1 April 2017: Reading Symphony Orchestra

On 1 April I’ll be playing 2nd Oboe in Petrushka with the Reading Symphony Orchestra. Details half-inched from their website and pasted below. It’s a great poster, isn’t it? I love the dancing skeleton.


11 March 2017 – Woodley Concert Band: A Night in the West End

I have three concerts coming up soon, and the first is with Woodley Concert Band on 11 March. Here’s the blurb from the Facebook page:

Our first concert of the year celebrates a night in London’s West End. We’ll be featuring some classic musicals such as West Side Story, Phantom of the Opera and Oliver alongside recent hits such as Jersey Boys. The programme ventures beyond musicals, with a highlight being Philip Sparke’s Theatre Music. You’re guaranteed a fantastic evening’s entertainment and a great start to WCB’s musical year!
Tickets cost £12 (£10 concessions)


Venue: The Bulmershe School, Woodlands Avenue, Woodley RG5 3EU

Kick off at 7.30pm. Come along for some tuuuuuuuuunes! If I have to have Jersey Boys stuck in my head, then you do too.


I’m going to try for a performance diploma

clipart-music-notes-music-notes-clip-artI’ve decided to have a crack at a music performance diploma from Trinity College London (there’s more info here if you fancy a look). It took me quite a long time and many, many clicks on their website to find out what the fee is: at present, it’s something like the best part of two hundred and fifty quid, and that’s before I’ve paid the accompanist. But I’ll have time to save up because I won’t be ready for it this year. I’m thinking February 2018 at the earliest. There’s a lot of work to do and I’ll have to build up my stamina if I’m to survive a forty-minute solo recital, which is a long time to be performing for an amateur player. I’ve requested permission to play a programme of my own devising, and now I’m waiting to hear if the pieces I’ve chosen are acceptable. Exciting times!

In other news, I have quite a few concerts in the pipeline for the spring term and will be posting details soon.

A music practice room of one’s own

The music practice rooms I used to visit on an almost daily basis are now permanently closed and out of use, and this presented me with an enormous problem: where to practise? I live in a terraced house and the walls are very thin. Not only that, but my Significant Other is an academic and he spends an awful lot of time at home trying to decipher illegible texts on EEBO, so he doesn’t want me squawking on the oboe right in his earhole. When I gave him the news that the practice rooms had been closed, he looked at my droopy little face, considered his options, and started shopping online for sheds. Within a week, the shed had arrived.

Bless ‘im, he banged that shed up in two days. (He really didn’t want me playing in the house.) Here’s the shed before I started painting it:

In fact it’s a summerhouse rather than a shed, and this is what we went for because if I’m to practise in there, I need windows to let in some light. The windows are made of some sort of heavy-duty plastic and they don’t open. This is not ideal, of course, but hinged glass windows come with rather a hefty price tag and we were working on a pricing basis of this-will-do.

Painting and decorating the shed 

I’d decided that I wanted the shed to match the colour of the leaves of our garden’s plum tree, so I opted for Cuprinol’s Summer Damson and Country Cream. It took me a fortnight to paint the whole thing, inside and out. I painted the interior entirely in the cream colour, to make the space as light as possible. (Click to enlarge the images.)

Now, I knew that I would be spending an hour or two in this shed every day, so I went to a bit of trouble with the interior. First of all, I put down some underlay and a cream rug:

I couldn’t get a rug to fit perfectly, so I tacked the excess to the walls. (This’ll contribute to whatever there is in the way of insulation.)

Next I added lots of purple-coloured stencils and accessories to match the Summer Damson paintwork:

There are two smaller purple rugs on the floor too. I practised in the shed before putting the rugs down, and have to admit that the acoustic was slightly better without, but the rugs are necessary. It would be far too cold in there without them and not even half as cosy. I’ve also hung up a lantern with an LED candle, and I re-worked the découpage job I’d done previously on my reed-making chair:

Almost there – just one or two more details. My Significant Other cut squares in the lawn to sink three flag stones leading up to the shed, which looks much neater than it would otherwise. And our stone bunnies have been promoted to the position of Guardians of the Shed (they make very useful doorstops).


Lighting the shed

Even with an interior painted cream and plastic windows, the shed benefits from the extra light provided by a battery-powered camping light and some cheap LED lights which I managed to glue to the ceiling after the third attempt:

These lights positively eat batteries, but I only switch them on when I really need to. In fact, I discovered that it’s really not a good idea to use the ceiling LED lights when the sun is shining. The roof got so hot that the LED light caught fire and I nearly burned my shed down (see pic below).

14117678_10154109182406749_3610138284618192964_nOops. It’s fine to use the LED lights when it’s cold outside, but I won’t be using them in the summer. There’s a little burn mark on my otherwise spotless paintwork to remind me not to do so.

So there we have it! I’m very pleased with my shed/music practice room. It is getting a bit chilly in there now, but if it gets too cold I can take a fan heater and an extension cord out there, so it’s not a problem. The carpet underlay will help prevent any damp from taking hold.

The shed isn’t sound-proofed, of course, but there have been no complaints from the neighbours so far (although I did set one of their dogs off barking this afternoon when I was practising slurring from the-very-top F# to G). My Significant Other is happy because he says although he can hear me playing, the sound is distant enough for him to be able to work. Plus – and this really is a bonus – I never have to queue for a room, or try to practise over the crashing noise of an inconsiderate pianist smashing away at the keyboard next door as I had to in the old practice rooms.

And here I am, all ready to play! I love my shed. It is absolutely BRILLIANT and I cannot recommend enough having a dedicated space at home in which you can play undisturbed. It’s just triffic.



15 October 2016 – Aldworth Philharmonic Orchestra, Mahler Symphony No. 2 ‘Resurrection’

mahler-768x578This coming Saturday, I’ll be playing 4th oboe/2nd cor anglais with the APO in Mahler’s wonderful 2nd symphony, ‘Resurrection’. More details and information about ticket purchasing on APO’s website here. This is my first Mahler outing and it’s been fabulous so far! To be honest, Mahler is much more fun than I thought it was going to be, but I’m not sure where my dour preconceptions came from.

We’ll be in the Great Hall at the London Road campus of the University of Reading, kick-off at 7.30pm. There’ll be a 15-minute interval after the 1st movement, because this is a biggie.