I Told You Not To Ask “What Next?”

It had to come.

I know I say I can’t play clash cymbals but that’s because

  • my hands won’t hold them
  • my arms are too short
  • my bust is too big!

But you really can’t go around telling people you’ve got grade 8 percussion when you haven’t played timps. So I had a session with Roger, my teacher, a few months ago. Then over the Christmas period I had an invitation to play with the Redditch Orchestra for Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony in February. I used to live in Redditch and played regularly with that orchestra but I left there 32 years ago so there would be lots of faces I knew and names I couldn’t remember!

The invitation came from a dear friend whom I hadn’t seen for years and who had only just heard that I had started playing percussion. There would be two people in the section – the other person had lots of percussion experience playing in bands but no orchestral experience. I have lots of orchestral experience but not on percussion!

Then he dropped out.

The conductor decided I should try playing timps and they would find somebody to bang the bass drum etc if they could. So I had one more lesson and persuaded Roger to lend me himself and his timps for the day. (Nobody had let on to me that the conductor is a timpanist!)


Meanwhile I came to an arrangement with New College Worcester to lease their set of timps. That gave them more room in their music suite and allowed me to bring them home to practise (another story altogether – they wouldn’t go through the front door, nor the back door). I used to have lots of room in my conservatory!


Saturday 25th February arrived and off we went to Redditch. If you don’t know  that symphony, do go and listen. When I met first encountered it, I was 35 and I couldn’t believe I had wasted 35 years not knowing it; gorgeous soaring melodies, particularly gorgeous ‘cello tunes (which these days break my heart because I won’t ever play them in an orchestra again), a cheeky boisterous second movement, luscious lie-back-on-the-hot-sand-under-the palm-trees-and-feel-the-gentle-waves-lapping-over-you third movement… aaaaaaaaaaahhhh!!

I had a whale of a time!


Published in: on March 4, 2017 at 11:21 am  Comments (1)  

The results are in!

Twelve months after I bought my snare drum and glockenspiel and had my first lesson, and 10 months after my parents bought my xylophone for me, I have the results of the grade 8 exam which I took on November 28th.


Well, yes, I am pretty pleased with myself. Sorry! But I worked SO hard for it. Strangely I achieved the equal highest mark I have ever had – 136 (out of 150). The last time I did that was my very first exam, Grade 1 piano back in December 1964.

1964!!! Crikey!

So now I have eight Grade 8s!



Please don’t ask what I’m going to do next – I dread to imagine.

Published in: on December 10, 2016 at 1:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Quite a bit later!

A lot has happened since that last post asked “What next?” – some of it foreseen, some of it unexpected.

I found somebody with a Chapman stick. It was FAR too heavy for me to cope with and was one of those rare occasions for me, when a new instrument totally baffled, pickled my brain and defeated me! I thought I would cope easily with 5ths and 4ths being a cellist and bass player – but they go in opposite directions from the middle outwards. Not for me, I’m afraid.

After all, I’m no slouch – come on, I picked up a Balalaika in a music shop and played the Elgar Cello concerto on it. But this was just beyond me.

DSC_0014So we had a think and came up with hammered dulcimers. Yes, nice pretty things and pretty sounds. So I bought one, had it for 3 months and only managed to get a few tunes out of it. My grandson, aged two, made nearly as much sense of it as I did. Who on earth worked out that layout for the notes? Weird!! “Am I losing my touch,” I thought? That mini-stroke I had in August just after I retired must have had more effect than I had realised. And I’m not a folk music player – it just wasn’t going to keep me involved in the music I love.

So I had a chat with the Roger, the principal percussionist and timpanist in Chandos Symphony Orchestra. I had helped out tinging a triangle and banging a bass drum once or twice but if I was going to that more often, I wanted to take it seriously rather than have people think that I believed I could just float into the section with no training. He kindly offered to show me a thing or two on the snare drum and glockenspiel.

Well, you know me! The bug bit and by the end of our first session I had bought one of each. By the end of our second session I had run out of notes on the glockenspiel as the range extends once you get to grade 4. DSC00194.JPGSo I decided to go for a xylophone and my parents (aged 91 and 92) stepped in and bought it for me. “Xue”, as I named her, (Chinese for study and learning) arrived on the 12th January 2016. It was love at first note. The familiarity of the layout and the quality of the sound… just wonderful!!

Two weeks later, we posted this on YouTube https://youtu.be/B7cvf-FHwWA

And on February 15th, I was able to play a Grade 8 piece “Schon Rosmarin” by Kreisler (I recorded the accompaniment and played along with it) for Roger to hear.

Job done! Happy now – I have an instrument to join in with an orchestra which doesn’t hurt my hands. Thanks Mum and Dad, thanks Roger, and thanks Stephen for putting up with The Flight of the Bumble Bee, which I’m working on now, over and over again.

P.S. I haven’t quite got to grade 8 with the snare drum yet, more like grade 3, but I’m working on it!










Published in: on March 8, 2016 at 1:29 pm  Leave a Comment