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WATCH: Aberdeenshire Saxophone Orchestra join English group for International Make Music Day virtual performance


By Kyle Ritchie

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Inverurie's Aberdeenshire Saxophone Orchestra (ASO) and Leicestershire’s Phoenix Saxophone Orchestra (PSO) have joined forces to produce a cross-border recording and video for International Make Music Day, which takes place every year on June 21.

Seventeen saxophonists − seven from Aberdeenshire and 10 from Phoenix − got together to record an arrangement of the rousing march Entry of the Gladiators, written by Czech composer Julius Fučík in 1897 and instantly recognisable as one of the world’s most famous pieces of circus music.

Arranged for saxophones by PSO’s Jonathan Shaw, this challenging piece features seven different types of sax, from the tiny sopranino through the more commonly seen soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones to the huge bass sax and truly enormous contrabass.

With social distancing still in place and 480 physical miles between the two orchestras, each of the 17 players recorded their own individual parts at home.

The recordings were then expertly assembled by PSO tenor saxophonist David Fiander, and the resulting piece of music has been spliced together with an accompanying video featuring the orchestra members playing together online over Zoom.

Members of the Aberdeenshire Saxophone Orchestra and Phoenix Saxophone Orchestra united in music during the virtual performance.
Members of the Aberdeenshire Saxophone Orchestra and Phoenix Saxophone Orchestra united in music during the virtual performance.

International Make Music Day started in France in 1981 and came to the UK in 2012. It is a celebration of music that takes place on June 21 every year, currently across 125 countries.

ASO’s Foss Foster, who plays tenor sax on the piece, said: “This collaboration is one positive thing to come out of lockdown − how else would two such geographically distanced orchestras ever get to meet, let alone play together? We’re looking forward to more enterprises with Phoenix, maybe even in the real world, not just the Zoom one.”

The ASO players rehearse in person at the Hopeville Social Club in Inverurie when restrictions allow. The ones that feature in the performance are Emily Manson (soprano sax), Wiktoria Chojnacka, Jacqueline Shanks (alto sax), Foss Foster, Norman Smith and Caroline Thompson (tenor sax).

The two orchestras first met each other virtually last year when Aberdeenshire invited Phoenix to one of its online rehearsals.

PSO’s Jane Smith, who plays soprano sax on the piece, said: “We’ve had so much fun working on this project with our new friends in Aberdeenshire.

"We wanted to produce an uplifting piece that really captured the essence of Make Music Day, which is to celebrate and foster connections in music making.

"I would say we have certainly achieved that, and we hope this exhilarating piece of music will make you smile.”

The video of the performance can be viewed below:

It can also be watched at Phoenix Saxophone Orchestra’s website at phoenixsax.org.uk/makemusicday21

Aberdeenshire Saxophone Orchestra has 35 members aged 11 to 79, some of whom joined during lockdown.

The group was formed in September 2019 from an original schools music service and youth music initiative funded orchestra.

ASO is now an independent orchestra welcoming all ages and a wide range of playing standards.

For more information on the group visit www.aberdeenshiresaxorchestra.co.uk


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