Orchestra’s Patron leads open sax workshop


Market Harborough was alive with the sound of sax on 19 November, when 20 saxophonists descended on Church Langton Community Hall for an all-day saxophone workshop.

Phoenix Saxophone Orchestra welcomed their patron, international performing saxophonist Gerard McChrystal, to lead the workshop, which drew together 20 players on six different types of saxophone – sopranino, soprano, alto, tenor, baritone and bass.

Eight Phoenix members were delighted to be joined by another 12 saxophonists for the workshop, with attendees coming from various parts of the Midlands and one from South Wales! The musicians were put through their paces on four pieces of music which were kindly provided for the session by Phoenix Saxophone Orchestra’s sponsor, Saxtet Publications.

The group focused on arrangements of Edward Elgar’s Nimrod from the Enigma Variations, arranged by JJ Ashley; Dvořák’s Slavonic Dance No.8; Gustav Holst’s Marching Song transcribed by David Flatt; and Danzas Fantasticas by J Turina, arranged by David Beltran.

Edward Elgar, Nimrod

Gustav Holst’s Marching Song

Gerard McChrystal who, when he’s not touring the globe, lives in Leicester, said: “It’s always a pleasure to spend a day with Phoenix. I was really pleased that we covered all four pieces including an afternoon on conservatoire level work, which was a great achievement for the group. It was also a great time to ask for advice and share experiences.”

Gerard shared his vast experience of playing and performing sax on an international stage, with lots of help and advice on saxophone technique, including how focusing on rhythm enables the player to play confidently in an ensemble, and play unfamiliar pieces at sight.

Over lunch, workshop attendees also had the opportunity to try out the true giant of the saxophone family, the contrabass sax, which was brought along for the day by Phoenix Saxophone Orchestra’s Jonathan Shaw.

Gerard rounded of the session with a premiere performance of a new piece, Interlude 2, specially written for saxophone by Jenni Watson.

Phoenix Saxophone Orchestra Chair, Stephen Bashforth, said: “We all had a very good full day of playing, and everyone enjoyed working together to play through new and demanding pieces. Individually and collectively, we thank Gerard for an inspiring workshop.”

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 www.SaxSaxSax.com


Harborough Mail online, 11 November 2022

Clarinet and Saxophone (CASS) magazine, Winter 2022