Report on Colchester Loud Winds Workshop:   21 September 2008

Colchester Workshop

On Sunday 21st. September, I attended a workshop run jointly by Kings Lynn and Colchester Waits. The venue was the rather quaint Headgate Theatre in Colchester.

Upon arrival, we were offered refreshment and then the business of the day began in earnest. The idea was to rehearse material that was to be interspersed into a concert given in the evening by these two bands.

During the course of the day, a member of Kings Lynn Waits delivered a mini-workshop on the correct breathing for playing double reed instruments. This I found particularly useful as I find the mechanics of playing the Shawm much harder than the fingering! In the past, I have not been used to instruments that bite back!

As a relative newcomer to the world of Waits, although not to Early Music, I have discovered that in common with other musical fields, this one has its ‘standards’ and these were well represented. We first worked on our old friend “Munster” and Hessen’s English Pavane. These were followed by the famous Arbeau Pavan and Hellas Madame and Pastime with Good Company, written by Henry VIII, or so he said! Ask yourself, if you had written these pieces and Henry took a fancy to them and wanted to take the credit for them, would you have argued? Not with his record of chopping off heads you wouldn’t! Next followed a Tourdion by Attaignant and a later version of “King’s Pavane” (see Henry above) entitled, Lescercardes, in which we were invited to supply our own divisions. There was the magnificent 6 part version of “The Battle” once again by Hessen and our old friends Tante que Vivray and Bruder Conrad.

The programme into which these were inserted was impressive to say the least. The array of different instruments used made for a well varied tone palate and there were some interesting effects. I especially liked the imaginative use of Bagpipes in with other instruments.

The acoustic of the venue was particularly suitable for this kind of music and the programme was enthusiastically received by the audience. It was a privilege to be part of it.

However, I am saving the most impressive aspect of the day until last.

I was asked if I would give a young lady from Saffron Walden, a member of The Colchester Waits, a lift home.

It was by chatting to her during the journey that I discovered that her normal mode of transport to Colchester for rehearsals and performances is by train, via Liverpool Street!

As the person who runs this band, Lizzie Gutteridge is the one who has inspired her to the extent that she will endure these tortuous travel arrangements in order to be a member. This speaks volumes for Lizzie’s ability as a motivator and she deserves every congratulation and encouragement for having achieved this.

Well done, and thanks for inviting me!

Tony Pearson, The Pied piper of Ely.

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