Answering a call to action from an old soldier!

I answered a phone call yesterday which led to one of the most difficult conversations I’ve ever had to deal with during my career as a musician.  My emotional state however, was definitely secondary, compared to the caller, who was an elderly retired Major from the Royal Engineers.

The reason for his call was that sadly he had been given just a couple of months to live by his medical advisers and was anxious to try to sort his affairs out before his health deteriorated so much that it prevented him from being able to do so.  He was also keen to spare his Wife the pain and burden of having to make funeral arrangements, whilst trying to deal with the grief of losing her Husband.

This was the first time that I’d discussed a “funeral plan” with anyone, least of all the “deceased-to-be”, but, being an Army man, he was determined to tackle the issue head-on and ensure that if I was at all available, I would be willing and able to perform the “Last Post” at his funeral service.  Naturally, we couldn’t discuss a date, but he gave me a reasonable timeline of how long the Doctors had given him and I assured him that I would make every effort to be there, when the time came.

Despite the tragic circumstances, this gentleman was calm and measured throughout the conversation and I drew inspiration and strength from his stoic and pragmatic approach to the situation that he found himself in.  Ultimately, we all have to accept that our end will come at some point or another and if I could help and reassure this old man that I would do my best to carry out his last wishes, just as he had planned them, then I would draw on my professional experience to try to make that a reality.

Having dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s regarding the format of the service and my potential involvement, the gentleman was relieved that another element of his closing chapter had hopefully been signed off.

We ended the conversation with me wishing him a smooth passage over the coming weeks – what else can you say to a man who is dying, without sounding crass or absurd? – and a promise to do my very best to be there for his funeral and to give him a dignified send-off, worthy of an ex-Veteran.  After all, as professionals in our respective fields, what else could we hope or want to do?

This is one “call to action” that I pray won’t be happening very soon, but when it does, I very much hope that I am able to respond in the most positive way that I possibly can!

For further information about Andrew Jones, Music for You and the “Last Post”, please call 07973 869621 or e-mail andrew@andrewjonesmusic.com

 

 

Who is your favourite Trumpet player of all time?

It never ceases to amaze me how people can differ in their taste and opinions of everyday things and this is certainly no exception when it comes to choosing your favourite trumpet player.

It got me thinking, how do you decide who your favourite is? Is it based on sound alone, is it interpretation, style, phrasing, technique, or a heady mix of all of them? And what would be the spread of votes between A and B or between X and Y?  There are so many different categories and sub-categories of trumpet players that you could compile endless lists of too e.g. classical, jazz, soloist, orchestral, big band, commercial, chamber music etc. etc.

My list is unashamedly self-indulgent and based on my favourite classical solo trumpeters. Whilst I’m sure many of you will have your own thoughts and question the inclusion/omission of certain Illuminati of the  trumpet world, these are just 10 of the many amazing musicians that have inspired, educated and brought us so much pleasure through their performances over the years.

Thanks for taking part and perhaps you’d like to comment why you made your choice.

Music for You – it’s just that!

Music for You is owned by trumpeter Andrew Jones and can be contacted on +44 (0)7973 869621.

Taking the plunge with an unknown quantity?

Booking a person or company that you’ve never worked with before is a real minefield, particularly when it comes to musicians for special events or occasions. Perhaps this testimonial from a recent client will reaffirm and convince you of Music for You‘s ability to deliver a quality service, when it’s most needed.

Music for Parties Celebrations

“Dear Andrew. From the first time that I rang you, until you left yesterday, you conducted yourself with so much respect, dignity and professionalism. Please never let that change. It was a pleasure to deal with you. I had every confidence that you would perform well……… I can’t thank you enough for performing, what was such an important thing to me. It was my last personal tribute to my Dad. You did an old Veteran proud.”

KR – Last Post (Salisbury).

There, convinced now? If so, please either fill in the enquiry form below, or call Andrew on 07973 869621 to discuss the musical requirements of your event. Music for You – it’s just that!

Why are there 4 valves on certain trumpets?

I often have to remind myself that many of you who read my Blog are not brass players, but you show a great deal of interest in what I do and also are curious to know the workings and origins of the equipment that I use on a day-to-day basis. As a result, one of the frequent questions I get is “why does that trumpet have 4 valves?”, so for this Blog I’ll try to demystify that topic.

Stomvi “Elite” 4-valve Piccolo Trumpet

Following the invention of piston valves in the second half of the 19th Century, there were many ongoing attempts to develop and improve what valved instruments could achieve, musically speaking. Whilst the addition of valves meant an increase in the number of notes attainable, there was still a desire to try to further increase the range possible on the instrument and perhaps more importantly, to improve the intonation (tuning) on certain “sour” notes, that were proving problematic. These would certainly include low D, D flat and C sharp below the stave

So how does it all work? Well, the 4th valve essentially removes the need to use the often problematic 3rd valve, with a selection of notes given below.

No fancy notation software here I’m afraid, just my wobbly hand and trusty pencil!

The D is normally played on 1st & 3rd valves. If you then think, 1+3=? Yes, it’s as basic as that! You now play D on 4th valve. The same goes for the low G.

Db (D  flat) & C# (C sharp) are both played 1,2&3, but alternatively you now play on 2&4.

The low F (required for Baroque works such as Handel’s “Let The Bright Seraphim” and “The Trumpet Shall Sound”) falls outside the natural range of the standard 3-valve instrument – F# being the lowest note, therefore a 3-valve Piccolo Trumpet in A would be of little use for these 2 particular pieces and the performer would have to resort to using a D Trumpet – not the choice of the vast majority of players, I suspect! With the 4th valve, it is possible to get the F natural, by playing 1&4. Result!

Stomvi “Elite” D/Eb 3-valve Trumpet

So,with the advent of the 4th valve, players now have a viable option that makes life easier, not just in an intonation and tuning sense, but also in facilitating tricky passages and also giving certain notes a better tone quality. For example, playing a D on 4th valve sounds more “open” and “free” than when played on the conventional 1st & 3rd valves. As an example, C-D trills are much easier i.e. rather than open-1st & 3rd, you play open-4th valve!

The 4-valve instruments are not just restricted to the trumpet world however. 4-valve flugel horns have been around for years, however it is now possible to get Bb Cornets and Eb Soprano Cornets with 4 valves, courtesy of Spanish instrument makers Stomvi. A notable flag-bearer and ridiculously talented exponent of the Soprano is the Cory Band’s Steve Stewart, who was playing on one, when I was guesting at a rehearsal with them the other night. It was fascinating watching (and hearing) how he utilised this 4th valve to maximum potential!

 Stomvi 4-valve Bb Cornet

If you’d like to try a 4-valve Stomvi instrument, contact Mark Carter at Mr. Tuba or call +44 (0)1633 871506 for further information.

For further information about Music for You please contact Andrew on 07973 869621.

A lovely testimonial from a satisfied client

I received a lovely testimonial from a client yesterday:

“My daughter and I recently asked Andrew from Music for You to assist us by playing the Last Post at the funeral of her father. Andrew’s performance was phenomenal and was a great tribute to a proud ex- paratrooper. We received so much praise for Andrews contribution to the service, and feel he helped to make it truly memorable. Andrew is an amazingly talented and sincere person, and I would not hesitate to use the services of Music for You in the future.”

Nice to know when you get things right.

For further information about Music for You and the “Last Post” or music for any event, please call Andrew on (07973) 869621 or e-mail andrew@andrewjonesmusic.com

Trumpet Voluntary. The most well-known Wedding Processional music – ever?

The Trumpet Voluntary must be one of the most performed pieces at Wedding Ceremonies all over the world and yet there is a lot of confusion as to its name, its origins and its composer.

Firstly, it wasn’t originally written for the Trumpet, but as a March (or Processional) for the Organ and would have been performed using the Trumpet stop, to create a distinctive sound. It dates to around 1700 during the Baroque period.

Secondly, it was originally attributed to English composer Henry Purcell, however this is also incorrect and was actually composed by his lesser-known compatriot, Jeremiah Clarke, who in his own right was an accomplished musician and was organist at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

The next bit of confusion stems from the title of the work “Trumpet Voluntary”. This was a popular style of writing, therefore the title was often used and trumpet players even today have to be careful that people get to hear the correct Voluntary when asked, as there is also a very popular one by John Stanley (sometimes also referred to as Trumpet Tune).

Just to keep people on their toes, the final bit of confusion lies with the fact that the piece has not one, but two recognised titles. “Trumpet Voluntary”, is also known as “The Prince of Denmark’s March”! Confused? Don’t blame you, but if you use the latter title, most competent and experienced musicians should know instantly which piece you are referring to!

The sound clips above and below will hopefully help sort the confusion, but I’m sure you’ll agree both works are great pieces of music regardless.

 Probably the most famous Wedding to feature this music, was the Royal Wedding of 1981 when HRH Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer.
It’s not just weddings though that have featured Clarke’s evergreen work. It has been used by an eclectic mix of musicians and performers, including the Beatles, Sting and Peter Sellers to name but a few.
If you would like to make your “Big Day” extra-special and have Trumpet Voluntary performed at your Wedding Ceremony, then please call Andrew on 07973 869621 or e-mail me at andrew@andrewjonesmusic.com to discuss things further.
Music for You – making Weddings memorable!”

 

 

Why, in the world of music, does mediocrity win over genuine talent and skill?

Its been a while since I last wrote a blog, but I’ve been inspired to put cursor to screen having witnessed music-making of the very highest order this week. Both events were polar opposites, but the levels of skill and talent on display were never in question.

First up was my brass band  “Fest” watching the live streaming of the European Brass Band Championships from Oostende, where 12 of Europe’s finest (including the Cory and Tredegar Bands from Wales and Brighouse & Rastrick Band representing England) were vying for the coveted title.

Tredegar Town Band, 2002 European Brass Band Championships, Belgium

The  24 performances – each Band performed a set-work (Kevin Houben’s “Where Angles Fly”) plus an own-choice work – over the 2 days was quite frankly astounding. I’ve been privileged to have performed at the Europeans on 8 different occasions and the standard of playing since I first appeared in 1990 has risen year on year, to a point where you’d be hard-pressed to say that these weren’t professional ensembles.

Cory Band, 2015 European Brass Band Championships, Germany

Wales once again were at the forefront come results time, with Cory (defending Champions) being placed third and Tredegar coming in fifth. The winning Band this year were Eikanger-Bjorsvik from Norway, led by their inspirational conductor Ingar Heine Bergby, who won following a near 30 year gap since the last time they lifted the trophy. Their stunning own-choice performance of “Fraternity” by Thierry  Deleruyelle will live long in the memory.

Following the Europeans, my next source of inspiration was at Cardiff’s St. David’s Hall, where the wonderful, zany, jaw-dropping, breath-taking etc. etc. “gentlemen” of Mnozil Brass wowed the audience with the mastery of their art. Musicality, power of recall – playing everything from memory, humour, timing, stamina (where do they develop that staying power?), diversity, subtlety and innuendo and so much more. A sheer joy to hear and watch, leaving the audience shell-shocked and spellbound in equal measure. Superlatives are often over-used, but each one I have used was hugely earned and justified.

So, the point of today’s blog is, why do the general public get pawned off with rubbish on television and radio and the publicity given in column inches in the press/social media, when there is so much REAL talent out there? Admittedly, the European Brass Band Championships is very much a niche market, but when Cory Band last year (2016) won the “Grand Slam” of European, National, British Open and Brass in Concert titles (an amazing achievement), they barely made a mention in the local paper. Eikanger’s win at the Euro’s last weekend earned them a massive welcome reception at the airport on their return, with TV and media crews in attendance! Says a lot for what we think of our Champions doesn’t it?

Mnozil however, is an ensemble that could easily be featured on mainstream TV, or at very least on one of the Arts-focused stations. But no, we are subjected to performing dogs or yet another 11-year-old bashing out a Celine Dion hit and being told she has “amazing talent” and will go far etc. etc.

As “defenders of the faith”, perhaps we need to be more pro-active in demanding that the TV companies and media do cater for the more discerning audience and not settle for the rubbish that is often forced down our throats.

A small ray of sunshine in this gloom of mine, was Cory’s invitation to appear on ITV’s ‘Tonight at the London Palladium’ programme hosted by entertainment star Bradley Walsh.

Their performance was recorded live in front of a packed audience of 2,200 people and subsequently broadcast to an estimated audience of over 5 million people last night (03.05.17). Perhaps this is a significant step towards redressing the balance and highlighting the TRUE talent that can and should be presented to audiences the world over.

Here endeth the Lesson!

Stomvi Piccolo Trumpet

Selecting a programme for a Concert?

The opportunities of hearing Brass Quintets in Concert are sadly rare, as most of our work nowadays is either for Weddings or for corporate events, so when Music for You were invited to perform for the Rhymney Valley Music Club, we jumped at the chance.

The Music for You Brass Quintet

The Concert (which is supported by the Night Out Scheme/Arts Council of Wales) takes place on Saturday 1st of April at Siloh Christian Community Centre, Oakfield Street, Ystrad Mynach, Caerphilly, CF82 7AF and starts at 7.15pm.

Before we go any further, I’m in danger of assuming that everyone knows what a Brass Quintet is, so just in case, a Brass Quintet comprises of 2 Trumpets, French Horn, Trombone and a Tuba and this line-up has become the most popular for chamber brass ensembles over the years, as pioneered by the late great Philip Jones. He founded the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble and when they weren’t performing as a 10-piece ensemble, this was their smaller group and he was hugely influential in developing chamber music for brass instruments.

So back to the Concert. Being the sole performers, the evening gives both the Quintet and members of the audience a chance to get their musical teeth into repertoire they would otherwise be unlikely to perform or hear, outside of a Concert setting. This in itself can cause problems however, as musicians often want to get stuck into some really challenging and high-brow repertoire that leaves all but the avid quintet connoisseur underwhelmed and unimpressed. On the flip-side, “dumbing down” a programme to contain a succession of light 3-minute “toe-tappers” or light classical items, means the audience are treated with contempt and the assumption that they couldn’t handle anything more serious than a John Philip Sousa march or maybe (if we were daring enough!), Samuel Scheidt’s (Yes, that’s his real name!) “Battle Suite”.

In compiling our programme for this particular event, we’ve tried to appease both appetites and hope that the audience will discover works by composers covering a 600 year period, that will be both enjoyable, stimulating and perhaps even educational. There will even be music from a living Welsh composer!

The Art v Commerce approach of programming concerts, has and always will be a hot potato for musicians and marketing departments the world over. I’ve always been a strong advocate for introducing audiences to new repertoire and composers, by gently broadening their musical horizons and not metaphorically ramming it down their throats, with the underlying message of “here it is, YOU WILL like it …. or lump it!” or “if you haven’t heard this before, you should have!”.

I very much hope, that we have succeeded in putting together a programme which is balanced for all tastes, but also gives us as performers, a rare opportunity to get our creative “juices” going a bit too. even the Brass Quintet aficionado will discover lots of new repertoire, so don’t expect the “same old, same old” programme!

Without giving too much away, there will be works by Handel, Rimsky-Korsakov, Gordon Langford, Edvard Grieg and Koetsier to name but a few.

So why not pop along and have a listen – it would be great to see you. Remember, there’s nothing quite like live music and even if there is something you want to watch on telly, you can always record it!

In the words of our strap-line “Music for You – it’s just that!”

Here’s a taster of one of the items being performed that evening Procession of the Nobles and you can learn more about Music for You by visiting our website

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Dydd Gwyl Dewi – St. David’s Day

Today (March 1st) is the National Day of Wales – St. David’s Day or Dydd Gwyl Dewi.

img_0052

To all my fellow Welsh compatriots “Dydd Gwyl Dewi hapus i chi gyd, ble bynnag yr ydych yn y byd!”. Happy St. David’s Day to you all, wherever you are in the world!

(Picture – The Welsh Dragon Memorial is at Mametz Wood in France, erected to remember the lives lost of soldiers from the 38th Welsh Division during the Battle of the Somme).

 

Mozart – pure genius or a freak?

On this day (October 29th) in 1787, hours before the first performance of his opera “Don Giovanni” is to be given, Mozart is reminded that he is yet to write an Overture. He duly instructs his Wife to serve him punch and tell him fairy tales throughout the night, until the work is complete.

“The ink was hardly dry on some of the pages when they were placed on the desks of the orchestra” – Wenzel Swoboda (Double-bassist in the orchestra).

Conducting - Copy

Wilhelm Furtwängler conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (Salzburg Festival 1954)