Last month, my mum was sent details of a workshop taking place at the Royal Albert Hall led by Alison Balsom. As it was aimed at 11-14 year old brass players, I applied and was pleased to secure a place on it.
The workshop took place last week as part of the Love Classical Festival. I was one of approximately 55 brass players who were given the day off school to work with Alison Balsom. Prior to the workshop, we’d all been sent parts to Pachabel’s Canon and Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus – I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed practising this style of music – which we worked on during the day. It was a great experience to play alongside so many brass players of a similar age and standard to me and I came away with some useful tips relating to warm-ups and improvisation.
A few days later, my family and I went along to the Albert Hall to see Alison Balsom perform with Guy Barker, Brass for Africa’s Ronald Kabuye, David Goode, Bryn Terfel, Hannah Stone and others. Just like when I last saw her perform, I was amazed by the sound she produces, her amazing breath control and range of music. The baroque trumpets were particularly interesting as they don’t have any valves and the players appeared to be tipping the instruments to drink their own spit! We were lucky enough to be sitting in a box next to Guy Barker’s mother who was very friendly and told us all about Guy’s career.
It’s been a busy week but I’d like to finish this post with two things I learned in the workshop and have already put to use…
- From Alison Balsom: a good warm-up exercise; on each finger position, change note, a semi-tone at a time, using only the lips.
- As demonstrated by Patrick Johns; when improvising, focus on making the rhythm interesting e.g. make it a bit like speech – use a mixture of long and short phrases, sustained notes and rests.
P.S. If anyone reading this knows why baroque trumpets have to be tipped up, please leave a comment!