Entry of the saxophones! Make Music Day 2021

Phoenix

Phoenix has joined forces with Scotland’s Aberdeenshire Saxophone Orchestra to produce a cross-border recording and video for International Make Music Day.

17 saxophonists – 10 from Phoenix Saxophone Orchestra (PSO) and seven from Aberdeenshire Saxophone Orchestra (ASO) – have got together to record an arrangement of the rousing march ‘Entry of the Gladiators’, written by Czech composer Julius Fučík in 1897 and instantly recognisable as one of the world’s most famous pieces of circus music.

With 480 physical miles between the two orchestras, each of the 17 players recorded their own individual parts at home. The recordings were then expertly assembled by PSO’s tenor saxophonist David Fiander, and the resulting piece of music has been spliced together with an accompanying video.

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Arranged for saxophones by PSO’s Jonathan Shaw, this challenging piece features seven different types of sax, from the tiny sopranino through the more commonly seen soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones to the huge bass sax and truly enormous contrabass.

PSO’s Jane Smith, who plays soprano sax on the piece, said: “We’ve had so much fun working on this project with our new friends in Aberdeenshire. We wanted to produce an uplifting piece that really captured the essence of Make Music Day, which is to celebrate and foster connections in music making. I would say we have certainly achieved that, and we hope this exhilarating piece of music will make you smile!”

ASO’s Foss Foster, who plays tenor sax on the piece, said: “This collaboration is one positive thing to come out of lockdown – how else would two such geographically distanced orchestras ever get to meet, let alone play together? We’re looking forward to more enterprises with Phoenix, maybe even in the real world, not just the Zoom one!”

Led by PSO Musical Director Tony Rifugiato, the recording features:

  • PSO players: Helen Jones (sopranino sax), Jane Smith, Doris Schierer (soprano sax), Judith Allen, Stephen Bashforth, Kathy Davison (alto sax), David Fiander, Anne Hanson, Kathy West (tenor sax), Liz Pearce (baritone sax), Jonathan Shaw (bass and contrabass sax) and
  • ASO players: Emily Manson (soprano sax), Wiktoria Chojnacka, Jacqueline Shanks (alto sax), Foss Foster, Norman Smith, Caroline Thompson (tenor sax).

Notes

  • Originally entitled ‘Grande Marche Chromatique’ (Great Chromatic March), reflecting the use of chromatic scales throughout the piece, composer Julius Fučík later renamed it ‘Entry of the Gladiators’ due to his personal interest in the Roman Empire.

  • International Make Music Day started in France in 1981 and came to the UK in 2012. It is a celebration of music that takes place on 21 June every year, currently across 125 countries.

  • Phoenix currently has 17 members. The group formed in January 2020 for adults to enjoy playing the saxophone together and to share the versatility of the sax with a wider audience. Aberdeenshire Saxophone Orchestra has 35 members aged 11 to 79, some of whom joined during lockdown. The group was formed in September 2019 from an original Schools Music Service/Youth Music Initiative funded orchestra. ASO is now an independent orchestra welcoming all ages and a wide range of playing standards.

Media information

Contact Jane Smith, email comms@phoenixsax.org.uk, 07800 523077