Catching up part 2…

Okay – so I have been pretty slack at keeping this up to date. It may be for many reasons, but I would have thought that the main reason would have been a football induced depression after the terrible start to the season for Liverpool FC…it hasn’t gotten too much better as the season has gone on, so have pulled myself out of the dirt to write here!

As I write, I am in Kansas City watching New England Patriots @ Chicago in the NFL – I follow the NFL, and am a glory hunting Pats fan, but my more immediate concern is the state of the weather in Chicago – where it seems as though there is a constant blizzard – seeing as I am heading there tomorrow for the Midwest Clinic. It was -22c here in KC last night, and there was plenty of snow, so I guess it was good training!

I have also had some exciting news about a new position – but that is deserving of a separate post!

So I’ll catch up in two parts…October to November (see post below) and then late November to December below this!

The end of November up until today has been a fantastic few weeks – I have been away from home for three weeks, and with one week to go in Chicago, I am looking forward to getting back now.

It started in Switzerland, where my time was split between Lucerne and Montreux – two of the most amazing places you could ever wish to visit. I was out there with Brass Band Burgermusik Luzern and their conductor, Michael Bach. Michael and the band commissioned me to write an own choice selection for their national finals – it was a pleasure to work with such an amazing band, and a conductor who is one of the most talented musicians I have ever met. Unfortunately, their performance of the piece – The Legend of King Arthur – didn’t find favour with the judges, and they came second – but I truly believe that they are one of the best bands I have had the pleasure of working with and also the nicest band I have ever worked with. Their performance was simply one of the most musical and one of the most incredible experiences I have had as a composer.

A fun night out was had following the contest with some of the other Brits (who were very well represented in Montreux), and it soon became apparent that drinking with editor, Iwan Fox, was a bad idea – I managed to miss my train to Geneva airport, although by luck I managed to get a later train to Geneva and a taxi to the airport. Before I left, we did a quick interview, which took a total of 14 takes, but we got there in the end! If you want to have a listen, the interview can be found here and the contest coverage here.

So, I made it to Geneva for a pretty rough night at the airport, followed by a rough day flying to Des Moines, Iowa, via Heathrow and Chicago. I spent a great week out in Des Moines with Randy Hoepker, Steve Day and the Hoover High School Band. They have a great set up there, and I had the chance to work with the band and the wind ensemble on Eternal Light, Hymn for Africa and Purcell Variants. I also discovered that the USA has some very fine beer. Not that I drank too much of it…

So a 3.5 hour coach trip lay ahead in order to get to Kansas City – and it was made all the more pleasant by a friendly coach driver called Joe (who is one of only 3 million people over here to be fascinated by my “cool” accent!) – although one of the other passengers, who had perhaps had one or two ales too many, decided to get to know the rest of the coach…I was fine with this until he spoke to me, asked me my name and what I was up to…so out of politeness, I asked him his name, to which he (quite scarily) responded “my friends call me animal”. I like to think that I do my best to treat all people well, but in animal’s case, I went out of my way to be nice to him. Not too sure I want to get on the wrong side of someone with that name!

I was greeted at Kansas City by an college friend from the RNCM, Helen Tyler. I have to admit is was nice to hear a proper, northern, English accent – and as I did, all memories of Animal disappeared. Helen and her partner Lee Harrelson were kind enough to put me up for the week and also set up visits to some of the many good schools around KC. KU, UMKC and MWSU all welcomed me and played through some music, gave a couple of clinics/talks, and get a real feel for KC – and what a great city it is! Special thanks to Joe Parisi, Jeff Linton, Scott Watson and Paul Popiel for their kind welcome and hospitality.

My host, Lee, has a real passion for brass bands and 8 years ago set up Fountain City Brass Band. Along with Helen, he has created a fine, fine musical ensemble and a great youth set up, which serves the community – it really works as a genuine relationship, from which everyone benefits. You can only wonder what good could be done in the UK if more bands had the attitude of FCBB, Lee and Helen.

I got to hear this wonderful band, and whilst the 1st half was fun, the 2nd half featured Lee’s arrangements of the Stan Kenton Christmas music – great fun, great arranging, great playing! Check out FCBB when they head to the UK again in the Spring.

And so tomorrow is off to Chicago for the Midwest Clinic…am not looking forward to the flight, but am looking forward to catching up with many American friends, as well as some of my British friends who I haven’t seen since, well, Switzerland – which at this moment, feels like a life time ago!

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