Clarinet...The clarinet is the instrument I'm supposed to be able to play: I studied it as far as Grade VIII (UK academic level... quite good). But now I'm fairly rusty. Almost all my playing is in the worship band at my church. My strength is improvisation. I put lots of extra notes on top of the worship music!
I also teach a little bit: I have one student.
I have a matched pair (B-flat and A) of Boosey and Hawkes Emperors
(no, the picture isn't one of them; I just found it on the Web).
|Our smallest bedroom is largely devoted to my little home recording and MIDI studio. It's my most absorbing (and expensive!) hobby. Here's a page all about it.|
I'm a keen member of a choir called The Normandy Singers who
are based in a local village called Normandy in Surrey. We sing exclusively
sacred christian music, but we believe ourselves unique in the area
in that we're not really attached to any single church (although we
often rehearse and perform in St Mark's, Wyke), and we're
just as happy to sing at Roman Catholic services as at Church of England
ones. We're not too bad as choirs go, though there's still room
for improvement. A lot of our singing is a capella, but we
sometimes sing with organ accompaniment too.
I sing bass, though I'll sing tenor when necessary (cross my legs and hope to die...). I have been known to compose choral music (see below), and I conduct the choir when we sing my pieces, or simply when our conductor can't make a rehearsal. Conducting's a lot of fun, but it leaves me rather drained as I seem to tense all my muscles. I ought to learn to relax, I suppose.
We've performed a piece for unaccompanied SATB choir called "Parhelion in Oriente", which is a Christmas motet I wrote a few years ago. I've had it performed twice: by the Gemini Chorale of Woking in 1987 (I think), and by the Normandy Singers in 1995.
More recently I composed an anthem called "Four Winds", which is a setting of Mark 13 v26-27. It was commissioned from me by the vicar of St Mark's, Wyke, to be sung on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the consecration of the church (April 28th 1996). The Bishop of Guildford was present, and I was very pleased with the performance. We've sung it once since, too.
We took part in a music competition at the Godalming Music Festival in March 1998, and we won the Madrigal section.
In August 1998 we had the chance to sing evensong at Chelmsford Cathedral in Essex, because the vicar of St Marks (where we're based) left to become a canon at Chelmsford. We sang at his installation service. Following on from this, we'll be singing there again on August 22nd 1999; this might become an annual event for us, as it's during the period when the cathedral's own choir is in recess for the summer.
The day after Zoë was born I saw a piano
accordion sitting in the window of a second-hand shop in my home town.
I had been wanting to buy one for a while, ever since I heard a young
man lead children's worship with one in a church in Mongolia. I swear it
was leaning towards me and saying "Buy me! Buy me!" So I bought it.
It's a Hohner Arietta 1M, which is a 72-bass piano accordion, sort of medium size, with a very nice red and gold look to it. It sounds pretty good, with two reeds in a fairly wet musette tuning, and over the past four years I have taught myself to play it to a moderate standard, though I know I've got a long way to go.
I've been using it in my filking activities, and I was awarded a prize for "Best New Song and Best New Accordionist" at Nycon III.
Here's a picture of me playing at Obliter-8.
Photo by Rafe Culpin
I've also had some accordion poetry published on the Web.
Well... just about. I can play enough chords - with confidence - to
be able to accompany myself when I'm singing; but it helps that I usually
only sing songs that I've written myself! I've also got a few nice picking
patterns sorted out.
I have a not-very-special steel-strung acoustic guitar at home, which meets most of my needs. But of course, there's no point in taking it to a filk meeting, cos there'll always be folks there with guitars - and usually better ones than mine.
Very occasionally I'll use the guitar in Christian worship, when there's no one there who can play better than I can.
The Armenian Duduk is an ethnic woodwind instrument that I had heard
on recordings, and I thought (and still think) it's among the most
beautiful-sounding woodwinds around anywhere. I wanted one for
over ten years, so I was delighted to find a
a company in the US that sells them. I bought one from them, and
I've taught myself to play it (my clarinet experience helped a lot).
It's not easy to play, especially as it can require that almost every note you play has to be tuned by varying the lip and jaw pressure as you play. But the results are wonderful. I played it at Didgeri-Douze, where it went down very well (well, no rotten tomatoes were forthcoming, anyway).
I'm planning to write up some hints and tips on duduk-playing, since there's so little on the internet. Stay tuned if you're interested.
Last updated: 21st February 2000