Line drawing

Line drawing
Drawn by the talented Luke Braddock

Thursday, 14 February 2013

And thus begins Spring 2013

Fond greetings to you, readers of SUWO's Blog. It has been a long while.

Last Thursday was our first rehearsal of Spring 2013. After taking an age to move the desks in exam set-up, work out where Tony would most like to conduct from and positioning chairs accordingly, we played some pieces I would call good, others I would call... interesting. Due to our alternative venue, the poor percussionists were without most of their instruments. As a result, they had to do their best percussion impersonations, and we all had to try not to laugh at them. We failed at this so abysmally that the percussionists asked Tony if it would be better for them not to "play". Tony answered, "yes".

We also experienced a little committee switcheroo. With former president Martin Bullock not being a student anymore, Ben Latham was elected to step up and assume the President's chair. Replacing him in the secretary's chair is the lovely Dot Robertson, for these last remaining months before the AGM.

Apologies for the short post. Hopefully there will be a longer one soon.

Monday, 10 September 2012

2012-2013 Welcome!

Greetings, SUWO! *blows dust off Resident Blogger chair and takes a seat*

Welcome to 2012-2013! Gillian here, and I will be resuming my post as the faithful maintainer of the SUWO blog this year. To all new potential SUWO members who have not met me yet, I have been in SUWO since 2008 and am one of the PR Representatives. You'll recognise me by my Australian accent, the never-ending stream of missed notes and facepalms made by me in the Horn section, and, if you still don't know me by the next European tour, the wave of jeers and faux-sympathetic pats bestowed upon me while waiting at UK passport control.

The purpose of this post is to welcome everybody who is keen to audition for SUWO. I thought I would take a moment before the auditions to say a bit about us; who are we, what we do during the year, how serious we are as an orchestra, and what is the record for number of audible groans by a frustrated member during a rehearsal.

As you have hopefully read on our Union and Facebook page, SUWO is a wind orchestra comprised of both Music and non-Music students, past and present, throughout the university. Lead by our fearless leader, Sir Anthony Houghton esq., we are about to commence our 12th year of operation, and are as ever excited by what this new year has to offer. While Tony takes care of the conducting side of things, the student committee, hand-picked yearly by SUWO members, takes care of everything else. Think of the committee as the SUWO version of the government, except our committee actually does stuff every now and then. This year's committee stars:

Martin Bullock as President - having been in SUWO nearly as long as me, Martin has also recently pre-ordered the next issue of Zimmerframes Yearly. You'll generally find him among the percussion, but he occasionally rendezvous with the trombones too. When he's not busy being in just about every music group that will take him, he studies Maths and is in his Masters year.

Ben Latham as Secretary - Ben is another old-timer, also about to start his fourth year with us. He sits among the most expert of the clarinets, and is about to undergo the voluntary migraine that surely is the final year of a Law degree.

Charlotte Blackburn as Treasurer - after a most successful run as co-Social Secretary, Charlotte has decided to stretch her wings, make some use of the Economics degree she is about to undergo the final year of, and become our Treasurer. She's arguably the sexiest Tuba player you'll ever meet.

James Rhodes as Inclusions Officer - James' main role is to make people feel happy, welcome and loved in the SUWO-sphere. As one of the most lovable people in the world, this is obviously going to be a challenge of mammoth proportions for him. James is a 3rd year Music student and sits with the flautists. He doesn't actually play the flute, though. He just sits with them. He's so lovable we allow him to do this.

Tim Walker as 1/2 of Social Secretary - until 2011 there were few who could match me in the role of SUWO's token loud person. Then Tim came along and gave me the opportunity to semi-retire. Despite not having an obnoxious foreign accent, Tim shall be more than recognisable to all new SUWO members as that chap among the trumpets who says lots. He plays the trumpet pretty well too. I figure they wouldn't let him be a second year Music student if he didn't.

Natalie Farrow as 1/2 of Social Secretary - as a Saxophonist, Natalie is already in an ideal position to be a Social Secretary. Sitting right in the middle of the orchestra provides ample opportunity to talk to be social with players of all sorts of instruments, after all. Natalie  currently whistles the often-deprived middle child that is the Tenor Sax, but may soon be changing it up, as Saxophonists often do.

Alexandra Lee as 1/2 of PR - with most of SUWO being scared half to death after myself and Poppy (the other PR rep from last year) talked about the work involved with the position, Alex was the only person brave enough to volunteer for the role. Her bravery is further noticeable by her joining the veritable cat-cage that is the clarinet section.

Gillian Brown as 1/2 of PR - I've talked about myself plenty.

George Morton as Co-Conductor - This is George's fifth year with SUWO, making him as old, in SUWO years, as me. He spent three years partaking in Trumpet duties before picking up the conductor's baton last year. When not flailing a stick at us, he is writing music and continuing to blow his trumpet (pun!) for his Masters course. He's instantly recognisable by having ginger hair of a calibre that would make Percy Grainger envious.

(Dr) Gareth Widdowson as Co-Conductor/Marketing Material Designer - Having been with SUWO since 2003, Gareth is practically part of the furniture at this stage. But don't read that as an insult. He's like that faithful Chesterfield lounge that has been passed down for generations. As he has just finished his PhD I do not know how involved he will be with us this year. He has however promised to make it all the more unbelievable that he's colourblind and continue to make amazing posters and flyers for us for our concerts.

So that's us. I promise above all that each of us are friendly and approachable, so do not hesitate to ask us about anything you are unsure of. We'll be dotted around the place during auditions, taking your names and trying to calm you down (we all had to audition - we know it's scary).

During the year SUWO has a couple of primary commitments. Every semester we do a concert in Firth Hall, which will be easy to find by that stage because it is where our rehearsals are every week. Most of what we play for these concerts is a combination of fun show tunes, soulful ballads, and one or two truly horrendous pieces from Tony's Secret File of Awful Music. Towards the end of the year we do a couple of concerts in Weston Park, where we achieve the incredible feat of fitting most of us into a bandstand better suited for a small chorus or a string quintet. We normally play our catchier tunes for that one. But of course, our most important yearly commitment by far is our European Tour. Taken every year during the Easter holidays or during the first week of summer, this is when we throw our instruments into a coach, tetris-fit ourselves into the rest of the coach and journey to somewhere in Europe, where we explore, play concerts in some incredible locations, and have what is guaranteed to be one of the funnest weeks of the year. Previous tours have seen us go to Malta, Barcelona, Germany, Belgium and Holland. Where to this year, I wonder? We will have to see.

As for how serious we are as an orchestra… well, I do not think there is a member among us who does not take music seriously. Most of us play to an 8th Grade standard and we take genuine pride in our ability to pull pieces together and create something beautiful for our audiences. But SUWO is not a serious group at all. We are serious about playing good music, but to us the more crucial element is that we get together, play as well as we can, and have a great time doing it. So if you wish to join a group of talented musicians (and me :P) who are in it for the experience of being in an orchestra but do not take themselves too seriously, we are definitely the orchestra for you.

I shall now respectfully sign out before this blog post reaches novel-length proportions. But before I go, I would like to again welcome you to SUWO, and I and everybody else sincerely hope to see you at the Fresher's Fair and at auditions. Until then, peace out!

Friday, 8 June 2012

Pre-Concert/Tour rehearsal

"Just let me hear some of that rock and roll music
Any old way you choose it
It's got a back beat, you can't blues it
Any old time you use it
Gotta be rock 'n' roll music
If you wanna dance with me
If you wanna dance with me"

...this is not technically true. You can blues it if you want to. :)

Greetings, SUWO's Blog readers! It has been a while! But now that final exams are behind us and we have naught to do but agonise over how we've done, it's time to focus on SUWO happenings again. And not a moment too soon, because we have a concert tomorrow evening that requires us to be bright and cheery and ready to play our absolute bestest.

And of course there's also, y'know, TOUR!!!

Because the University of Sheffield examination board fails to realise that SUWO rehearsals are way more important than the availability of big halls in which exams can be taken, last night saw us rehearsing in St Andrew's church. While this did require us having to walk in the rain, without waterproof shoes on (for some) to a location some of us had not previously been to, the hall at least had the good grace to be able to fit us all in. Having no percussion may or may not have helped with that.

Pieces we practiced included:

-Toccata Marziale by R. Vaughn Williams
- Eligia by Wouter Lenaerts, with Gareth at the conducting station (and a piece well worth dedicating some small amount of time, in this young blogger's humble opinion. It is quite pretty)
- Overture to Candide by Leonard Bernstein, with George conducting (and showing just how mighty his conducting arm is with the speed he has to do it at the end)
- Horsefly by CY Payne (noteworthy both because of its amusing name, and because the sheet music is so small that the name of the piece suddenly makes perfect sense - it's horsefly size!
- Shepherd's Hey by Percy Very-Very-Ginger-Dary Grainger, conducted by equally Ginger-dary George.
- Colonial Song by Percy Just-As-Ginger-As-In-The-Previous-Line Grainger, again conducted by George
- Second Suite for Band by Alfred Reed

Some exciting pieces there, well worth the effort of coming and seeing performed. I have no photos nor videos today I am afraid. Instead what I can offer is our fabulous concert schedule for the next week (also visible on the colourful banner adorning the top of this page):

9th June at 8pm: Summer Festival Concert - Firth Hall, Sheffield
11th June at 8:15pm: Concert at St. Peter's Church, St Jan's Kerk, Maastricht
12th June at 3pm: Concert at Cath├ędrale des Saints-Michel-et-Gudule, Brussels
13th June at 4pm: Concert in what hopefully won't be the pouring rain at Monschau Market Place
14th June at 8pm: Concert at Eglise St Jacques, Liege

So, if you happen to be kicking around Sheffield, or random parts of Belgium and Holland, at some point next week, feel free to watch us. However, I do realise that for most this will not be a possibility. As such, I shall be making note of what goes on, taking photos and recording videos, and the next blog entry on here shall be an awe-inspiring monolith of literary fireworks, talking about anything and everything that happens.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Whit Fayre Performance

"Play that funky music white boy,
Play that funky music right."
Although you don't have to be white, or a boy, to play with SUWO. You just have to be able to improvise your way through pieces that haven't been rehearsed once this year.
Every year at around May/June (conveniently cutting into exam preparation time) SUWO plays for an hour in the bandstand at Weston Park. This year we had the most prestigious honour of doing it during the Whit Fayre. A prestigious honour mainly because we performed surrounded by people in Victorian-style dress walking around in stilts and playing croquet... and we can only wish they had been done together.

So after defying the laws of physics and getting over fifty SUWO members, their instruments (which, as a reminder, include tubas, large saxophones, and tonnes of percussion), chairs and music stands into the bandstand, and still somehow managing to leave enough room for Tony to do his required arm-flails without poking any of the higher woodwind instrumentalists in the eye, we started to play. Our repertoire included:

- Selections from Porgy and Bess by Gershwin; a piece that had been played many times in the SUWO days of yore (2008-2009) but had not been rehearsed at all this year. After finishing playing this piece we noticed that not many audience members were vacating their seats with vigour, or indeed at all. We like to believe that this was not because they had been super-glued to them.

- English Folk Songs by Tomlinson, movements 1, 2, and 3; which was performed well and proof of this would exist in video format if Tony had not looked disapprovingly into the camera, at a time when I admittedly should probably have been playing.

- Folk Song Suite by Vaughn Williams, movements 1 and 3; with Gareth, barely visible without the normal SUWO podium, doing the conducting, this was a fun couple of movements to play. The audience seemed to like it too.

No video this entry, I'm afraid, but there are photos!

The bandstand, with various SUWO members conglomerating to its left.

Some of the nearby festivities.
 As students of Sheffield, we know that a daytime event is not a daytime event if it is not performed under the block-shaped shadow of the Arts Tower.

Inside the bandstand. The test of a true musician - being able to play in such a small space.

Further pictoral evidence of the lack of space inside that bandstand.

Not sure when the next SUWO blog will be. But when it comes, I'm sure it will be extraordinary. :)

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Week 12 Rehearsal

"Music makes the people come together,
Music mix the bourgeoisie and the rebel."
...yeah I don't get what that means either. But it's a quote with the word 'music' in it from a Madonna song now stuck deep in the head of this SUWO blog-artist.

So, after several weeks' hiatus due to Metropolis and the Music Ball, both of which were attended and enjoyed by many (I will assume, since some of us were as lacking in the 35 pounds necessary to attend the music ball at the time as they currently are in a laptop that has a pound sign key). 

There was a rehearsal in the midst of all of this, in Week 10. Allow me to summarise the happenings of that rehearsal now:

SUWO: tootle tootle honk honk bang bang
Tony: *flail flail flail, then* I'm going to sit these next few out. Gareth and George, you're up.
Gareth: Fabulous! *gets out especially pointy custom-made conductor's baton* *points*
SUWO: tootle tootle honk honk bang bang
Gareth: Unfortunately during my pointing escapades I've accidentally pointed myself a few times, so George, you're it.
George: Equally fabulous! *hops onto podium and gets out specially made extremely fast conductor's baton*
George: So this piece, "Overture to Candide", is kind of brisk and has lots of fiddly bits, so we're going to start off slow to get you slowpokes warmed up for it.
SUWO: *collective sigh of relief*
George: So here we go. *...flailflailflailflailflailflailflail!!!*
SUWO: Oh sweet bejebus! *collective putting away of phones and picking up of instruments, because 50 bars rest is not going to last us long*
SUWO: tootletootlehonkhonkbangCLASH!!
George: wot.
Gareth (now in Percussion): Yeah it's just that when I have to change instruments it's a bit like this. *demonstrates hastily throwing down whatever piece of percussion at hand, running to the crash cymbals and crashing them before the speed of his instrument change causes him to fall over*
...and the rest.

And that brings us nicely to this week's rehearsal! With tour only being a few weeks away and most of us having exams right up until tour begins, the fates decided that now would be the perfect time to give SUWO a bunch of other concert commitments beforehand. On today's agenda: rehearsing for a bandstand concert at Weston Park on Sunday (from 3-4pm 100% free lots of great bands performing get there early to get good seats). 

These are some of the pieces that are going to sound slightly more recently rehearsed than the others.

- The Godfather Saga, by Nino Rota and Carmen Coppola, featuring some boss solo trumpet work by Ben Hoblyn

- Vintage, a piece for solo euphonium and the other members of a wind orchestra if they so choose, by David R. Gillingham and featuring Austin (Powers) Castaneda on eupho.

- Colonial Song by absolute legend incarnate (and he didn't even have to be Australian to be such a legend, although that certainly helped) Percy Aldridge Grainger, conducted by His Equally Gingeryness, George Mistoffelees Morton. 

- Concertante for Flute, Oboe and Band by Ignace Moscheles, arranged and conducted by one Mr Anthony Morton, and featuring the lovely duo of Hannah Lewin on oboe and David Bramall on flute.

And now for your viewing pleasure, I present photos and a video!

During the break.

A slightly more impressive view of the orchestra than I could have hoped to manage from my position. Taken by George.

The first twelve bars of Colonial Song. If this video works I'll be absolutely floored with amazement.

And that's all for this week folks! SUWO blog shall return soon!

Friday, 27 April 2012


I can hear music,
I can hear music,
The sound of the city baby seems to disappear,
I can hear music,
Sweet sweet music,
Whenever you touch me baby,
Whenever you're near.
Although here in SUWO, it's the music that touches us... and is near... us...
SO, there was not a SUWO rehearsal last night, which, as you can imagine, had many of us crying into our pillows and declaring our lives officially over and devoid of all meaning. However, we had barely managed to tug our bedtime upholstery towards us and ready our tear ducts before finding out that the reason why rehearsal was off this week was because of Metropolis.

When not busy being a really fun word to say, "Metropolis" is a 1927 German expressionist science-fiction film written by Fritz Lang and Thea Von Harbou, and directed by Lang. It cost ridiculous amounts of money to make and was met with mixed reviews upon release. Due to its being 150 minutes long and containing footage that might give a very prudish person pause, large chunks of the film were cut out after its initial release, subsequently being lost to the mists of time. Many attempts were made to restore the film, until in 2008 a print of the original cut was found in a museum in Argentina. One rather arduous restoration process later, and the film was shown on screens in Berlin and Frankfurt on 12th February 2010. Praise be to Wikipedia for providing this background information, and here's a link to the article should you wish to read more:

So, like other films at the time, Metropolis is supposed to be watched with a chap sitting at a piano providing the sound that equipment at the time was unable to capture. Evidently "chap sitting at a piano" was not grandiose enough for these people, so composer Gottfried Huppertz was recruited to write an original score for a full orchestra - a score that takes a total of 150 minutes to play, and has to be timed perfectly, lest the orchestra fall behind the movie while it's being shown. Not exactly the easiest of tasks. But for former SUWO president, up-and-coming conductor and wearer of shiny waistcoats extraordinaire George Morton, and various past and present obscenely musically talented students of the University of Sheffield, this task was a mere bag o' tell. "150 straight minutes of playing, in the dark, to a movie?" they seemed to say, "Please, present us with a challenge!"

And so, after what I will assume was much rehearsal behind the scenes, these talented individuals came together as one and performed this Mount Everest of a score last night. And it was spectacular. From the banging and clanging of machines by the percussion to the sweeping romantic interludes by the flutes and oboes to the quite hilarious (I thought) interlude of the French national anthem by the trumpets, the orchestra took this movie, and this score, and made it their own. The applause at the end was loud, thunderous, and slightly painful for those doing the applauding by the end. But sore arms were a small price to pay for what we had just seen.

For obvious reasons all involving either copyright or the inherent impoliteness of operating phone during a performance, I have no clips to share with you all this week, and nor do I know if any footage of the performance has been taken by someone slightly more official than me. If so I shall be sure to link to it in future, and if not, I shall close by saying that this was an amazing show, and one that I will certainly be remembering for a good while.

Until next week, adios!

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Week 8 Rehearsal

"Music is like oxygen!"
Where 'music' is actually 'love', and the quote is stolen from Moulin Rouge.

Just a short update for now, SUWO's Blog readers. Last week was, in theory, our first tour rehearsal. We played a few different pieces, mostly stuff that we've played in previous years, such as Suite of English folk dances by Ernest Tomlinson (whose movements have such hilarious names as Jenny Pluck Pears, Dick's Maggot, and Hunt the Squirrel, and The Jungle Book by Sherman, Sherman and Gilkyson, arranged by Marcel Peters. We also tried a piece hilariously called Whirlegigg by Kenneth Hesketh, which was quite fun and jaunty, and played Colonial Song by that legend incarnate, Percy Grainger, conducted by that other legend incarnate, George M Marton (the M stands for Magestic).

That's all from SUWO blog for a few weeks while we all go on Easter break. But we'll be back after that for more news on our tour pieces, and more lovely photos and videos. Peace out, everyone. :)