Blog No. 23: Final Blog of the 2014 Season – Top Ten and Revealing Questions

For our final blog of the 2014 season features contributions from all the members of the Scarborough Spa Orchestra. They have been asked to answer three questions which will hopefully reveal an otherwise hidden layer to this legendary orchestra!

Firstly, however, it is with great pleasure that we announce the audiences Top Ten Tunes that we play as voted for by you….

10. Mexican Fire Dance, Marland

9. Knightsbridge March, Coates

8. By the beautiful Blue Danube, J. Strauss II

7. Bells Across the Meadow, Ketelbey

6. Dambusters March, Coates

5. Ladies in Lavender, Hess

4. Perchance to Dream Selection, Novello

3. Intermezzo and Easter Hymn (from ‘Cavalleria Rusticana), Masagni

1. Homage a Piaf, arr. Kenworthy

1. Themes from Piano Concerto no. 2, Rachmaninov

 

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Now to the questions which are as follows:

1. How did you start playing your particular instrument?

2. What is your favourite piece that we play? (At the moment anyway!)

3. Seeing as we have no viola in the orchestra: What is your favourite viola joke?

Answers:

Paul Laidlaw – Piano/Musical Director

1. Aged four started climbing onto my grandmother’s piano stool and picking out tunes – been doing it ever since!

2. Hard to choose from so many varied styles. Love The Girl from Corsica, any of the Novello selections, Rodeo and Pique Dame Overture.

3. The bad tempered viola player got the sack for lowering her voice to the conductor.

Mike Gray – Violin

Hi Everyone,
Well the busiest Summer of my life had come to an end and I think I got through relatively unscathed! Thanks to all the regulars and irregulars who know how to bring a smile to all our faces, you’re why we’re here.
So, to the questions.

1. I wanted to play the piano, but we didn’t have one so they wouldn’t let me. Violin was just the next instrument offered so I took it up, simple as that!

2. My favourite piece is a split between Camelot and Kismet , (does that make it Camelmet or Kiselot?). I just love those wonderful melodies and after Kismet in particular one really feels that you’ve given everything you have.

3. As for the Viola, well, this one was told to me by a viola player at the BBC so it’s got to be alright.
What’s the difference between a viola and a coffin? The coffin has the corpse on the inside.
Harsh and completely unfair! Winter well, and if I don’t see you at New Year, see you next season, aargh!

Diane Stewart – Cello

1. I started playing the cello when I was about 10. I already played the recorders, violin, guitar and piano, but when the local cello teacher came into school saying that she a cello going spare, did anybody want to give it a try, I obviously felt that I had plenty of spare time to practise another instrument, and stuck my hand up. One by one the other instruments (apart from piano of course – I couldn’t give that up…my Mum was my teacher!) dropped off, and I had to choose between the violin and cello because the techniques were starting to clash. It was an easy choice for for me because I really couldn’t get the hang of the vibrato on the violin, and also the cello teacher was really nice which swung the deal. The rest, as they say, is history.

2. It’s so difficult to pick a favourite piece from our enormous repertoire and my mind has gone blank! Lots of pieces have happy memories ( and some of them not so happy!) for lots of different reasons. For instance, there are 2 notes in the Annie Get Your Gun selection where Russell,(Rick’s predecessor) insisted that I turn round and look at him and smile. 2 notes that weren’t important in the grand scheme of things, but always make me smile, even now. I suppose one piece that brings memories flooding back is The Dusky Aristocrat. This takes me right back to my childhood, when I used to do a lot of dancing, as well as music. We used to dance to this, and I hadn’t heard it for years and years until I started playing here. I certainly can’t remember what the dance was but it always starts my toes tapping when we play it.

3. Viola joke

What’s the difference between a viola and a trampoline?

You take your shoes off to jump on a trampoline.

Kathy Seabrook – Flute/Saxophone

1. A peripatetic music teacher, Mr Brown, visited my junior school (Alexandra Road, Market Drayton) when I was 11. All the pupils who were in the choir or played the recorder (I did both) were asked to go and try out an instrument. He had an oboe, a clarinet and a flute. I could not get a single sound out of either of the reed instruments, but as soon as I tried the flute I could just do it and made a big, focused sound straight away, much to everyone’s surprise. I have a theory about this, which is that at the time my front teeth stuck out quite a bit and this channelled the air in the right direction, onto the tone hole and so helped to create the sound – lucky me having goofy teeth! So anyway, I was chosen to learn the flute and never looked back!

2. The Flower Drum Song by Rodgers and Hammerstein – this has been my favourite for quite a while now. The musical selection from this show, which we play in the Spa Orchestra, just seems to play itself. The arrangement is great for our ensemble, skilfully showing off each instrument, and the music is just typical of the genre, with happy songs (Chop Suey), dance numbers (I enjoy being a girl), love songs (Love look away) – something for everyone. It’s just a joy to play – also, it’s a less well known work which I only found out about through playing in the Spa Orchestra, so it’s special to me.

3. Why do violists stand for long periods of time outside people’s houses? They can’t find the key and they don’t know when to come in. (With apologies to my very good friend Lizzy, who is a wonderful viola player in Opera North.)

Graham Quilter – Clarinet/Saxophone

1. When I was 10 my Dad used to organise musical soirees at the Glaxo Sports and Leisure Club in Barnard Castle. The rehearsals for these evenings would take place in our dining room and I heard his clarinettist, whose name was ‘Killer’ (Ken Kilpatrick), during these rehearsals. One day I said to my Dad, I want to play the clarinet when I’m older. One week later, I had my first lesson.

2. My favourite piece of the moment is ‘Valse Bijou’ by Clive Richardson. It’s just a beautiful, slow melody which epitomises palm court music to me.

3. What’s the difference between a violin and a viola?

The viola burns longer.

The viola holds more beer.

You can tune the violin.

Chloe Vanns – Bassoon/Clarinet/Saxophone

1. I started violin when I was about 4 mostly because my Mum played and I wanted to be like her! My Grandma taught me a few tunes on the piano too so I soon started piano lessons. Although it was clear I as musical, as I had a good ear for telling when the violin was out of tune!, I didn’t shine at the violin or piano. Aged 10 I asked if I could start the clarinet as a friend of mine had started learning and I picked it up very easily. A few years later I auditioned for my local youth orchestra and got in on 2nd clarinet in the bottom orchestra. My Mum was sat in a meeting for the youth orchestra and they were complaining about the lack of bassoonists, she raised her hand and said ‘my daughter would play it if she had an instrument’. My conductor very kindly procured me a brand new bassoon through his wind band and 6 months later I found myself at the Bridgewater Hall feeling my way through the 1st bassoon part of Swan Lake in our Christmas concert. I was 14 when I started bassoon, I was lucky that my clarinet teacher was a bassoonist, and aged 16 I successfully auditioned for Chetham’s School of Music. The rest is history. I stopped lessons on the clarinet after I had sat my grade 8, but I am very glad I continued to a high level as it has made me the ideal candidate for this job in the Scarborough Spa Orchestra!

2. My favourite piece is probably our Porgy and Bess selection by Gershwin. It embodies every aspect of this band: a jazz element, a classical element, solos from almost every member of the band, fast playing, slow playing and most of all, fantastic melodies. It also holds great memories of playing it during our Centenary Gala with Lesley Garrett, which I was so lucky to be a part of.

3. A viola mute:4266lump_hammer

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Mark Addison – Trumpet

1. I started playing aged 10 in the local Boys Brigade, 1st Aldbrough. I remember wanting to give up a lot but my parents kept me practising and thankfully I got a good teacher at secondary school.

2. Very close with favourite piece, it was going to be ‘birdsong at eve tide’, beautiful tune and beautiful harmonies. But I will have to pick the Londonderry air, or Danny boy. This is the tune my dad always listened to and I feel like I have known it all my life, it was played at his funeral and it just reminds me of him.

3. Viola joke: how do you tell a stage is level?

The Viola player will dribble out of both corners of his mouth.

Rick Scoates – Trombone

1. The influences that made me turn towards music were many. As a child of 3, I would hear the Bands playing at Sandhurst College, in the beautiful park with a lake and a boathouse, which was at the other end of Yorktown Road from us. Once a boy bugle band marched past our house in practise. Another time a Pipe and Drum band. Officers were often marching

-AT THE DOUBLE-QUICK MARCH; GET THOSE KNEES UP!

Once I was watching, and the man at the back on a bicycle (probably the Regimental Sargent Major ! ) having shouted

LEFT …LEFT …LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT

forgot to say “get those knees up”-so I obliged in a clear, brilliant, shrill treble voice. It was the first time I heard an audience laugh! It made me feel very proud right until the end of the line (10, at two abreast) when the man on the bike at the back said in a low voice “Alright son…don’t be cheeky!” my initial response was going to be -but you’re not my Dad! Fortunately in the event I looked at the ground pathetically, suitably chastised. I learnt a lesson in egos that day. I had never been spoken to like that before and wanted to inform his rudeness of the case. After all, I was treated like a Pop Star by all the ogling Mothers when I was in a pram and remember well all the smiles I had to return when we were out and about on our walks to College Town next to Camberley. One man once joined in the gaggle of mothers all smothering me in love. When he realised he couldn’t win with me present he rather jealously said to me

“make the most of it lad it’s the last time you will have this much attention”.

The second time I made an audience laugh was in the Cinema in Camberley with my sister and her friends (I was 4). The film was Cliff Richard’s Summer Holiday. There was a shocking scene in which a woman dances in her underwear, (I was still shocked when I saw it as an adult) so the stunned audience were treated to my loud voice of anxiety

“OH LOOK ! SHE’S FORGOTTEN TO PUT HER CLOTHES ON”

The audience erupted! Anyway, we would go to my Gran’s in Southampton. Gran and Harold (why not Granpa?) lived in elegance in Northlands Road near the park. It was a large Edwardian house with a garage large enough to take four cars. The back lawn was interrupted by a high rock garden (which housed the concrete bunker from the war) beyond this the raised section had market garden a small orchard and a brick built summer house with canvass blinds and smelling of wood and leather polish. In about ’59 or ’60 we had a party in the afternoon there. Mum and my Aunts were good pianists and Harold owned a trombone. He never worked out that his pianos were both pitched in Bb and was completely perplexed by his transposition difficulties. It was a fabulous day-sunny and fun with all my relatives there- almost a poem by Betjeman. A year or so later (when I was 4 or 5) I went back to that end of the garden again to rekindle the experience. The place was pretty wrecked-the party was definitely over. The trombones were still lying up against the piano no cases. Dirt and dust and damp and not a place to linger. I never saw it again and the whole property was flattened by developers-but some of the glorious properties in the road still remain.

We moved to the other end of Berkshire to Wallingford on Thames (now South Oxon.) When 11, my mate Michael Warnes protected me from having to learn the notes on the staff by insisting I copy his work (sometime before I took my degree and diplomas I must have had to “catch up”.)

The favourite comedy programme was Benny Hill especially the chase scenes when you hear the saxophone. So when we were asked if we wanted to play a brass instrument I kept my hand down until I looked around and found out I was the only one with his hand down-so put it up to conform!

The music teacher (Mrs Hoare) quite liked me (as I found out when she gave me a Valentines Day kiss in front of the whole class!) so I was given a cornet and later a trombone. My mate in the band was Clifford Mackenzie who played the euphonium. He suggested we should go to try out Wallingford Town Band. Unfortunately, we were present for the very last band practice. Everyone was going to join the next village band so we went to the Cholsey Prize Silver Band (this worried me as my trombone was a dirty brass colour). There I met Graham Chambers who was the First Trombone (and 2 years older) and in every way an inspiration. His father conducted the band and they both befriended me and took me to London to buy my first trombone when I was just 14. Clifford had no mentor and gave up.

I then followed in Graham’s footsteps playing in Morris Motors Band with Harry Mortimer and Youth Orchestras and University Orchestras in Oxford and Reading. I finally went my own path by going up t’ut north to study in Manchester, but we are still in touch.

2. My favourite piece this year is The Petite Suite de Concert: Coleridge Taylor

Firstly we play it well, always with gusto and a bit of pep! Also, because it is so well crafted with organic repetition and sequence. Also anything written in French is a turn on – isn’t it?

3. A viola player decides that he’s had enough of being a viola player–unappreciated, all those silly jokes. So he decides to change instruments.

He goes into a shop, and says, “I want to buy a violin.”

The man behind the counter looks at him for a moment, and then says, “You must be a viola player.”

The viola player is astonished, and says, “Well, yes, I am. But how did you know?”

“Well, sir, this is a fish-and-chip shop.”

An American orchestra had just arrived in Europe for a two-week tour. One hour before the first concert, the conductor became very ill and was unable to conduct, and the orchestra suddenly had to find a substitute. The orchestra manager asked everyone in the orchestra whether they could step in and conduct, and the only person who was willing was the last chair violist.

The manager was very nervous about this. “We can’t audition you,” he said.

“No problem,” replied the violist.

“There’s no time to rehearse. You’ll have to do the concert cold.”

“I know. It’ll be all right.”

The violist conducted the concert and it was a smashing success. Since the conductor remained ill for the duration of the tour, the violist conducted all of the concerts, getting rave reviews and standing ovations at each one.

At the next rehearsal, the conductor had recovered, and the violist took his place at the back of the viola section. As he sat down, his stand partner asked him “Where’ve you been for the last two weeks?”

Lisa Featherston – Double Bass

1. When I was eight years old my school announced that auditions were going to be held for the double bass. I had no idea what these things were but had heard of the ‘bass drum’ before…so when I passed the test and turned up to my first lesson expecting to see a funky drumkit before me, I was somewhat…confused! However, since then I have never looked back and have really grown to love the deep, rich tone of the double bass…(and fortunately for me I can still get my little percussion fix by having a little play on my son’s drumkit when he is at school!)

2. My favourite piece that we have played this season has to be Seranade for Strings by Ferraris. Since my college days I have always loved music for strings… the repertoire is amazing and this little number always makes me smile. I love experimenting with the different colours of pizzicato that you can get from the instrument when playing this piece…great fun!

3.

viola doggy

Michael Harper – Percussion

1. I was playing cornet in a brass band about aged 12 but was more interested in watching the person playing the drums. I asked to have a try and that was it for me

2. Serenade by Ferraris

3. After a concert is given one of the Violists looks very content. “Listen to me. You won’t believe it,” he said to his colleagues. “I could play everything and I missed not a single note!”

On that very moment the drummer comes in and asks: “Has anybody seen my part?”

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We hope you have enjoyed the 2014 season and we look forward to seeing you all at a concert next season, or, if you can’t wait, New Year’s Day Viennese concert at the Spa!

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2 comments

  1. The orchestra has gone I hear you say
    No more coming down to the sea to hear them play
    What shall we do now they have departed
    Because we are just left broken hearted.

  2. I come every year in June for a week at Scarborough with my sister in law. We both love Scarborough, and can go back to the days of when Max Jaffa was the musical director at the Spa. We get a real tingle of excitement as our holiday time approaches, and real sadness when our week at Scarborough is over. I get all your email blogs and through that I feel that I know you all personally. I think you are all so talented, and I just love listening to the wonderful Scarborough Spar Orchestra. Can’t wait for June 2015, when we shall be back once again at the Spar! My sister in law and I are from Newcastle upon Tyne. Clive Smith.

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