"Making music at the heart of the east midlands"

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Notes from the Director of Music

I am writing this on a mid-July afternoon. Why? Because it is pouring with rain outside and there is little prospect of it stopping in the near future! As summers go it has been pretty disappointing on the weather front, however, for Ashby Concert Band it has been a summer of great music, fantastic concerts and happy memories together.

Our summer concert season got off to a great start when we performed a concert of film music to help celebrate the 100th Anniversary of The Palace in Ibstock. As well as a great programme of screen hits we also did our bit to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, commemorate the loss of the R.M.S. Titanic way back in 1912, and to celebrate the forthcoming London Olympics.


In many respects the concert at Ibstock was a dry run for the concert in Pithiviers. After two years of planning and organising we set off in the early hours of Thursday June 7th to make the 500 mile journey to Ashby's Twin Town. The journey itself proved uneventful, apart from some torrential rain storms and a monumental traffic holdup near Paris Airport.

Friday was a day for rest and relaxation. The day itself was spent taking in the pleasures of Fontainebleau, just 35 miles away from Pithiviers. The evening was spent hosting a banquet for band members, Patrons who had made the journey to France, host families who were providing hospitality for some band members, and of course, members of the Twinning Association; it was an evening of great food and great company.

Saturday morning was spent sitting in the delightful and picturesque market square playing a light programme of music to a very receptive French audience of shoppers and passers-by. After two hours we all adjourned for a lunch hosted by the Twinning Association, after which we had the afternoon free before playing the evening concert.

The concert itself was amazing. The acoustics of the church make for both a challenging and rewarding venue in equal measure. Our opening piece was the Elgar Pomp & Circumstance March No. 4 - amazing would be an understatement to describe just how well it went. That was followed by the 2nd Suite in F by Holst - a superb piece written for wind orchestra and superbly demonstrating the range of colour, delicacy and power of the concert band. Suo Gan left everyone present in a trance - the simple but rich harmonies combined with the amazing acoustics of the building made for a memorable performance. From simplicity we moved to top flight challenge with our first performance of Malcolm Binney's Charivari; this one piece left no one in any doubt about the value of our now much expanded auxiliary percussion section. The Derek Bourgeios Serenade and Scarborough Fair brought the first half to an outstanding conclusion.

The second half was music inspired by early American history and the Wild West. John Williams' The Cowboys set the scene. This was followed by the amazing score written by Randy Edelman for the film The Last of the Mohicans - 11 minutes of pure magic. From there we moved to the haunting theme from the film Shenandoah and then seamlessly on to the music written for the HBO epic Gettysburg; once again the auxiliary percussion brought a whole new dimension to the music. The concert programme concluded with John Barry's Dances with Wolves and perhaps the best known of all western themes, Elmer Bernstein's The Magnificent Seven. There just had to be an Encore and we chose to move to space cowboys and play a selection of themes from Star Wars - The Empire Strikes Back.

Like De Montfort, no one present wanted the evening to end. The musicianship was of such a high standard that several audience members refused to accept that we were not a professional band. Ashby Concert Band was once again a credit to the town of Ashby de la Zouch.


Once back in the UK we had just one more concert to give before taking our customary summer break. On 25th June we gave what proved to be essentially a repeat performance of the concert given in Pithiviers at our home concert venue of Holy Trinity Church in Ashby. The primary purpose of the concert was to help raise money for much needed repairs to the roof. The concert raised just short of £1000 - three more tickets sold and we would indeed have exceeded the £1000 mark. It was another great concert and a fitting way to conclude our concert season.

And now we have a much needed break and then another full year of concerts to look forward to, starting with our Concert of Remembrance on 9th November when once again we will be joined by The Seaforth Highlanders Pipe and Drum band. We will be performing our Annual Christmas Concert on 15th December. Next year we have concerts planned for March and April, and we are hopeful of securing another concert before we break for the summer in 2013. How time flies by!

Once again can I thank you for your continued support and I look forward to seeing you at our future concerts.

Portrait of a Player

For this edition of Notations we have decided to turn the spotlight onto one of our woodwind players – Rachel Craggs.

Rachel has been with Ashby Concert Band for more than 8 years and until recently was a member of the woodwind section playing oboe. However during her recent pregnancy Rachel found the growing baby was affecting her ability to breathe. Not one to be deterred Rachel made a temporary switch and “took up the mallet” of Auxiliary Percussion, taking charge of the band’s latest acquisitions, a Concert Bass Drum and Gong, along with a plethora of other associated instruments such as crash cymbals, tambourine, wind chimes, and maracas. It goes without saying that Rachel has certainly made her presence known during recent concerts.


Born and brought up in Doncaster, Rachel's first steps in music were, like many of us, playing the recorder in school. By the time she was seven years old she had started to play guitar and a couple of years later took up the oboe. It is a little known fact that originally Rachel wanted to play the Clarinet (wise person) but at the school meeting where people discussed what instruments were available she was told that if she really wanted to play Clarinet her parents would have to buy one. However, if Rachel would consider oboe, well the school had three spare. The rest as we say, is history. Rachel took on an instrument she had not previously heard of and made it her own (note: Mum and Dad still ended up buying an instrument but it was delayed by a few years). Rachel also learned piano for a while but decided that she preferred oboe. However she did play bass guitar in a church band for a few years. Rachel is also a keen singer and actually met her husband singing in a Gilbert and Sullivan society.

It was probably no surprise to her family when Rachel showed musical inclinations. Her grandmother played guitar and piano, her grandfather still sings choral bass, her aunt is a violin teacher and her mum played piano as a child.

Growing up in Doncaster Rachel was lucky enough to have access to a wide range of musical styles and has played in orchestras, bands and wind quintets. It was at an Anglo German Youth Music week that Rachel first met Laura Storer (the Band's Cor Anglais player) when she was 19 years old. After playing oboe for a week together the pair didn’t meet again until 14 yrs later when Laura joined Ashby Concert Band.

Rachel has taken the opportunity to explore her interrupted Clarinet career when she took some clarinet lessons recently; maybe she will return to this again soon?

It is always nice to understand the kind of music different people like so we asked Rachel what piece of music she would like the band to play if she was given a free rein. The answer: “The Planets Suite” (Holst) or “Into the Woods” (Sondheim) . (Noted! Adrian)

Auxiliary Percussion Instruments
Bass Drum

This month's Player Portrait has led me to think about the world of the auxiliary percussion player, and what a varied and exciting world it can be!

I recently attended a CBSO concert at Symphony Hall in Birmingham. The theme of the concert was Sci-Fi and there were no fewer than six musicians in auxiliary percussion, plus a player dedicated to timpani - so seven in total.

Our recent aquisitions of fourth timpani, bass drum and gong have transformed the section. And there is far more to auxiliary percussion than meets the eye - or the ear.

Auxiliary percussion instruments fall into different categories such as idiophones which produce sounds as a result of the vibration of their entire body (e.g. cowbells, triangle, woodblock), membranophones which produce sound when the membrane is struck (e.g.bass drum, bongo, timpani and tom-tom), chordophones which are typically stringed percussion instruments (e.g.hammered dulcimer), and aerophones which not suprisingly produce sound when blown into (e.g.siren or slide whistle).

And as if that wasn't enough there are definite pitch or tuned instruments (e.g. glockenspiel, marimba, xylophone, vibrophone), and indefinite pitch or untuned instruments (e.g. tam-tam, rainstick, slapstick or whip, cymbals).

And there is still more, because in contempory music instruments are classified by the sound they produce and here the sky is the limit. Instruments in this category include - but are not limited to - beer kegs, brooms, metal waste bins, metal pipes, plastic bags, rocks in a bucket, shopping carts and spokes on a bicycle wheel. Basically if you can hit it then it qualifies for inclusion in the auxiliary percussion section.

If sound effects are needed to enhance the music then look no further than the kitchen in the orchestra!

cowbell triangle
woodblock bongo
marimba slidewhistle
tomtom aux-perc-table
belltree glockenspiel
shoppingcart dustbin
Date for your Diary

9th November 2012

Concert of Remembrance - Holy Trinity Church - Ashby - 7.30 p.m.

An evening of music, poetry and prose to remember all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in war. Ashby Concert Band will be joined once again by The Seaforth Highlanders Pipe and Drum Band under Pipe Major Steve Bozon.

15th December 2012

ACB Annual Christmas Concert - Holy Trinity Church - Ashby - 7.30 p.m.

An evening of the best of Christmas music to get you into the Christmas mood. As well as popular favourites you expect to hear at Christmas there will be one or two surprises and hopefully more audience participation. So come prepared to sing!

23rd March 2013

Fund Raising Concert for the Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust (North West Group) - Holy Trinity Church - Ashby - 7.30 p.m.

An evening of light popular classical music for a spring evening.

20th April 2013

St. George's Day Concert - Holy Trinity Church - Ashby - 7.30 p.m.

An evening of the best of English music, poetry and prose.


Supporters Acknowledgements

Ashby Concert Band is especially grateful for the continued and extended support of our Patrons:

Mrs M Tuckey
Mr & Mrs K Spencer
Mrs M Ross

Joan Hardwick
Kay Stephens
Alan Tricker
Richard & Sharon Tapping

Mr & Mrs H K Berry
Mr & Mrs J Backhouse
Mr Derek & Mrs Teresa Hayes
Mr & Mrs D Thompson

and for the assistance given to the band by Johnson, Murkett & Hurst, Accountants of Ashby de la Zouch.