While the pandemic isolated us all to some extent, it’s stirring to hear of people nationwide who brightly, brilliantly found ways to make connections they hadn’t before. Musically that happened with Scotland’s Aberdeenshire Saxophone Orchestra, and their counterparts from the Phoenix Saxophone Orchestra in Market Harborough, Leicestershire. Connecting with one another, they found fresh drive, energy, and new friends for life. Shared Zoom rehearsals led to an expression of true unity: recording together the classic Entry of the Gladiators for International Make Music Day. Everyone cherished the encounter which now looks set to continue both online and in person.
Both ensembles kept busy in their own right too: the Aberdeenshire cohort met regularly online, they filmed themselves performing a piece by Musical Director Richard Ingham at the Easter Aquorthies stone circle in Inverurie and, through Making Music, commissioned disabled composer Ben Lunn to write a new work, created through a series of online conversations drawing on the players’ own musical passions. Meanwhile, the Phoenix cohort recorded a Christmas single raising funds for the charity Voluntary Action South Leicestershire. They also held online workshops with their patron, renowned sax soloist Gerard McChrystal, and even remarkably increased their membership thanks to a committed, creative media campaign throughout the year, led by one of their players, Jane Smith.
'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!'
Foss Foster, tenor saxophone, Aberdeenshire Saxophone Orchestra
'We’ve had so much fun working 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!'
Jane Smith, soprano saxophone, Phoenix Saxophone Orchestra
Public voting for the 2021 RPS Inspiration Award has now closed and the winner will be announced at the RPS Awards at Wigmore Hall on Monday 1 November. Here you can read about the other five shortlistees: