Reconstructing the constructed

Over the last week I have been revisiting an old work of mine, re-orchestrating, re-arranging and re-discovering. What a blast. I have never done it before, well not to this degree where I have completely left it for several years. In some ways it is rather strange, to revisit what I was thinking - the way I orchestrated seems rather odd, but back then I thought it was marvelous. I have:

  • Taken out some chunks, added a few bars and written a new ending.
  • Removed some of the percussion instruments and have incorporated that material into other instruments.
  • Stripped some passages right back and have re-grown with some new material.
  • Overall I have refined the orchestrations, which I was never truly happy with, and have made it a much sturdier piece.

I generally like to leave a piece once it's done, and give my energy to a new project. But, since I was given the opportunity, I have greatly enjoyed the process and have learnt truckloads. The piece is definitely still the piece it always was, but now it has a little extra spice, character and finesse.

The piece is Guardians of the North, which was written for, and premiered by the Opononi Music Summer School in 2007 with help from Creative New Zealand funding. This thoroughly revised version will be performed by the Auckland Wind Orchestra on the 18th October, 2009 at Aotea Chapel on Queen St in Auckland.

Opononi 2009

Hey everyone, well another Opononi Summer School has finished (... for those who don't know it's for wind orchestra, and I conduct). 32 hours of rehearsals, 32 kilometers walked to and from rehearsals, and a final two-hour concert to conclude the week. Mostly due to the early mornings, you wonder what on earth you are getting yourself into in the weeks beforehand. Of course, once you're there it's just what you do and it's good "fun"? Due to a few clashes with other events, the numbers were a little down than usual. But this was music to my ears as we had everything covered (french horns, tubas, bassoons, bass clarinet, oboe, piccolo, euphonium, etc) and the right forces, AND they were all good strong players. Often with more players you just have excess flutes, clarinets, trumpets and alto saxophones ... which often leads to a complete disaster. Anyway so this meant that we could take the pieces further than usual, and the sound they created this year was fantastic.

A few have asked me what sort of music we do, so here was this year's concert programme:

Theme from Lost in Space - John Williams Procession of the Nobles - Rimsky-Korsakov Sleeping Beauty Waltz - Tchaikovsky Birdland - Joe Zawinul Blaze Away - Abe Holzmann There's No Business Like Show Business - Irving Berlin Tribute to Louis Armstrong A Touch of Tuba (tuba solo) - Art Dedrick The London Suite - Eric Coates Nearer by God To Thee - adpt. Custer Mamma Mia - ABBA In The Hall of the Mountain King - Grieg Firebird Suite - Stravinsky Phantom of the Opera - Lloyd-Webber Georgia on My Mind - arr. Higgins Sinatra in Concert - arr. Nowak The Stripper - Davod Rose Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen

So really, a complete range. The aim of the week is to leave playing better than you did at the beginning of the week, and as well as that I always make sure they play several pieces that they wouldn't have a chance to otherwise. Of course, 32 hours of rehearsals in a week mean you have to have your share of fun and "classics" also. We also looked at other pieces during the week including:

Chit Chat Polka - Strauss South Pacific - arr. Bennett James Bond 007 arr. Mey John Williams Trilogy - arr. Moss

Thanks heaps once again for all the hard work everyone put in, it was certainly a very successful year and a very high standard reached. Soon I shall put some photos up on flickr - I didn't quite have a chance to before this email. Anyway bye for now, Ryan

January update

Hey everyone, well it's been AGES since my last post so this is a little update on what has been going on. I just noticed the last post I did actually, the one about the recording with four bass clarinets and four contrabass clarinets. Well a few weeks later the composer Austin emailed with some recordings which I said I'd love to hear in the blog. So thanks for that Austin.

Had a wonderful Christmas and New Year, if you missed our Christmas video, check it out here. Have been back working long days for two weeks now as have a lot of work to get through which is fantastic. Of course I have my wedding approaching fast so want to clear as much work as I can before then. To save waffling on too much, here is a list of what's been going on:


  • Have been typesetting two works for New Zealand composer Anthony Ritchie. Have completed his Flute Concerto and am working through a choral work.
  • I wrote "This Day", a new piano work. This is for the "entry of the bride" at my wedding. Have also been preparing some other backing tracks for use at the wedding.
  • Have been MIDI orchestrating some tracks for Alexandros Pappas in Greece.
  • Am writing a new choral work for the "Souls of the Righteous" for premiere next month I think.
  • Next week I'm conducting at the Opononi Summer school up north. Should be great fun, and I'll be sure to post a blog following that.
  • Have been discussing several exciting projects with Alexey Kurkdjian and his Sphaera Ensemble in Brazil. Stay tuned for info here.
  • Have been MIDI orchestrating a track for Vladimir Krasojevic also.


So it's a good start to the year so far and of course expecting it to only get busier from here. By the way I got the video from "In Their Light" premiere in Athens last November. I've added the video below:


Speaking of YouTube, I'm planning to get a bit more modern this year, so am starting my video blog. More details soon, but it will be all linked into this blog so can just see it all here.

Alright well that's all for now. Stay well and make some AMAZING music for the world!!

Opononi 2008

Well, yesterday I got back from the 2008 Opononi Summer School. Wow. What a week. I was conducting and it was my third year there. It started off being one of the hottest weeks up there, after conducting each piece it felt like (and looked like) I had just run a marathon. But thankfully it cooled off a little as the week got on.

The first two days were basically just playing through ALOT of music. I think we had about 25 pieces out, covering classical, jazz, musicals, movies and so on. The group this year had such a great sound. No weak links in the flutes or clarinets, had three percussionists who were all VERY good, and a full bass section of two tubas, euphonium, four string basses, four trombones and two baritone saxes.

Scattered throughout the week of course were many talks, warmups and activities. One very successful activity was in groups performing the same short tune it in four different styles. VERY amusing, I shall put these videos up on YouTube soon. Also, it was great to let people have a turn at conducting. They could chose from three pieces, and then run it or rehearse it for a few minutes. They all did pretty good. lol In fact, one of the young girls gave the percussionists a good telling off for not keeping in time. SUPERB!!

Days three and four were a little more focused on the collection of pieces that would make the final concert. Some of the pieces were Bernstein's Candide Overture, Stravinsky's Firebird Suite, Bizet's Carmen Suite, Eric Coates' Dambusters March and a large 13 minute Charlie Chaplin suite. Some of the other pieces included suites from Cats and Fiddler on the Roof, John Williams Trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, and some lighter numbers including Mamma Mia, The Flintstones and Big Band Classics.

It was an interesting week compared to normal, as everything and everyone was so relaxed. At some rehearsals, everyone seemed to be there 30 minutes beforehand, and yes, including the first morning when everyone was there ready to play at 5.30am for the 6am rehearsal. Another morning it was going to be a hot afternoon, so an extra long rehearsal meant more time in the afternoon to spend at the beach or reading in the sun ... mmmm yes.

The pre-concert dinner was almost a non event. The gas cookers kindly stopped working 25 minutes before dinner was due. So the cars were packed up with the food and headed down to the local Copthorne hotel who very kindly cooked it in their facilities. Thank goodness. We had dessert first and when dinner arrived there was a very relieved bunch of hungry teenagers ... in fact, everybody.

Well we made it to the concert, and what a concert it was. We performed 15 works, had two items and it all went so well. The cooler evening, shorter program than usual and fantastic standard of the players spouted comments from many saying it was the most enjoyable concert in years. The night ended with a mad scramble of returning music, getting others' cellphone numbers and photos. Most went home, but some stayed for a final "Pooh" story and night at the Marae.

2009 brings the 25th year of Opononi and many fantastic ideas are floating around of how to celebrate. You shall have to stay tuned to find out exactly what those celebrations will be.

Some photos:

I HAD to put one of these classic shots up!

Me working them hard.


The walk home.

Liz, Abbie and I.

Ray giving a quick talk before the concert.


Opononi Summer School 07

Hey everyone, here goes a sum-up of this years summer school. Before I start, anyone wondering what on earth I'm on about? The Opononi Music Summer School is for wind, brass and percussion players. We rehearse eight hours a day starting at 6am, then on the final night present a large concert of music for wind orchestra. I have been conducting there since 2006. It's set at a great location at Omapere, in the Hokianga, Northland in New Zealand. Photo below:

Opononi Photo Two

Well as I'm sure most of you know, I was commissioned to write a new work for them this year. It was quite a workload, so at the beginning of the week I was lacking quite a lot of sleep. But thanks to the early 'lights out', I got back on track pretty quick. The first few days went as usual, rehearsing lots and lots of music. It was a little more relaxing this year as last year I took a tent up, but then a bad storm tore it to bits. So this year I slept inside and it was great.

It was interesting watching the development of my piece, Guardians of the North, with the players. The main point of the commission was really to introduce the players to new music, which almost all had not played before. So of course when they first saw the music, although it wasn't too technically challenging, there were a few raised eyebrows. But we began by discussing it a lot and gradually everyone started to understand how things were working. By the end of the week they were really enjoying it, and they did a great job of giving its premiere.

For some reason, we seemed to run out of time this year. We got to friday and still had heaps of things we wanted to rehearse. But nevertheless, we made it to the concert and it sounded great. This year we recorded the concert live and have made a CD which I know a lot of the players are really excited about. In the concert we played popular classics like, Les Miserables, Star Wars: Phantom Menace Suite, and scores from other films, as well as works by Holst, Wagner, Faure and Bernstein.

Anyway it was another successful year. Below are a few photos, the first being a photo of everyone, the second being me conducting in the concert, and the last being a group shot from during the concert ... sorry about the light quality in this last one.

Bye for now...

Opononi Photo One

Opononi Photo Three

Opononi Photo Four

Opononi: It's on track ... second time around!

Hey everyone, Well I thought I had better post an update on how the piece is going for those who are following the progress. Well initial stages were going ... okay, but then I got so frustrated so I started afresh. Second time around I've taken a new approach and it seems to be taking shape a lot better. The next week is crunch time. Stay tuned ...

The new work for Opononi begins & Creative NZ to support

Hey everyone. Well great news ... Creative NZ will be funding the new work being written for the Opononi Summer School. The work ... of course ... was going to be written anyway, but it is FANTASTIC to get support for doing so. So the work begins. I have been playing with ideas for some time now, but in the next week or so it'll get well underway. I will post progress updates here from time to time so pop in every now and then. Use the link here to go straight to posts exclusively on Opononi. There is also a page with general info on the project here.