ECCO – how did I get here?
I wouldn’t describe myself as a musician so much as someone who has messed around with a variety of instruments. I didn’t play an instrument as a child, but as a teenager I followed that well-trodden path of self-taught blues guitar, followed by a couple of years in a folk band, messing around with a variety of instruments. For the next 40 years or so found myself listening to a broad range of music and continued to mess around with instruments without really seriously learning any of them. Aged 60 I bought a saxophone, went to some jazz evening classes, happened to meet a member of ECCO who told me about the orchestra, and thought I would give it a try.
At that stage two questions arose – was I good enough to play in an orchestra, and were there any orchestral parts for a saxophone anyway? I had never taken any grades, so had no way of knowing what level I was at, but it became quite clear that this was a supportive group and with the aim of getting people like me to get together and play, regardless of experience or qualifications. No auditions, just turn up and start blowing. And although many of the pieces we play have no saxophone parts (quite a few were written before the saxophone was invented) there are plenty of horn parts that have been adapted for the saxophone, and if there isn’t one Laura will just write one.
The experience of playing with ECCO has been hugely inspiring. Initially it was a revelation just to sit in as part of a group of musicians, to play a score and find it fitted with what other people were doing….even if the fit was sometimes a bit approximate. Interestingly the things I thought would be difficult, like actually being able to play the score in front of me, turned out not to be too bad. But other things took me by surprise, like discovering the difficulty of counting 7 bars rest, then another 8 bars rest, and coming in at the right time. For the first few weeks I got lost at regular intervals, possibly so surprised that I had played a few bars correctly that I entirely forgot to carry on counting. I also realised just why an orchestra needs a conductor. Get 20 musicians together and set them off, and you quickly find each one of them has a different sense of timing. Not to mention the places where everything slows down or speeds up a bit. I had often wondered if an orchestra really needs someone at the front waving their arms about, but I quickly realised that conductors do actually have an important role!
And that’s where Laura is so central to ECCO. Laura seems to have all the genes of a human dynamo, she is hugely enthusiastic and encouraging and her wacky humour permeates every session. She also has a deep understanding of music and she is determined to get us all to perform at our best. Our weekly rehearsals are a lot of fun, the music is challenging enough to stretch us, and that builds a real sense of communal achievement. I think all our members would agree that Laura is taking us on a journey, and as a group of players we are now quite a bit further down the road than we were a couple of years ago. I don’t know where it will lead to ultimately but for me it’s the journey that counts.
At £5 per session it’s a bargain, and for that we get access to a decent room at the University Music Block, or sometimes even the chapel which is a lovely space to play in. Occasionally some of the University’s full-time music students join in too. Our repertoire is continually expanding, Laura is open to suggestions of pieces to play, and we even have one member, Ray (bassoon), who arranges pieces for us. And quite apart from all that there is also the social side, with a group of regular attenders at the pub afterwards for a chat.
Not long ago I would not have thought joining an orchestra was a realistic proposition, but the supportive and non-competitive nature of ECCO has really opened up the enjoyment and potential of ensemble playing for me.
We are delighted to invite you and yours to come hear us play Wednesday, 5th December, at 7:15 pm in the room ‘Jack Sparrow’ in the Music Block at the University of Chichester. One of our members, Ray, has orchestrated The Sussex Carol which we will be playing along with a variety of other pieces. Nibbles, drinks and mince pies afterwards so do come along!
We have an exciting programme lined up, with Bartok’s Romanian Folk Dances, Elgar Cello Concerto (Our Conductor Laura will play with us), a few pops favourites, music from Bernstein’s West Side Story, and selections from Tchaikovsky’s Children’s Album.
All are welcome – We are meeting on
September 12th from 7:00-8:30 pm in the Jack Sparrow room in the Music Department at the University of Chichester.
Bring yourself, your instrument, a pencil, and a smile. 🙂
Has it only been two weeks since our concert? Amazing how time goes so fast and slow in the summer. Our final concert for the semester was on July 11th and despite being the same night as the England match in the World Cup, we had a full house. It really sounded good and there is always such a sense of genuine collaboration and community – I cannot overstate the improvement that took place every single week, and even at the concert itself. It came together and all the nuance was there – dynamics, pauses, changing (metaphorical) gears between pieces. It was a pleasure to be a part of it.
Now we have a break and we resume on
Wednesday, September 12th
in the Music Block at the University of Chichester.
It will be an even bigger group! We’ve already had a few inquiries from new people to join and that gets a big Hooray! from me! possibly a tuba, viola, violin, and oboe/sax player. 🙂 Maybe you have musical friends who would like to join us too… they can always get in touch.
I’ll make contact with everyone at the beginning of September to distribute music in advance for those who would like it. In the meantime, have a lovely summer!
Laura Ritchie (ECCO Director)
Join us for our informal summer concert!
We are delighted to invite you and yours to come hear us play this coming Wednesday, July 11th, at 7:15 pm at the University of Chichester’s Chapel of the Ascension.
The slightly unusual start time is because the concert is during our normal rehearsal time (7-8:30) and we would like to be all tuned up and ready to go for you.
- Capriol Suite by Peter Warlock
- Beethoven Symphony 7, Movement 1 (we have shortened it slightly, but are playing original/transcribed parts)
- Finlandia by Sibelius This is a fantastic arrangement made available by the BBC. Thank you BBC!
Admission is free, and all are welcome! Please stay for sweet and savoury nibbles and a glass of something afterwards. We have done our best to order some fabulous summer sunshine.