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Towards Harmony: 23 days to go / 9 June 2015

photo of three young men surrounded by instruments

Steve Lockwood, Lloyd & Oliver

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Today began with the 8.30 train from King's Cross to Peterborough, where I met with Kate Risdon, our brilliant flute player. I had promised her some pastries to go with our morning coffee on arrival - the Paraorchestra, like most bands, works best when fed with caffeine and cake...

Kate has an extraordinarily beautiful bass flute solo half way through the piece, in partnership with our bassoonist Sonia. The bass flute is well over twice the size of its parent instrument, and the first time I heard Kate play it I just knew I had to find a moment in which it could feature. The passage in question is in 5 counts per bar, meaning you can divide the metre in 2+3 or 3+2. Kate described the effect of this rather memorably, stating it was like music for camels! Listening again to the lopsided, insistent rhythm that repeats again and again, I can certainly hear what she means. I think I'll call that section 'camel music' from now on.

Next up was Oliver Cross, our harmonica player. His Dad, Simon, kindly met me at Kate's and became something of a tour guide for the rest of day, driving me first to see Oliver's teacher, Steve Lockwood. What followed was 90 minutes of ear-bending experimentation with some gorgeous timbres on what is fast becoming one of my favourite instruments. The sheer range of subtleties you can draw out of it (pun intended) is endless - I urge you to listen out for it at the concert. Oliver already has much if the part learnt from memory, and I can't wait to hear him incorporate some of the ideas we played with today into the final performance. 

While we there, Steve adjusted the tuning on one of Oliver’s harmonicas, a process he dubbed 'open harp surgery’, much to my amusement. He adjusted the tuning of one of the reeds by a semitone with the tiniest blob of blu-tack, barely bigger than a pin prick. Fascinating stuff.  

After the session, we went into Cambridge for some refreshments, before Simon dropped me off at the home of another Paraorchestra member, Guy Llewellyn. Guy is our horn player, and predictably hadn’t had any trouble with the part I wrote for him. If anything, I realised there are sections where I could give him more material - which I will write out tomorrow. You should have seen how his face lit up when I told him there were four horns in the Southbank Sinfonia too. Yes, four! Originally, I was going to use two horns, a trumpet and trombone, but decided instead I wanted the rich sonorities we could create with four of the same lined at up at the back. With a small string section lined up for the gig, I didn’t want to overpower them with too much heavy brass. 

So, we are another day closer to the gig, and another three players - all pivotal to how the piece will sound - are well on the way. I couldn’t be happier. 

Buy tickets for the performance on July 3 HERE