Looking towards Christmas already!

We’re already half way through the autumn term, and for once we’ve been playing music with a Christmas flavour from the start. Sometimes we have a completely secular autumn term, but not this year. My husband Ken, who shares the conducting these days, has orchestrated an abridged version of Gustav Holst’s choral medley called simply “Christmas Day”. As well as conventional orchestral instruments this term’s unusual line-up includes both alto and tenor saxes and the even more unusual alto and bass flutes.

Our Winter Soirée will be from 7.30-9.30 on Thursday December 1st in Thatcham (hall booked from 6.30). We call it a Soirée because a concert sounds more formal and scary!

If you’re thinking of joining the orchestra, now is a great time to get in touch, especially if you happen to be free on the evening of December 1st. You’d be very welcome to join our audience of “Friendly Eavesdroppers” to hear what the orchestra has been working on this term. It’s free to come along and listen at on that occasion. Space is limited, so you need to make contact beforehand if you would like to come.

There will be orchestral items by Johann Sebastian Bach, Gustav Holst and Hubert Waelrant, plus an arrangement by Max Bruch (best known for writing a very popular violin concerto) of a little German folk song with a Christmas theme – Lullaby of the Shepherds.

The rest of the evening’s programme consists of solos and chamber music items from current and ex-members of Da Capo and perhaps a few additional visiting performers. In the middle we have an interval, usually about 15 to 20 minutes, with free refreshments. There’s plenty of opportunity to chat to the players if you’d like to – either during the interval break, or before or after the music.

Whether or not you’re free to come to the Soirée you’re always welcome to get in touch for more information. Players enrol for one term at a time, and the Spring term will probably start on January 12th but that’s not definite yet.  It will be helpful to know before Christmas who to expect.

On the Thursday before Christmas, December 22nd, a group of players from the orchestra, again perhaps with a few ex-members, will be playing “seasonal” music in the foyer of the big Sainsbury’s store in Calcot, close to Junction 12 of the M4, between 7.00 and 9.30 p.m. For the third year we’ll be supporting a collection in aid of the Samaritans. If you find yourself with any last-minute shopping to do perhaps you’d like to come along and give us a wave. 🙂 (Sainsbury’s is very close to the recently opened new IKEA store.)

Summer Soirée soon – a good time to join or enquire…

The end of our 21st year is approaching, with our Summer Soirée from 7.30-9.30 on Thursday July 7th in Thatcham (hall booked from 6.30). We call it a Soirée because a concert sounds more formal and scary!

If you’re thinking of joining the orchestra, now is a great time to get in touch, especially if you happen to be free on the evening of July 7th. You’d be very welcome to join our audience of “Friendly Eavesdroppers” to hear what the orchestra has been working on this term.

It’s free to come along and listen at the Soirée. Space is limited, so you need to make contact beforehand if you would like to come.

There are pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach, George Gershwin, K. C. Moore, Thomas Tomkins and Samuel Sebastian Wesley. That sounds a lot, but there’s nothing very long.

The rest of the evening’s programme consists of solos and chamber music items from current and ex-members of Da Capo and a few additional visiting performers. In the middle we have an interval with free refreshments, about 15 to 20 minutes. There’s plenty of opportunity to chat to the players if you’d like to – either during the interval break, or before or after the music.

The week after the Soirée, we have one more “winding down” evening, before we start our summer break. The orchestra more or less follows the West Berkshire school terms and half term holidays.

Whether or not you’re free to visit on the 7th, you’re welcome to get in touch for more information. Players enrol for one term at a time, and the autumn term will start on September 15th. I hope to know by the beginning of September who to expect.

Spring term 2015

Happy New Year, everyone!

On 17 December, a group of current and past members of Da Capo had a successful and enjoyable busking outing at Sainsbury’s, Calcot. We raised about £260 for the local Samaritans – enough to keep their group running for two-and-a-half days. Music included familiar carols, Jingle Bells, We Wish You A Merry Christmas, and a short Christmas piece by Mendelssohn which we had worked on during the term.

Soon we’ll be starting back for the New Year. We have four or five new players this term, bringing the orchestra up to about forty people. As usual, there will be a mixture of music from different periods and different countries. The individual parts vary from easy to more difficult, to match what different people have learnt so far.

If your New Year’s resolution is to “blow the dust off” a musical instrument, do get in touch for a chat (via phone or email) to find out if the orchestra is the right thing for you. There’s no minimum standard – you’re welcome as soon as you’re brave enough! We include simple practices of clapping rhythms, or playing a rhythm on one note, so most people manage to join in a little bit even at their first rehearsal.

Winter Soirée 2014

On 4 December, we welcomed our usual audience of “friendly eavesdroppers” to Da Capo’s Winter Soirée.

The whole orchestra played five pieces. The rest of the programme was a varied mix of solos and chamber music, by orchestra members and a few visitors. One small woodwind group included three players who had joined the orchestra only in September!

Mendelssohn – Frohlocket ihr Völker auf Erde. We welcomed the audience with this cheerful Christmas tune originally for 8-part choir. Its name means “Rejoice, ye people on Earth”.

Bach – O Jesulein süss – “O sweet little Jesus”. One of the challenges for the orchestra this term was to play this piece in a smooth, flowing way with no gaps.

Scriabin – Reverie. This piece representing a daydream had the season’s most difficult rhythm and most difficult notes – but not too fast, and with lots of repetition.

Pichl – Rondo in Tempo di Giga. A giga was a jolly dance. The cellos get a featured spot with a different tune, so the rest of the orchestra gets a chance to practise playing quietly.

Michael Altenburg – Ein wunderschönes Kindelein, leading into In Dulci Jubilo, was published at the beginning of the 17th century for voices in six parts, which might also have been accompanied by instruments. The title refers to baby Jesus and means “a wonderfully beautiful little child”. In Dulci Jubilo goes back even further than that, showing that composers are always picking up tunes and rearranging them!

Da Capo making a temporary move

For the next two terms, Autumn 2014 (starting on September 18th) and Spring 2015, Da Capo will meet at Woolhampton Village Hall.

Network Rail is closing the railway bridge in Padworth Lane for 6 months, right over the winter. That cuts off the best route for almost all of us to our regular venue, Padworth Village Hall. The alternative is quite a long diversion over narrow, bendy, unlit country roads. 🙁 We were very lucky to be able to find an alternative on our regular Thursday evenings, a couple of miles further West along the A4.

Carols for Calcot shoppers

This Thursday evening, a group of about twenty current and ex-members of Da Capo will be playing “seasonal” music for shoppers.

Date: Thursday December 20th, 2012.

Time: From 7pm to 9.30.

Venue: The foyer of the big Sainsbury’s store at Calcot. It’s off the next roundabout on the A4 from M4 Junction 12, going towards Reading.

We shall be supporting a collection in aid of Cancer Research UK, so we’re hoping that LOTS of people will be shopping that evening, with a bit of extra cash to spare for the collection 🙂

As well as some familiar Christmas carols, we shall be including Jingle Bells and one or two other secular items, and a transcription of a short Christmas choral piece by Mendelssohn. Quite a mixture!

Hello, World!

Thanks to my blog-enthusiast daughter, here I am with a blog! I’ve no idea how often I shall write anything for it because quite often running Da Capo feels like a full-time job. However, I do sometimes find myself writing things – about the orchestra in particular, or more general music-related stuff – to one person, when I would really like more people to be able to read it.

At the moment I’m still in the process of choosing the music for next term.  I always hope it will stretch every single player “enough”. 🙂 I like to include at least one piece that was originally written for either a conventional orchestra or a wind band, and I adapt or simplify parts as necessary to fit whatever unconventional line-up of instruments I happen to have at the time.