Why did you decide to become a musician?
I began learning the clarinet in Basingstoke when I was 11. I had watched ‘The Benny Goodman Story’ film on TV and was inspired by his playing. I had a slight blip aged 14 when I was more interested in football but started practicing again at 16 and scraped into music college.
How did you come to join the Orchestra?
I had a wonderful time at various music colleges and became 1st clarinet in the orchestra of Opera North in 1980. My wife and 1 year old son moved to Bournemouth in 1988. I believe I am only the 3rd principal clarinet since the 1920’s. ( Hiram Lear, Ray Carpenter before me.)
Which are your most memorable performances with the BSO?
There are so many performances that I remember. Tosca and a Vaughan Williams 2nd Symphony with Kees Bakels. I’ve played a number of concerto’s but my most enjoyable over the years was the Finzi, which I played a few times.
What was your greatest achievement with the BSO?
There were 2 concertos that took an enormous amount of effort and nerve. The recording of the Nielsen on the Naxos label was very satisfying and I’m really happy to have a snapshot of what I could do. All recorded in a 3 hour session + 20 mins for cadenzas. Also my colleague Norman Hallam wrote a fiendish concerto for me. I gave 2 performances. I know that he has revised it recently so hope someone revives it at some point. However most of all I hope I have been consistent over the years.
What work did you enjoy playing above all else?
Tosca…my favourite opera. I am always amazed how the tension is in the music. Scarpia is so evil and the scene in the church at the end of act 1 is brilliant.
Were there any conductors that you particularly enjoyed working with?
Each conductor brings something different to the orchestra. I’m pleased to have recently worked with Marta. Interesting to see how the young conductors develop and learn. ( or not! ) A couple of former clarinettists were impressive. Karl Heinz Steffens who was here recently and Osma Vanska. Kees Bakels often got amazing results, as did David Hill especially in the choral repertoire. My most memorable experience was playing Brahms in the Philharmonia, years ago, with Carlo Maria Guilini. Sadly he never came to the BSO. But we have seen Gergiev, Temirikanov, Yannik Seguin and others. Also some tremendous soloists. Paul Tortelier, Rostropovich, Ricci, James Ehnes, Alfred Brendel, Janet Baker, Bryn Terfel to name a few.
Did you take part in any tours with the BSO? If so, can you tell me about them.
My first tour was to Spain. Andrew Litton was ill so we had John Nelson and we played another of my favourite pieces, Rachmaninov Symphonic Dances.
We had 2 American tours. One with Andrew and one with Yakov Kreizberg. The Dallas concert hall was most impressive, as were the portions of food! The programme on the 2nd tour was Rach 2nd Symphony and Tchaikovsky 6 so I was kept rather busy with solos. We also did a rather nice tour with Andrew to Switzerland. I’m looking forward to walking there again on holiday.
The easiest tour was a couple of weeks playing Verdi Falstaff In Paris. We only played every other day. I had some great bike rides on my days off. Going to Monets garden at Giverney on one day.
The Hong Kong tour was a glimpse of a different culture. Sadly my old clarinet didn’t enjoy the humidity and cracked rather badly and had to be retired long before I did.
In more recent times a trip to Bremen was very enjoyable. Kirill conducting and a percussion concerto by Dorman. Exciting piece and followed by an amazing encore piece on side drum played by Martin Grubinger.
Playing in the BSO has allowed me the opportunity to play in most of the major concert halls in Europe and the USA. The trips were at times quite tough but more so for my wife in the early days coping with two young children. I was able to enjoy the travel, food and days off.
On most of these tours I either wrote a log or sent photo’s and letters home to the family. I’ve got a few rather primitive drawings of daddy climbing hills on his bike. It also helps at my age to remember the happy times I spent here in the BSO.