about broadening your creative horizons and discovering new skills and learning how to work with others on a level that other musical institutions do not teach.

Now in my fourth and final year at Trinity Laban I consider myself well versed in the weird and wonderful experience that Colab is.  My projects have ranged from semi-improvised film scoring to cabaret and Klezmer, this year I am set for a week of Ragtime tutored by jazz trombonist Malcolm Earle-Smith.

This morning Malcolm kicked off the day with a lecture about the history of ragtime taking us from its origins in military music to becoming the most popular music of the day.  Plans are underway though we have had run throughs of the Paragon Rag and discussion on how we are going to continue to arrange it to work for the group.  Apologies for dodgy sight-transposition and iffy notes!!!

Introducing the Risatina Quintet (again) – Photoshoot

Is it possible for me to pretend that the last few posts on my quintet never happened?  Do me a favour and suspend your disbelief as I re-introduce my chamber group…  Or maybe just give you a few updates.

1501769_1453181744902451_229605868959079113_nThe Risatina Quintet, as we are known, finally have pictures!

This is us on the left, taken in one of the rooms at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance (music campus).  We didn’t get a professional photographer, in fact it was all a bit of a rush.  In a desperate bid to get posters and flyers for our upcoming charity fundraising tour for Mind, we agreed a day and time the five of us were all free, and desperately searched round for someone (ANYONE) good enough with a camera.

In the end we used my friend and flatmate Will, who bless him isn’t known especially for his skill with a camera, but he was free!  In the end he did a great job considering we did the whole lot in less than half an hour between classes and rehearsals.

A few of the other photos I like are posted here, and there are more on our Facebook page, but although they are amateur, and some of them a bit cheesy, we have finally reached the point where we are first stepping out in to the professional world of music, our first externally organised recitals, selling tickets, making posters, websites…  And it’s finally reached the time where we need something to represent us, and though like I said, the photos are not professional, they still speak words about us as a group.




We are finding our voice, who we are as a group.  The module I write this blog for is about learning how to create a brand for yourself, to “sell yourself” as one of our lecturers said.  I think we are on our way to finding that for ourselves, it won’t happen straight away, or maybe it has, but with the birth of our new website we are at least presentable and I think, just about ready for the outside world.

And for a final introduction—– here is the Risatina Quintet official website!!!

The Masterclass

This is my first post, and for a while I have been thinking about what I might say… I am a clarinettist and a young one. I am in the third year of my degree, I’m 21, and I am always worrying, scared of the future, what it might or might not hold (having said that I am young, Karl Leister had his first job in an opera house at 19, and Stanley Drucker got his first orchestral position aged 17). As you may have guessed from the title, I am a little nervous, I am even nervous about this blog post! Will it be good enough? Will it be funny enough? Does it need to be funny? What if I say something wrong? Or even worse… what if people are bored?

Yesterday I watched a masterclass with the great Karl Leister, previously of the Berlin Philharmonic, at Trinity Laban Conservatoire, and he had some wonderfully wise words to say to us about how to get to the top, or at least where we want to be in life. His words made me think, about my fears of mediocrity, and failure, when he asked us what WE wanted from life.

Some of Karl’s lovely quotes included some very nice technique analogies “Walk your fingers, like a cat, over the clarinet, not like an elephant!” & “Don’t polish the floor” and some good information on editions and never to play Schumann EVER on a B flat clarinet “It must be on the A!” (note to self: NEVER play Schumann on a Bb clarinet). Though despite his often humorous and very technical and wonderful insights on Schumann and Brahms he made me think about some of my own anxieties in relation to my music.

“If you want to get to the top, you have to practice, practice, practice…”

We all know that… right?

“…and if you are happy being somewhere in the middle, then ok.”


“OK” is the word that struck a chord in me. Am I happy with “OK”? Of course I don’t necessarily want to be the best clarinettist in the world, but I want to be the best I can be, and maybe I am starting to realise that part of the reason I am anxious, is because I am not really doing the right things to be the best for myself?  I am honest about the fact that I don’t practice enough, and whenever I think about it, the permanent knot in my stomach tightens a little, and it only gets better when I feel like I have done enough for myself to be better. Perhaps because the truth is, I’m not happy being the average of what I can be.  Maybe I DO want the best for myself, and I know what I need to do to get it, can I face it?

Congratulations to all of my musical co-students who performed yesterday in the masterclass with Karl Leister at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. Well done!!!