Sistema Fiesta: Ten Years of Sistema In Norwich

Sistema Fiesta promotional poster
This Friday: Sistema Fiesta at UEA LCR

In September 2011, I wrote about how proud I was to have joined an El Sistema-inspired music education programme in my home city of Norwich, working with students in inner-city schools teaching orchestral percussion an general musicianship. The project — then called In Harmony Norwich — was one of three trial nucleos setup by the UK government in different cities, and was just entering the third of its three years of funding when I came on board as one of the percussion tutors.

A lot of change has happened in the years since I joined the programme back in 2011 — including a rebrand as Sistema In Norwich. But the one thing which has always remained the same is the steadfast determination of the programme directors and the team of tutors to bring music education to children who might not otherwise have had those kinds of opportunities available to them.

This coming Friday 11th October, a performance by Sistema In Norwich students and tutors at the University Of East Anglia In Norwich will celebrate ten years of Sistema’s presence in the city. I feel extremely honoured to have been involved with Sistema In Norwich — in its various guises — for eight of those ten years, and it will be a privilege to walk onstage on Friday evening with my colleagues and students from the Sistema programme to celebrate this landmark anniversary.

Sistema Fiesta will take a look back over the last ten years, including highlights from the Performance Project (for which the concert is also a finale) and it will look forwards, with new repertoire that will include nods to Venezuela, our carnival work, East Anglia and a big piece from the classical canon.  The concert will feature the Colegate Nucleo Orchestra, alongside children from across the programme, tutors and some special guests.  
 
The evening will conclude with music from the Sistema in Norwich tutor band, guests and friends. Join in the Sistema party and help us celebrate a programme that is changing lives, as we look forward to another 10 years of making a difference.

From the NORCA & Sistema In Norwich website

Please do come down and support this event, and the Sistema In Norwich project. Tickets for the performance are available from the UEA Box Office website, or directly from NORCA & Sistema In Norwich.

Phoenix FM Sunday Sessions with Jade MayJean

I will be playing piano with Jade MayJean live on Essex radio station Phoenix FM this coming Sunday 15th September as part of The Sunday Sessions.

Tune in to 98.0 fm in Essex and East London — or listen online here — from eleven o’clock on Sunday morning to hear acoustic versions of Jade’s original songs from her recent album 20Sixty.

Summer Exam Success

Huge congratulations once again to all my students who took music exams during the summer term exam period. With entries spanning all levels from Grade 2 to Grade 8 – across piano, drumkit, music theory and music production exams – it’s been another successful academic year, with a 100% pass rate yet again.

I feel very privileged to work with such a talented and dedicated group of students every single week – and to be able to share in celebrating these successes – and I am extremely proud of all of you.

I’d like to make a special mention of Jonah Williams, who achieved Grade 8 music production with a merit, and is now heading off to the University Of Liverpool to continues studying music and music technology at an advanced level. Jonah has already begun playing pro-level gigs, and is a passionate and intelligent musician; I have no doubt that he is going to make a success of this next stage in his musical journey as well. To see students I have worked with going on to forge their own careers and their own lives in music is a source of huge pride for me, and of course I wish Jonah all the best at Liverpool.

The new school year begins in September (full term dates are now available on the Student’s Page) and I can’t wait to see what exciting new challenges this term will bring!

Your Sibelius Toolkit at Benslow Music

As a working musician, I find myself using Sibelius notation software all the time, in a variety of different contexts. With a hectic work life which spans touring with bands, teaching private students and youth orchestras and a wide range of studio work, I’m always looking for ways to make my workflow as efficient as possible and get the most out of whatever technology I’m working with.

In June 2020, I’ll be coming to the beautiful Benslow Music campus to run a four-day course entitled Your Sibelius Toolkit, where I’ll be passing on tips and advice for making the most of this super-powerful music notation program and helping course attendees to feel more confident and empowered Sibelius users.

This new course will look at using Sibelius notation software in a variety of different contexts, and will aim to make you a more confident Sibelius user. From keyboard shortcuts to customising the user interface, we will ensure that this powerful music creation tool works for you, complementing your creativity and processes, and allowing you to be more efficient in whatever you are working on. Participants should bring their own laptop with Sibelius version 7 or later to work on during the course. There may also be the opportunity to hear your compositions/orchestrations performed by the concurrent Chamber Orchestra course.

Benslow Music January-July 2020 Prospectus (download in full here)

This will be the first time that Benslow Music have run a specifically technology-based course, and I’m very excited to have been asked to come onboard and lead the course as their Sibelius tutor.

It maybe a full ten months away, but booking opens to the general public this week, so get onto the Benslow Music website now to bag your place.

Jade MayJean at O2 Academy

A few of the wonderful photos and videos I have been sent from Jade’s set at O2 Academy Islington last Thursday night, capturing a little bit of the incredible atmosphere at the show. (Big thanks especially to Jae Storer for some brilliant photography of the band onstage!)

It has been a huge privilege to spend the start of this year working on creating a live show for Jade from the songs on her 2018 album 20Sixty. I wanted to capture the cool, retro vibe of the album in the arrangements, whilst also making a visually impactful performance which grabs the audience’s attention with timecodes programmed lighting as well as a dynamic live band onstage.

Video of ‘I Cry’ from the 20Sixty album, live at O2 Academy Islington

Seeing this all come together in such a fantastic way on Thursday night last week – at a venue like O2 Academy, with a packed crowd watching the set – was an amazing feeling. I feel so proud of these performances, and I am very happy to have been able to deliver the audio and visual effect which Jade wanted from her live show.

Video of ‘Better Luck Next Time’ from the 20Sixty album, live at O2 Academy Islington

Now onwards and upwards to the next exciting performance with Jade’s live band: on the main stage of the Ipswich Music Day in Christchurch Park, on Sunday 7th July.

Lady Will You Be My Friend from On The Edge by Tony Ashman

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of recording an original song in my studio; Lady Will You Be My Friend is a song from the debut novel On The Edge by retired Norfolk GP Tony Ashman – the song appears in the text of the book, and is sung by one of the main characters at a pivotal point in the plot. Without giving too much away, the song has quite an impact on the narrative!

Because the character in the book is a guitarist and singer, I was able to ask my friend James Porter to play guitar on the session at my studio in Norfolk. I then sang the track, and mixed it.

The finished track is now available to listen to on YouTube here:

On The Edge is published by Paul Dickson Books, and is available to buy from the publisher direct or on Amazon.

Ultra ’90s at Boston Gliderdrome

Barely seems like a week ago that we were playing Ultra ’90s at the iconic Boston Gliderdrome… In fact, it was late February – and it’s now the start of April! Where does the time go?

Still, what an absolutely fantastic gig to look back on now! To play at a venue with so much history – and such an incredible atmosphere – is definitely something which stays with you.

As ever, huge thanks to everyone who came out to the show, and to our brilliant photographers who captured the totally electric feeling of the night wonderfully. So here is a selection of some of my favourite images from the Gliderdrome.

Jade MayJean Headlining Framlingham Gala Fest

Very excited that I’ll be back on drums with Jade MayJean and the 20SIXTY band in May this year, headlining the Framlingham Gala Fest on Monday 27th May with Jade’s original songs from the hugely popular 20SIXTY album which came out last year.

The festival is at the Framlingham Castle Meadow over three days from 25th – 27th May, and admission is free for all.