Month: August 2014

Blog No. 21: Lisa Featherston

“Music is a world
within itself,
with language
we all understand”
– Stevie Wonder

A very big hello to all in Blogland! It’s my turn for the weekly update on life within (and around) the Spa Orchestra – all the way down from the bass end!

I am fortunate enough to live fairly close to Scarborough (40 miles away in Hull) so have been commuting to the Spa on a daily basis – so far that’s a total of 4460 miles in 58 days…with only 1200 miles to go until the end of the season. Pretty impressive, eh?! Travelling back and forth can be quite tiring (and has deprived me of many fun nights out) but the journey always becomes worth it as soon as I approach the roundabout on Foreshore Road and see this before me:


Every time I reach this point of the drive I smile, take in the view and look forard to the day ahead, knowing it will be full of great music, extremely talented musicians and audiences that love and appreciate it all.


I took this picture first thing on Sunday morning as I got out of my car – it was a beautiful, suuny day with a certain crispness in the air. It felt like Autumn had crept upon us, without us even noticing. I love those kind of days – so still and calm.

The first person I bumped into was Terry, one of our lovely technicians (although you will also find him helping out in the café, behind the bar, painting something or another, or generally just spreading a smile about the place).

I chuckled as I saw him carrying a huge board over to the Suncourt and when I asked him what it was, he turned it around saying “It’s for you guys!”. He revealed the perfect photo opportunity:


The morning and evening concerts brought in fab audiences, which is always great to see. Smiling faces, young and old, new and familiar are what makes us thrive as musicians and performers…and as I turn around to take a look at the sea behind us, it’s always lovely to see the faces of passers-by light up as they hear the catchy toe-tapping tunes rising up and out of the Suncourt.

Most people (with normal, sensible jobs) usually get that sinking ‘Monday morning’ feeling – but not here at the Spa when we have a Teddy Bears’ Picnic to look forward to! It’s fun (and noise) all round ad I just love watching and hearing Kathy in action (and learn a lot from doing so too). She’s a complete natural with the children, oozes such energy and never fails to give the little ones an amazing and memorable musical experience…and as a result, the Suncourt is packed out every Monday morning. Well done Kathy!


Thanks for the great picture you drew of me, Amy!

Monday evenings are always a treat, unless you’re having to do a bass solo (it’s always scary leaving your comfort zone at the back of the orchestra to go out to the front!). With stunning solos from Mark, Di, Graham and Paul it was a pleasure to sit back and listen – thanks guys!

I always love Tuesdays as my eight year old son Milo comes along with me. He is already a keen musician himself (drummer) and really enjoys the concerts – I even catch him ‘air-drumming’ along from time to time.

I particularly enjoyed this concert, not only because Milo was there, but because of Paul’s solo! A few weeks ago Paul gave me a couple of CDs – one of Judy Garland, the other of Bette Midler. I listened to them over and over in the car on my way to and from work because I fell in love with them so much. Some of the songs made such an impact on me and I had previously learn a couple of the to sing at the Spa. So that morning when I asked Paul what he was going to play, he said “I wasn’t going to tell you, but I’m playing ‘Do It Again’ by Judy Garland”. I was so thrilled as that was one of the songs I had become so fond of and it really meant a lot that he had chosen to play it. He teamed it beautifully with another George Gershwin song “Somebody Loves Me”, and for a very special ‘piano solo moment’ I was filled with peace, sublimity and emotion.

Thank you for that.


Milo and I then hit the skatepark! As the mother of a typical eight year old boy I find myself surrounded by all things BMX, boisterous and dangerous, so the obvious place to go that afternoon was Scarborough Skatepark on the North Bay. I love going there as the view of the bay is beautiful and the tricks and stunts that we see the boys (and girls) doing there are often mind-blowing. I took a few pics but my timing is so lousy that I didn’t actually manage to snap anybody up in the air…but I can guarantee that there was some pretty impressive stuff going on.

skatepark 2

Skatepark 1

I remember a lovely moment during Wednesday morning’s concert…we had just opened up the second half with Barsotti’s ‘Queen’s Colour March’ when I looked up to the hill in front of me. I saw a young boy with his grandma and grandpa on either side of him. As we played they all stopped at the top of the steps, looked at each other, joined hands and started marching down the hill in time to the music. It was wonderful to watch and I felt all warm and fluffy knowing that we had been part of that special family moment. I hope that is a memory that they will always treasure.

Wednesday afternoons are always great fun as I have started teaching an already well established bass player called Chris Lea. He currently plays for singer/songwriter John Hutchinson and is also doing a show called ‘Bobby Socks and Blue Jeans’ which will be at the London Palladium on October 19th. I’ve always found teaching inspiring and am enjoying talking all things Bass with an incredibly keen and dedicated musician.


Thursday morning didn’t start off so great – I had some really sad family news before the morning concert, so the day ahead felt like it was going to be a real struggle. However, ‘Your Requests’ meant that we played some lovely tunes, including one of my favourite songs ‘Autumn Leaves’, which was played beautifully by Kathy Seabrook.

Then followed the rehearsal in preparation for the ‘Frank Sinatra Night’ with Roger Maughan. With a voice as warm as his personality, the afternoon was an absolute pleasure. We rehearsed the songs with the whole band first and then just the numbers that involved only piano, bass, drums and voice. This turned into a really creative and productive session as we threw ideas, chord changes and suggestions at each other. This resulted in a gorgeous concert full of timeless, classy songs such as ‘Fly Me To the Moon’, ‘Night and Day’ and ‘It Had To Be You’.


To round off the week, Friday brought yet another beautifully sunny, but cold day at Peasholm. This place is really special to me as my Mum spent a lot of time here as a child, so I always feel like I am walking in her footsteps. I love hearing about how the place has changed since those days in the 1950’s and found these old photos of her at Peasholm really interesting:….(anyone remember the mechanical elephant ride?)

family pics 1

Pics of my Mum, Auntie, Nanna and Grandad at Peasholm

family pics 2

The evening concert featured Michelle Todd and brimmed with magnificent music from the movies (including the hauntingly beautiful theme from ‘Schindler’s List’ played by Mike Gray). The evening was a huge success and was a great finish to a very long, busy and hard (but very enjoyable) week. So aboard the Swan we stepped for one last time in order to leave the bandstand and head over to the café’s laundry room to get changed – oh the glamour!)…and after such a busy day, the main exit really did seem too far away to walk with a bass on my back…so I clambered over the nearest fence!! (Hope nobody saw).

Enjoy the rest of the season – it’s been lovely chatting!

Love and hugs,




Blog No. 20: Rick Scoates

Hey there Bloggers!

Ricardo here : Trombone, (and a big curly wurly thing)
My big curly wurly is called… in British Brass Bands a Euphonium. It usually plays up high in that setting.  In British Military Bands it was once called a Bombardon and joins the Basses one minute and sounds gruff and unfriendly and then soars as high and sweet as a bird in a counter melody the next. I remember this phenomenon clearly as a 4 year old hearing Bands at Sandhurst and trying to track down which instrument it was!  When we play marches at the Spa, this is the sort of part I play.  In the orchestra (in Britain) it plays the part of a  Tenor Tuba. (eg.Holst’s Planets).
The valve was first patented in 1817 in Germany (I think? -all  this is information I read over 35 years ago!). The Piston (valve) was patented not long after in France. The Cornet a Piston was a radically new instrument and was toured all over Europe to wow audiences. Berlioz even added parts for it to already completed works (Symphonie Fantastique). The rotary vale in Germany was put onto French horns and Trumpets (in France they used piston).  The theatre trombonist Wieprecht was accepted as head of the Prussian Army Bands in 1830. This was the best army with the best army bands… anywhere. His brief was to reform the bands. At this point there were no bass brass instruments; only bassoons, serpents and a bass trombone. In 1835 Wieprecht patented a Tuba (from the Roman name for Trumpet). It had rotary valves (like all German manufactured instruments) and a left facing bell. It was conical bore like a trumpet and trombone. In 1837 he patented the Tenor Tuba an octave higher but otherwise the same. The Prussian Bands now had an equivalent to the  Bass and Cello section of the Orchestra.  In 1845 a Belgian instrument inventor working in Paris came up with a family of instruments; he named them Saxhorns after himself. It had a right facing bell , piston valves and a conical bore, which helped it blend with the Cornets.  Adolphe Sax later (1875) gave his name a second time to an instrument when he invented a metal clarinet family he called the Saxophone. According to Franz Liszt’s Diary (yes he of Brahms and Liszt fame!) when Wieprecht and Sax eventually met on the streets of Vienna there was an almighty  punch up over copyright infringement, watched by Liszt!  Saxhorns entered Britain at the first Belle View Band Contest (Manchester in 1850). Besses of the Band won first prize with their new all Brass Band (up to this point bands included wind and the odd string!-Wind Bands still use a Double Bass). Soon all the bands followed suit and the Brass Band Movement was formed.  The instruments in the bands were just referred to by there size and the Saxhorn bit was dropped. So a BBb Bass Saxhorn was just called a BBb Bass. Unfortunately, a bit of a muddle ensued and the alto saxhorn was called a Tenor Horn the Tenor Saxhorn a Baritone and the Baritone Bb Saxhorn was called a Euphonium (a euphemism for sweetness?) Phew! So, correctly, I play a Baritone Sax Horn in Bb. Most of the time I use it as a Tuba and play down low. I did bring a Contra Bass Tuba in BBb once but the orchestra was too small for it’s depth.  Phew  x2!  I am glad to finally get that one sorted!
Sax ad 18720428a
So much fantastic weather this year (although for my blog week the forecast isn’t so hot) that most of our morning concerts have been outside. Which is tremendous for the performers as well as the audience.  When not performing some of us make the most of the good weather and the holiday surrounding. So far this season, Mark and I have been cycling, and swimming in the Sea, as well as walking up and down the cliff face to and from work twice a day. Or put another way the running has taken a hit this season.
Cycling with Michael last season

Cycling with Michael last season

Sunday was a bit of a wash out for the morning concert, although the Hall was teaming with punters who were all happy to be entertained for free. On Monday you could have got wet and a suntan! Another busy Teddy Bears Concert. My demonstration of the Trombone was jeered for it’s brevity but laughed at when I added a faster version to complete it. I had started out playing Johnny Briggs but it seemed to take on a new identity as it progressed! Last week I got a laugh by playing Lavenders Blue Dilly Dilly on the Euph down 3 or more octaves! Although my Yodelling in Swiss Roll was taken as a serious moment-strange! They might be laughing again tonight as I attempt Che Faro senza Eurydice without a safety net.  The plot for Orfeo-how he looses the love of his life twice is well known and is hardly a laugh a line. So how to keep the audience jolly? I looked into Gluck’s life to find that in the 1760s he reformed Opera Seria and then moved to Paris to reform there too. So not a bundle of laughs either. So my 7 year old inside thought I would take a chance on focusing on his middle name Willibald (Baldcock). So the intro was how his secret middle name was discovered by Investigative Journalists and made into a scandal wherever he went. No, I didn’t think it was worth it either! However, no one could hear what I was saying but found something funny somewhere so it was another escape from total disaster -just like the performance.  Classical Night is always a joy. You can hear some amazing solo playing from the members of the orchestra. Lisa played a modern piece by Benson-which was very different and was well received. Like the Trombone and Tuba the Double Bass has not been gifted a repertoire to match violin, piano or voice.  Chloe and Di played a duet by Mozart. It was composed just after his Bassoon Concerto and the opening started like a direct quote. Anything by Mozart is smothered in class, good taste, confidence, craftsmanship, wit, variety and an impeccable organic growth. The conversation between these two mellow comrades also contrasted the earthy rustic quality of the one to the refinement of the other. Mozart wrote very little for the Cello-lamentably!  for it could have been pilfered and well adapted for the Trombone!  Mike Gray’s Concerto like rendition of Svensen’s Romance worked like a charm. I commented on the beauty of it afterwards and inquired if we had heard it played here before ” not quite like that you’ve not! ” he replied. When we left the Spa we were greeted by a wonderfully large moon. So I halted Milo on his game of running up and down steps to pose for this picture-I didn’t know he was pulling faces at me!
Tuesday morning was outside again although a flurry at the start of the selection made the audience chase about a bit. By the time we were halfway through the selection, strong sun had dried the decks again.  Next came Mark’s solo spot. Not well named as it featured everyone apart from the woodwind who sat in the audience. The percussion extras bottled out of dancing at the front and left the stage for yours truly to fill. The comments I received at the interval were quite extravagant. “You stole the show Rick”….” That’s made my summer”…. “You were only doing what we all wanted to do but we were too shy too” ” You should be on in the Theatre with dancing like that “.  I think Paul’s explanation on the microphone was hilarious. ” Of course we had to extensively rehearse the piece as it included extra percussion and choreography….unfortunately, the choreographer  didn’t arrive! “
Anyway, after all the fun I put Master Adam Quilter through his paces. He is developing his Trombone playing by learning the Rick Scoates bulldozer method. The week previously I had us both singing as loudly as possible, in the Grand Hall- much to the astonishment of passers by!  We have consequently been moved underground. After a late lunch and a cycle it was time for a wash and iron session. Simultaneously, I watched a film with Kim Novak and Stewart Grainger which wasn’t the famous Hitchcock one (Rear Window). Most curios to revisit another love affair with the same cast. Wednesday morning was again outdoors and featured Marvellous Mike in Romanesca. We had all sung the opening together at the talk through so it went with some gusto and I used the Tuba for added Thrump! Paul in a lovely commendation, dedicated Sunny Side Up to our sponsor and friend Eric Cooke OBE. With a shorter interval we were able to scuttle off up the cliff to St Martin on the Hill for the beginning of the service. I have never been to a funeral dressed in  Henley Regatta flannels and Blazer before, but somehow it seemed appropriate. There were eight of us there from the Orchestra ( Hhmm ! Coxless 8?) Miraculous Mike played beautifully at the end of the Homily: Eric’s favourite (When Irish Eyes are Smiling) and eyes were moistened all round I suspect (mine were at least). Administration is taking up a piece of my time right now. Sometimes it’s a search for digs (if anyone knows of a nice flat in Scarborough June- September 2015 please get in touch). But at the moment it is contract negotiations; checking legal documents to tighten up wording or make things clearer.  Wednesday evening’s concert featured Chloe’s Bassoon in Ronald Binge’s The Watermill. The Bassoon plays the Oboes air with the Cello and Bass doing the really hard work underneath with a flurry of scales. Beautiful effects were conjured by the ladies of the orchestra. By this time however, my arm had started hurting so I decided to take the Thursday morning concert off to get some treatment for it.  I went to the Thursday morning “Requests” concert for the first half hour and was pleasantly surprised at the fabulous sounds the band were making- what a marvellous gang? It really made me proud to think I sometimes get the chance to join in.
I then went for treatment. Then the torture started.  It turns out the last time I took Thursday off and went home and did the gardening hedge trimming and cleaning both cars I tore the ligament which connects the biceps to the shoulder (the long head – the short head connects to the chest bone, the biceps are two muscles as the name bi suggests. ) Ligaments have a very small blood supply so take a while to heal. So that could have been a very expensive bit of gardening as rest is the only cure. The playing simply makes it worse.
The evening concert was a Broadway Spectacular with singers and Choir. West End Shows are not my thing but I was very impressed with the many different sounds from so few players. Paul gave a racy pace to a witty presentation. The sparkling performance was enhanced by the sparkling glamour of the ladies in the orchestra.
I now look forward to a quiet weekend-if you meet me, please shake hands gently.
For now…So long.

Blog No. 19: Mike Gray



Well hello everyone in Blog land,

Mike here, violinist with the Scarborough Spa Orchestra. This Season so far has absolutely mad for me because I have needed to split my time between Scarborough and my other job with the BBC Concert Orchestra. I will have had 14 Days off between 5 June and September 11th, and will have done 8 return journeys, fitting in as many concerts as I can. I’m very fortunate to have been given time off by both organizations and in having two reliable deps in Richard Quick and Freddie August, who both love playing at the Spa.

So, what was I up to this week? Well, I had to go down to London so I missed the Gilbert and Sullivan Gala at the Spa. I heard it was a great success so well done SSO! I was rehearsing for two projects with the BBC, BalletBoyz at the Roundhouse and the Warhorse Prom at the Royal Albert Hall.


2 full                                                  BalletBoyz in rehearsal.                                                                                                Even the Warhorse likes a sugar lump!

The BalletBoyz performed a works called Serpent and Fallen for the final time in London, as well as an excerpt from their new full-length work Young Men, featuring an original score composed Keaton Henson. It was a production that I feel fortunate to have been a part of. These guys are real athletes and the choreography is beautiful and accessible. I don’t watch ballet at all really, but I thoroughly enjoyed the poetry and skill they brought to the pieces we performed. Seriously wonderful stuff. We performed at a place called the Roundhouse just up the road from Camden Market, a very cool venue indeed.

The Warhorse Prom was another lovely event, commemorating the anniversary of the outbreak of First World War. The concert was inspired by the National Theatre play, and featured the Warhorse suite as well as other music from the period with performers including the Proms Military Wives Choir and Gareth Malone. I had never seen the horse from the show in action before and it really is wonderful. It is operated by three actors but one very quickly ignores them and sees the horse as just another character. Concerts at the Albert Hall are always special and I believe the concert was televised for transmission in November so look out for it!

I actually had a few hours off after one of the rehearsals for the Prom and went to see the Butterflies exhibition in the grounds of the Natural History Museum so look at these beauties!

3All snapped with my Phone, Marvellous!

The Prom finished by 6.30, so I had an easy journey back on the 8pm train. Got into York ok but then they left us waiting till past time on platform 5b. No announcement, the display just changes to platform 10. So off we go, up over the bridge, somehow people know it’s now platform 4 so change direction. Train in platform 4 says Manchester, but don’t get in that one, you want the one behind it that says out of service! Of course we do! Finally left at 22.20 instead of 22.08, so not too late but, Aaaaaaarg!!! I’ve had quite a bit of time in York station this Summer, last time I had been visiting a friend in Leeds and sitting in on the touring version of Shrek. On the train back, it was so delayed they chucked us all out at York so we could all wait over an hour for the next train to Scarborough. It was truly delightful to spend that time with a load of inebriated people who had been to the York races. Wheeling one’s case around slightly aggressive blokes and puddles of vomit and paying £4.50 for a warm G and T was just the end to the journey I needed.

Anyway, back in Scarborough and here for a whole month! I shall have weekends and everything. Monday started with the usual Teddy Bears’ Picnic…


4Children. In the Suncourt.

which are rather nice events and continued with the regular series of concerts through until Thursday. Thursday morning is requests so it was lovely to have a number of people ask that I sing! A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square was duly delivered, and then I had to play Gypsy Carnival as well. All in a morning’s work! The Evening Gala was Orchestral Showstoppers so no rest for the wicked there then. It’s a tricky concert for everyone in the band but I think we pulled it off. The audience seemed to be enjoying it so hurrah!

And that’s that. I shall now enjoy 2 whole rest days in Scarborough and hope this glorious weather holds out. Hope to see you all during the week,