A Fantastic Day of Discovering Sounds with the Countess of Wessex’s String Orchestra in Woolwich Barracks London

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End of a wonderful Day of music making with the CWSO – photo by Marius Skaerved

Last Tuesday (22/11/16), I joined violinist Peter Sheppard Skaerved for a day of discovering unusual timbres and possibilities with the Countess of Wessex’s String Orchestra hosted by Staff Sergeant Claire Lawrence. The day was the brain-child of Claire and Captain David Hammond, the orchestra’s musical director.

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Peter and myself with the CWSO

Peter led the workshop by introducing the vast range of sounds that he has accumulated over the years performing the 400 pieces for violin that have been written for him. There were even a few clarke-isms served up. Peter is fascinated by musical colours – over the years I have witnessed dozens and dozens of his workshops, but I still manage to take away something new and inspirational from each one.

It was impressive how willing the musicians of the CWSO were to try out different techniques – it is not always so when you travel around the world and work with professional musicians. Peter and I have found that often the best results come from close collaboration and that is the starting point of our project with the CWSO, during which I will write them a new work.

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Listening is a world of discovery!

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The CWSO Bass section

SSgt Claire Lawrence wrote of the day: “What a hugely inspirational day. An absolute pleasure to hear you play and see such crazy technique up close, and fascinating to hear how you deal with new scores and how pieces evolve over time, with differing personnel or environments. The afternoon session was unlike any we have had at the CWSO, as our work dictates playing from written music and rehearsing from what we see. I think in this way, what we hear is governed so much by what we are seeing. The listening is almost pre-decided. To make sounds away from music with no convention to adhere to was a very creative experience, if not a little daunting at first./Another great thing was that throughout this process you reminded us of technical aspects that we can transfer to our usual rehearsal days and engagements. Experimenting with point of contact and types of vibrato, and really noticing how it changed the sound, was a very valuable exercise that we are continuing to consider./We also loved the insight we had into how Nigel writes. I enjoyed watching him listening and suggesting things, and I was I interested in his observing how we behave as an group, really fascinating that all this research is done before considering notes on a page. One of the CWSO violinists commented afterwards that it is very exciting to think we can have a work written specifically for our sound, a new sound that we can create and that will be unlike anything else that we do./So I guess in conclusion we all had a fantastic day. It was a real privilege to welcome you and Nigel to Woolwich. This was very much a development day in all ways, not just music, in broadening our minds and in pushing ourselves to stretch outside the environment in which we usually exist.”

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Thanks to Peter and to all involved in this new and exciting partnership! Also a big thank you to Marius Skaerved for the wonderful photos that he took throughout the day.

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