For new posts, please visit the new home for this blog:/

para leer todos los artículos, les invito  visitar al siguiente enlace:

I have been thinking about this over Christmas, especially after playing in a local non-pro Big Band  directed by Robin Cooper, and the next night attending  a lovely Christmas concert by some good friends here in Madrid. It also took me back to June and the visit here of the Liverpool Phoenix Concert Orchestra, which I’ve written about in another post.

Here are my ideas, I’d love to hear your comments on why you perform as an amateur musician.

Here are some reasons why some people (I’m not telling you which reasons are mine) might be involved in music as an activity that is not a form of income for them:

A star is born: persons who long to be on the stage and who dream that their big break is just around the corner, they are a discovery just waiting to be ….discovered;

Man in the mirror: persons who have a huge political/social conscience and hope to change the world through their campaigning through the platform which the arts can give them;

Love story: persons who believe that true love could flower in the next audition or in the interval at the very next show;

I don’t like Mondays: persons who have jobs that range from tedium to nail-biting tension and find performing a healthy escape;

Coca-cola reminiscence: persons who’d like to teach the world to sing, love doing music and want to share their pleasure with others … now we’re getting there…;

Moon riverdwellers: when Johnny Mercer wrote these gorgeous lines, don’t you think he was expressing that search for those spine tingling musical moments we’ve all had thanks to people around us when we’ve been playing/singing in choirs, bands or orchestras…

We’re after the same rainbow’s end–
waiting ’round the bend,
my huckleberry friend,
Moon River and me.

So there’s my Christmas quiz, all polite comments will be posted here for us all to enjoy.

This post is dedicated to the Big Band of the Aula de Musicas in Madrid: directed by Robin Cooper, and to all my friends from Liverpool and the Christmas Spirit group directed by Judy Macinnes:

Liverpool  Phoenix Concert Orchestra

Musical Director: Jill Hyde

Associate Conductor: Dr. Robert Howard

Violin: Christine Bratherton (Leader), Rose Sims, Robert Howard, Suzanne Dawber, Lyndsey Travis, Paul Dadswell, Jane Little, Yan Zhang

‘Cello: Charlotte Sawyer

Double Bass: Julia Cadman

Flute: Laura Bonnett, Jane Berry, Frances Aston

Oboe: Alex Swift

Clarinet: Susan Hyde, Maggie Edwards, Lyndsey Whelan

Bassoon: Helen Chatterton, Sara Padmore

Saxophone: Howard Fenton (flute), David Toller

Trumpet: Tony Lister, Gary Boden, Julie Baker

Trombone: Jonathan Malits

Tuba/ Bass Guitar: Mike McLoughlin

Percussion: Alasdair Chatterton, Janet Malits

Liverpool  Phoenix Concert Orchestra

Administration: Tish Bratherton

Tour Organisers: Jill Hyde, Tish Bratherton, Howard Fenton,

Susan Hyde, Christine Bratherton

The Singers:

Kevin Beer

Julie Davies

James Duggan

Delories Dunn

Diana Grayland

Richard Hunter

Judy MacInnes

John Ruescas


I was asked recently to comment on whether we are assessing too much: a very interesting area for debate in music education.

I would like to make a contribution from a very practical point of view, leaving serious theoretical propositioning and statistical analysis to others more qualified in those areas.

I was representative in Madrid of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) from 1997 to 2004, when the ABRSM exams were relatively unknown here. On the many occasions when I acted as steward at examination centres I often used to ask the candidates three questions:

Did you practise more than usual in the weeks approaching the exam?

Did your playing/singing improve as you practised more?

Have you enjoyed playing/singing more as you have got better?

The answer to all three questions was invariably positive.

More recently, when we introduced Rockschool exams at school parents commented that their son/daughter’s preparation on electric guitar had become more disciplined, more focused and more productive in the weeks leading up to the exam.

The crucial question here is that the candidates found the exam process to be worthwhile and positive, not a trauma to be endured. In these cases there was a genuine sense of assessment for learning, with a structure over time that the candidates themselves clearly understood and bought into.

What are features common to these experiences, involving as they do very different styles of music?

Ownership: in most cases the candidates had a part in deciding whether or not to sign up for the exam;

Integrity: candidates are confident they will receive a fair and objective assessment of their performance;

Positive outcomes: for well prepared candidates exams with the ABRSM or Rockschool provide positive feedback, recognition within school and beyond, and a platform for future success.

Were these candidates assessed too much? Apparently not, as a high proportion of them came back for more in following years.

A full debate on this question will be found in the February 2011 issue of Music Teacher magazine, edited by Christopher Walters:


Una amiga me ha enviado el enlace a un proyecto muy emocionante que se llama El Poder de la Música: no se preocupe, no tendrá que aportar dinero… La campaña tiene el apoyo del muy respetable festival de Música de Cartagena y pretende recaudar fondos mediante los clicks en la página web y en su entrada de Facebook.

El fin del proyecto es proporcionar un violonchelo a Lorena, una joven de 10 años en Colombia: una causa que bien merece la pena. Les recomiendo visitar la página..será una buena acción y la producción es excelente, contando la historia de la niña con claridad.

Por lo menos, les dejará un buen sabor de boca.

Felices clicks:


A friend sent me this link to a very moving page called The Power of Music. Don’t worry, you are not asked to pay any money…There’s a campaign supported by the very respectable Cartagena Music Festival which hopes to raise money for through clicks on a video link and Facebook.

The project’s aim is to provide a ‘cello for  ten year old Lorena, from Colombia: a worthy cause if ever there was one. I recommend a look at the extremely well made video, which is in English and Spanish, and which tells her story.

If nothing else, it’ll make you feel good.

Happy clicking….


It wouldn’t have mattered if every train had been cancelled due to snow or if every taxi driver had gone on strike, I would have got home on Sunday carried along on a wave of sheer joy, thanks to the Christmas Cocktail concert by Judy Macinnes, Julie Davies, James Duggan, Delories Dunn, Richard Hunter, John Ruescas and Jonathan D. Mellor.


A Christmas Cocktail was a beautiful concoction of songs, poetry and silly nonsense of the best kind, mixed by the group themselves with ingredients including a touch of Noël Coward, Gustav Holst, and that trusty old friend, Traditional, and  served in the bar at the Hotel Vinci Via 66. This was an inspired choice of venue as we were able to enjoy the singers’ voices without the hassle of amplification, and we were all so close, it was lovely.

John Ruescas has such a beautiful, tender tenor voice that he is able to make the most of any romantic song, and manages to make the apparently unequivocal When you tell me that you love me sound like the saddest ever song of unrequited love, and his moments of The Most Wonderful time of Year turn your thoughts immediately to far away family instead of at- home comforts. By contrast, Delories powers on with her great voice and stage presence, and has the great advantage, for me, of coming up with songs from the very Americanest of repertoires which I haven’t heard before.

Richard, of course, was superb, reciting the first world war poem of the unofficial truce at Christmas 1914 followed by Tannenbaum in German and English. The world stopped turning for a few moments then, and the horror of that war, and all the other wars since 1914 and the ones tragically still under way, was hanging there with us in the room.

It served me right for doubting, but Anything you can do I can better did not seem, on the face of it, the most appropriate choice for a Christmas event, and there they were, Julie and James, wrecking the song mercilessly and bringing the house down with a Madrid 2010 mix of the great  duet. James also recited, this time The Boy Actor, which he performed so movingly that I was not only one to mistake this for his own work, apologies to Noël, not Gallagher by Coward.

Everyone, of course, did more than just these items I have mentioned, and were accompanied by Jonathan at every turn, who even did a turn on his own, and so sympathetically was his accompaniment.


And Judy, boss for the night, soloist, duetist, librettist and inspiration for the concert. Thank you for the ideas, the choice of music and for your wonderful singing. A great night and a wonderful way to get Christmas rolling. Thanks to you all, we have started to Have Ourselves a Merry Little Christmas…


A dream about musicals was written by James Duggan for Jill Hyde and the members of the Liverpool Phoenix Concert Orchestra and Judy, Julie, Dolories, Diane, Kevin, Richard and John in 2010… well, I was there too……

A dream about musicals: by James Duggan


Last night I had a dream about musicals

I dropped three coins in a fountain

Julie Andrews appeared; on top of a mountain

Swaying and swirling and singing with glee

She said, “Come, sing with me”

“But, what’ll I sing?”; “Oh anything,

Just remember to start at the very beginning.”

As I began singing, a church bell was ringing,

She said, “Oh dear, I must go,

But come with me, for some tea,

To the cute little convent below.”



When we arrived, Henry Higgins

Was there with Eliza,

Eating jelly and custard and

Surrounded by a lot of young men

She spoke of the weather, and

The rain on the plain in Spain again and again and again.

Freddie arrived and sang about

The street where she lived.

Higgins was livid and stormed out of the place

Not before turning, picking up the bowl and

Throwing some custard in her face.



Andrew Lloyd Webber appeared

Rehearsing his version of Guys & Dolls

All gangsters in sharp suits and spats

But when I looked closely

I saw the cast was mostly

A few dogs and a whole load of cats.

Porgy was there with his Bess, if you ask me why, no reason,

It’s a dream, I guess

Lloyd Webber said wow

And the cats went miaow:

The whole thing was a bit of a mess.



I moved out west

To a bright golden haze on the meadow

And a strapping young man said, “Welcome to Oklahoma.”

His name was Curry and he showed me his surrey

The whole thing happened in such a hurry

There was a horse and a cow and a calf,

We had a bit of a laugh and I said,

“This place should be called Jokelahoma!



I floated to somewhere unspecific

To a sunset on some enchanted evening

Ah yes, South Pacific.

There a panto dame and a girl were sharing a wig

I started to stare

The girl said, “Shoo!”,

Grabbed some shampoo and

Washed that dame right out of her hair.

Julie A appeared again in a car

No, a taxi,

Being chased by a horrible nazi,

She said, “Sing!”, but when I opened my mouth

Nothing came out

I had woken up and then I knew

For a dream about musicals

To come true

Needs an orchestra like the one

Playing here

On the stage

For one night only

Especially for you.


Thanks James.

See also my post on the Liverpool Phoenix Concert Orchestra


%d bloggers like this: