The Dawn Chorus

The Dawn Chorus is a film short recently aired on Channel 4’s new series of Random Acts (Summer 2018).  It is a wonderful clever creation by the young Japanese film director, George Wu.  The music by Athos Tsipani compliments the choreography of the bird puppetry and is also a vital element of telling the story.

Never mind Birdland – this swinging jazz number allows all the featured instruments (trumpet, clarinet, piano, drums and double bass) to tweet, squawk, coo, craw and generally flap in their own unique way as only winged creatures know how during their dawn chorus to welcome in the start of a new day.   The trumpet, represents the colourful Kingfisher bird, the instrument’s valves operating the three main sections of the bird, from valve 1 = the tail wing, valve 2 = central wings and valve 3 = head and beak.

The production was filmed and recorded in Edinburgh – in Summerhall, a very apt location as it was the former home of the Dick Vet School.  The ensemble is seen performing in the anatomy theatre – a space not changed drastically since it’s construction in the Victorian era.   Enjoy listening and watching the clip below of The Dawn Chorus.

Recording and session projects: Trumpet and Flugelhorn

Finlay enjoys being part of music sessions whether it is for live or a recording project.  Every experience is very different and varied, always providing an opportunity to think creatively, with an emphasis of keeping ideas fresh.  It forces us as musicians to engage with the sound and musicians around you intensely, especially as they are often one off without or with very little rehearsal.

Finlay’s background as a classical trained trumpet player has given him the foundation and interest to try and explore other music genres and styles.  The discipline of learning as a classical musician has given him the tools to study the characteristics, nuances and musical language of jazz, pop and world music.  Each experience keeps the challenge of playing the trumpet musically interesting and there is never not an opportunity to keep learning from listening to others both within ones own discipline and from others.

Finlay performs on the following instruments: Yamaha Custom 8335 LA Bb trumpet, Custom Satin Gold finish Eclipse flugelhorn, Schilke P 5-4 Bb/A Piccolo trumpet. 

Albaccord – trumpet and accordion duo

Albaccord is a trumpet and accordion duo based in Edinburgh.  It has great flexibility to mix and match its instrumentation to move to adding a harp and flugelhorn/keyboards or augment to a trio or quartet with an addition of a tuba player.

Albaccord was born in 2014 after BBC producers got in touch looking for live music for their education tent at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  The emphasis was to have Albaccord as the vehicle promoting classical music.  It was a little prequel to their Ten Pieces scheme which launched in the Autumn of 2014.

Over the course of the festival Finlay’s friend and duo partner, Johannes put together a series of arrangements for trumpet and accordion using numerous themes to introduce classical music to our young audiences.   Finlay and Johannes had only planned for one intensive weekend of performing but were asked to do another after the positive response. This time it was to consider the music of classical composers using animals as their muse.

Johannes and Finlay had a lot of fun trying our ideas out from playing extracts from Saint Saen’s Carnival of the Animals to jazzing things up a little by adding in Henry Mancini’s Pink Panther.

Albaccord has had the opportunity to work in its many forms and guises with the following musicians: John Sampson, Eleanor Hetherington, Shane Brogan and Robert Fraser.

In addition to private clients, Albaccord has worked with numerous corporate clients too over the years. Including, the BBC, The Royal Botanical Gardens, Perth City Council, Fife Sports Council and Edinburgh University.

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Perfecting How To Practice

Perfecting how to practice your instrument takes time and patience in knowing what works best for you and demands both focus and discipline.  These latter two principles can be tricky for anyone learning an instrument or maintaining and developing their skills, regardless of age and ability.

The idea that ‘practice make perfect’ is an easy throw away cliche that could confuse many a younger, less experienced musician, who may still to learn to differentiate between playing and actual practice.  There are other phrases which I prefer to use with my students, like, ‘practice doesn’t always sound pretty’, or , ‘practice make permanent’.  Take the last statement for example, how often do you hear someone play a section of music over and over, stumbling over the same areas of either the rhythm or note reading and when it finally sorts itself out, move straight onto something new?!  I would recommend a couple of suggestions to try and avoid this form of ‘practice’ or habit.  If you have identified a ‘tricky’ section of music, then firstly you have already isolated an area to hone in on and practice.  Find a metronome or download a metronome app (see links below) – plently available for free if you don’t have one, and find a tempo/pulse that allows the section of music to be played without hesitation or a stumble.  Mark down the tempo that works for you in your designated progress/planner book and begin to play around with the music – try playing it a different dynamics, vary the articulation, ear mark any key note or rhythm, or if possible stick it down or up an octave.  It’s one way to allow the music notation to become ‘3D’ – becoming more alive, expressive and most importantly more easily manageable to perform.  The tempo by this point can be gradually increased and brought up to the suggested speed.

I asked a couple of colleagues about their top tips on ways to perfect practice: Here are their top 10 tips.

1. Small, regular amounts. Avoid ‘cramming’ or binge practicing, especially prior to lesson or performance.

2. Avoid practicing when tired and unfocused.

3. Start practice with most difficult sections, while fresh and alert.

4. Vary practice from what you focus on, where and time of practice.  Randomise practice.

5. Divide what time you have to practice into sections e.g 10 minute slots.

6. Minimise playing though a song or piece of music until ready and perform to friends or family.

7. Record practice. Use recordings like an audio diary.  Soundcloud is a good online resource for this purpose. See link.

8. If your attention starts to wander – Stop practicing and do something else e.g make a cup of tea

9. Listen to as much music as possible for inspiration.

10. Learn music you enjoy and find out as much as you can about the piece, song and composer. It will help with your understanding of the music and put it into some form of context.

Happy practicing!

Trumpeter Wows Edinburgh

On Friday 27th June, 2014 there was a special concert at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall. Finlay Hetherington’s trumpet students had the opportunity to hear and meet with some of the finest living jazz musicians from the Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra, with their trumpeter and director, Wynton Marsalis.  Benedetti and Marsalis share a musical kinship that crosses genres after meeting ten years ago. Picture: John Devlin

There was even a surprise guest appearance of the Scottish violin virtuoso, Nicola Benedetti. It was fascinating to watch Wynton direct Nicola on some of the jazz nuances in his violin piece.  Not only did this inspire us as musicians, but demonstrated that no matter your level of artistry, you can still learn and be open to lessons from others.

Following the rehearsal, which were kindly invited to observe, our students were able to have a Q&A session with the drummer and pianist of the orchestra, who explained that they were in charge in keeping the melody and rhythm together within the orchestra.

That evening, a busy Usher Hall, were able to enjoy and be, quite literally, blown away by the musicianship and virtuosity of the Lincoln Centre band, who performed a selection of arrangements of the best Blue Note Records.  A very memorable performance that was topped by a very generous and breath taking encore given by Wynton and his rhythm section.