Whiteknights Ensemble: next concert 21 July 2018 at Leighton Park, Peckover Hall

Whiteknights Ensemble before inaugural concert 18-11-17
The Whiteknights Ensemble, Inaugural Concert 18 November 2017

Following the success of our inaugural concert back in November 2017, the Whiteknights Ensemble is currently rehearsing for a second concert in July this year, to be held at Leighton Park, Peckover Hall.

The date and venue are fixed, but we have yet to confirm other details, including the programme. It is likely, however, that the evening will look something like this:

  • Janacek: Three Moravian Dances (Quartet)
  • Kummer: Trio in F major Rondo Allegretto (Cl, Fl, Bsn)
  • Arnold: Divertimento (Ob, Cl, Fl)
  • Bozza: Trois pieces (Quartet)


  • Bach: Trio Sonata No. 1 (Ob, Fl, Bsn)
  • Mozart: Mechanical Clock (Quartet)
  • Ibert: Cinq Pièces en Trio (Ob, Cl, Bsn)
  • Jacob: Four Old Tunes (Quartet)

More details to follow in due course!

18 November 2017: Inaugural concert of the Whiteknights Ensemble


Earlier this year some of my musical friends and I got together to form the Whiteknights Ensemble, and our inaugural concert is now only three weeks away! We’ll be performing as a wind quintet and the programme comprises works by Mozart, Ligeti, Cambini, Nielsen and Patterson.

Based in Earley, Reading, the Whiteknights Ensemble takes its name from Whiteknights Park, the manorial land of the De Erleigh family, now the campus of the University of Reading.

Full details can be found on our website here. The concert will take place at 7.30pm in St Paul’s Church, Wokingham, and proceeds will be donated to Rosie’s Rainbow Fund, a local charity which supports sick and disabled children through art and music therapy.

It’s a very worthy cause and the tickets are only £5, so please come along and support us if you can!

Programme details as follows: 

W.A.Mozart – Overture: The Magic Flute

György Ligeti – Six Bagatelles

Giuseppe Cambini – Quintet No.2 in D minor

Carl Nielsen – Wind Quintet

Paul Patterson – Westerly Winds

And if this isn’t enough to tempt you, there’ll be wine and cake during the interval: a nice glass of vino and some home baking could be yours for a suggested donation of two quid – how can you say no? Tickets on the door or available in advance from ensemble members via info@whiteknightsensemble.org.uk.

Finally, please visit our Facebook page to like and share!


The BIG Double Reed Day 2014: Notes from the Workshops

The BIG Double Reed Day takes place every year in mid-November at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and, as part of the day’s schedule, adult players are invited to participate in workshops. These workshops used to be called masterclasses, but everyone found that term a bit frightening, so ‘workshops’ it is. However, the idea is the same: you go along armed with a piece you have prepared, you play it in front of the group, and then a professional player gives you hints and tips on how to improve your performance and everyone else takes notes. This post, then, is essentially my notes written up. The result is rather bitty, but it does include some useful tips.

Albinoni Oboe Concerto in D minor, 1st movement

  • This movement should be pacey, so be careful not to take it too slowly.
  • Keep the dotted rhythm tight: it mustn’t be tripletty.
  • Pay careful attention to the step dynamics and work it up little by little.

Mozart Oboe Concerto, 2nd movement

  • The articulation must be accurate. Don’t use any hard tonguing – everything should be ‘dah’, not ‘tah’ or ‘kah’.

Krommer Concerto in F 

There are two of these, apparently, but the one in question here is the one with the Rondo 6/8 section.

  • It’s an operatic kind of movement, and when you get to bar 31, imagine that a different character has walked onto the set. This will help you establish a change of tone in your playing.

Bozza Fantaisie Pastorale

Now, this is my latest project. During the workshop, a young woman gave an absolutely stunning performance of this most fantastic piece and I was left writhing with envy. The music can be downloaded here and you can watch a fabulous YouTube performance here:

What strikes me in particular about this YouTube performance is that the oboist gives himself plenty of time to breathe when he needs to – there’s nothing hurried or panicky about the breaths he takes. This brings me to one of the most useful tips I picked up in this year’s workshops:

The manner in which you finish the phrase before you take your breath can determine how long you can take.

In other words, if you’ve gobbled the end of a phrase then you have committed yourself to moving on quickly, whereas if you’ve allowed a phrase to develop and fade as it should, then you’ve probably bought yourself a bit of time for a good out-in breath, rather than a snatched just-topping-up sort of breath.

Okay, so other useful tips picked up during this session were as follows. I’ve written them out in a list now, rather than attaching them to certain pieces because they are standalone points and it makes more sense to do it this way…

Mark up the piano part as well as your own with the places where you need to breathe so that your pianist is aware and can make a little space for you.

Move the oboe up, then down and bounce up to bring other players in. You can practise doing this while playing scales. It’s not an easy thing to do, but it is enormously helpful to those with whom you are playing if you can give a clear indication of when you are going to start.

Add the third finger of the right hand when playing G#/Ab to improve the sound. This doesn’t work particularly well on my oboe, but it does make a significant difference on some other models.

The first breath is always important. Try to breathe rhythmically and in preparation for the entry.

Try the following exercise to remind yourself of where pitching should come from: play a note and lower the jaw as much as possible while keeping the pitch of the note stable. Do this until air actually comes out through your mouth, so that you have to work harder and harder to prevent the pitch from dropping.

Playing rhythmically is playing as late as you can, but still playing in time. If you think about this, it makes sense!

Think about how to make sense of the music without vibrato. There’s another whole post about vibrato here.

And that’s it for this year, but I should mention that the professional players who gave this good advice so freely were Rebecca Wood and Daniel Bates. Many grateful thanks to both!