All-day sax session gives players a real workout


Saxophonists got a real musical workout recently, when Phoenix Saxophone Orchestra’s Patron, international performing saxophonist Gerard McChrystal, came along to put us through our paces at an all day workshop.

Gerard joined nine members of Phoenix and 12 very welcome guests at Church Langton Community Hall on 12 November to work on ensemble playing, giving expert advice on rhythm, technique, tone generation, altissimo playing and dynamics along the way.

Playing four types of saxophone – soprano, alto, tenor and baritone – the group worked through four very different pieces of music including ‘Concertino’, an original piece of music for saxophone ensemble by Matthew Orlovich, an arrangement by Jon Halton of the Latin favourite ‘Mas Que Nada’, Frescobaldi’s Toccata, arranged by David Flatt, and a medley of tunes from Tchaikovsky’s ‘Nutcracker’, arranged specially for the group by Samuel Beddard.

Gerard McChrystal said: “The great thing about music is it keeps us in the moment. When you get a group of 21 musicians working in the present, devoid of ego, it is the most fantastic human energy. And all for the higher goal for the sake of the music. A joyous day. Thank you.”

Phoenix Saxophone Orchestra’s Jane Smith, who played soprano sax at the workshop, said: “We always learn so much from Gerard, and the whole day was both challenging and inspiring. Working on such varied pieces of music gave us the opportunity to try out lots of different techniques, and we were pleasantly surprised by how much we achieved. We thank Gerard for sharing his time, energy and expertise, and look forward to welcoming back again.”  

Nutcraker medley, Tchaikovsky, arr. Samuel Beddard

About Gerard McChrystal

Multi award winning saxophonist Gerard McChrystal is Professor of Saxophone at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and also teaches at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, Cardiff. Born in Derry, Northern Ireland, Gerard has played with leading musicians and orchestras in more than 35 countries worldwide and has recorded 15 CDs. His main ambition is to develop collaborations and encourage composers to write for the saxophone. You can find out more on Gerard’s website at