Had the chance to play with the All Souls Orchestra today at two church services. This was a quite an experience and quite a steep learning curve! This is a really neat orchestra usually led by Noel Tredinnick but today Oliver Nicolson led the band and did a great job. These are some serious players who did regularly at the Royal Albert Hall. Although it was seat of the pants stuff at times it was a fabulous experience and the music was really something special!
There were over thirty musicians leading the worship: 5 violins, 4 violas, 4 cellos, 1 horn, 2 clarinets/saxes, 2 oboes, 1 bassoon, 2 flutes, 1 horn, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones, 1 bass trombone, organ/keyboards, timpani/percussion, a pianist, 1 singer, a drummer and myself. Plus, of course, a congregation which over the two services probably numbered around 1,600 in total.
I was asked to bring the electric as there were some funkier numbers among the more traditional pieces. Now, I don’t read well…I really have to get my reading better together now. Thing is, in 20 years of jazz, funk, soul, African, rock etc I’ve hardly ever been called on to read. Those few times I have I’ve always had the scores in advance and worked everything out beforehand. I do read and write music in practice at home but slowly. This gig showed me up a little – I got a bit roasted you might say. Claire in the office was kind enough to send me a few piano/vocal lead sheets a day or so before but they were not necessarily the same arrangements. A few times in the first service I got tripped up by the repeat signs and faster note passages. A couple of times I had to improvise by ear when I lost my place completely…didn’t sound too bad though! I did wonder if Roger Salisbury’s excellent, direct sermon on ‘the lost sheep’ could easily have been a reflection on my experience of the charts though.
The second service went much smoother, guess I had heard and learned a lot by then. Even managed most of chromatic harmonies on Noel Tredinnick’s fabulous arrangement of a classic hymn. And when I got to the funkier numbers of course I was in my element. There are a lot of skill sets I need to work on though – sight reading, following charts, watching the conductor while doing so etc. At least I have a reason to work on my sight-reading now!
This Saturday night it’s back to more familiar small group music as I play at the BBC recording at All Souls to mark the opening of the Lausanne Congress. This service will be recorded and broadcast at 8:10 Sunday on Radio 4! I should get the charts in advance so no worries there!