At Alliance we like to get to know our artists and ask them a few questions that may be a little different to the ones they may have had before!
How old were you when you started playing?
Owen – I was 6 – I started at Pontypool Brass Band.
Les – I started playing at 10 years of age.
David – There’s a photo of me playing at three years old, but my first raspberries into a mouthpiece, albeit not an Alliance, were earlier than that.
Richard – I was 9 years old.
Why/how did you choose your instrument?
Owen – I started on cornet as that was all the band had available for the beginners class. When a tenor horn became available though I quickly dived in.
Les – I started having lessons in my primary school. The local peripatetic teacher, Miss Horne (good name) introduced me to the trumpet. After a three week stint without really getting a note out she suggested a move to a bigger instrument. Upon playing a few notes on the tuba I knew it was the instrument for me!
David – My Dad played euphonium and his father before him. I loved listening to my Dad play and wanted to do the same.
Richard – I started playing my Dad’s flugelhorn, well for about one or two weeks, then I got a cornet from my local band and started lessons with my teacher, Mr Johnson.
What is your favourite musical memory so far?
Owen – Performing as guest soloist with the Royal Northern Symphonia
Les – Recording and performing with Sting. To spend time with such an incredible musician and person has always left an impression on me, plus it was kind of cool to be touring like a pop star!
David – Giving the US première of Sir Karl Jenkins’ Euphonium Concerto in Carnegie Hall New York is certainly up there, but I’m fortunate to have made so many other fantastic memories through music too.
Richard – There’s lots of musical memories…… but certainly two that are right up there are winning my first British Open Championships in 2006 with Black Dyke and performing the World Premiere of the Edward Gregson Cornet Concerto at the European Championship Gala Concert in 2016.
If you could play anywhere in the world where would it be?
Owen – The new LA Rams stadium holds over 100,000 people. That would be an incredible audience!
Les – I’ve played in some incredible venues but Carnegie Hall is not on that list yet.
David – I’ve never played at the Sydney Opera House. I’d love to play there one day.
Richard – I’m lucky to have played in some of the words great concert venues, but the ones I wouldn’t mind playing in again are…. Carnegie Hall (New York), Sydney Opera House and Triphony Hall in Tokyo.
If you could listen to anyone else play an instrument (dead or alive) who would it be?
Owen – I would have loved to hear Beethoven and Paganini play. Perhaps together would be even better!
Les – My hero is without a doubt John Fletcher and although I’ve watched videos and listened to CD’s I would have loved to have heard him play live and maybe even get the chance to speak with him.
David – Niccolò Paganini playing his own 24 Caprices for Solo Violin.
Richard – I never actually heard my teacher, Mr. Johnson play, so that would’ve been good. I love hearing any musician at the top of their game!
What is the best thing about the instrument you play?
Owen – It has a bigger range than the cornet and yet more clarity than the euphonium.
Les – The best thing is that when I go to play solos, I love seeing the reaction of the audience when they hear the tuba do things they didn’t expect.
David – The sound it can make.
Richard – The Geneva Cardinal Cornet is so easy to play throughout the ranges. But probably one of the best aspects for me is the fantastic intonation the instrument has.
What is the worst?!
Owen – The lack of original repertoire.
Les – Travelling with it! I have so many stories of my tuba not making it onto flights etc. On one occasion I was travelling back from America and had a quick turnaround due to a concert straight after I arrived home. It turned out I landed into Manchester, and after a few days of phone calls, my tuba was located in Madrid! After a week or so we were finally reunited. I wonder if the tuba just fancied a holiday?
David – It’s not so easy to travel (fly) with!
Richard – There’s nothing wrong with my instrument, apart from it needing a good clean every now and then!
What is your favourite mouthpiece of the Alliance collection and why?
Owen – The 2. The open backbore allows the air to flow freely whilst the agile rim and responsive cup create a rich tone in all registers.
Les – Has to be the Les Neish signature. I certainly like it!
David – The DC3 – it does everything I need it to.
Richard – My mouthpiece of choice is a Silver Plate RM1. This is the deepest mouthpiece in the RM Signature Range and I love it. I’ve always played on big mouthpieces and I feel comfortable with the ease of projection and production throughout the ranges.
What is your best/worst musical joke? (or story if you’re not a joke teller 😉)
Owen – ‘I know so many music jokes. Shall I write a Liszt?’
Les – ‘How many trumpet players does it take to change a lightbulb? Five. One to change the bulb and four to tell how much better they could have done it!’
David – ‘How do you make a bandstand? Take away their chairs!’
Richard – ‘What kind of music do Boulders like?………. Rock n Roll 😂🤣’
Tell us a musical fact we might not know…
Owen – Paganini suffered with Marfan’s disease. Along with shortness of breath and poor eyesight he also had extremely flexible joints. This allowed him to be able to touch his little finger and thumb together behind the back of his hand. He could therefore fan his fingers across his violin with very little effort.
Les – The biggest tuba in the world is called Big Carl. It stands nearly 8 feet tall, contains 60 feet of tubing, weighs about 45 kgs and registers a subcontrabass BBBb pitch. The bell, the widest part, has a diameter just over 40 inches. I wouldn’t mind trying it out one day!
David – Neil Armstrong – the first person to walk on the moon – also played the euphonium!
Richard – A personal musical fact… During the next year, fingers crossed, I will become the longest serving Principal Cornet Player in Black Dyke’s History.