• Huddersfield Philharmonic Orchestra
  • July 1, 2018

A summer concert – Cellists Perspective

At the end of last nights concert, my desk partner and I turned around to each other and let out big audible sighs of relief. The concert had gone well, we had survived the heat and our audience was larger than that of our usual summer concert. I hope that the box office also reflects that.

My day had started off in a slightly unusual manner. Normality involves my devoted husband getting up at the crack of dawn with our nearly 18 month old son and doing the usual morning routine of nappies, bottles, porridge, cars and trains, giving me a much deserved lie in (he gets one on a Sunday in return) until 9am, when I appear and drink my body weight in coffee (I’m not a morning person). However being a peripatetic music tutor, and it being “that time of the year” i.e when all schools are doing their “final concerts/shows”, I had been heavily involved in a school production of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, every week night, on-top of my usual school teaching and private tutoring. Devoted husband had done more than his fair share of “Daddy Duty”, so by the time Saturday rolled in, I decided to be “devoted wife” and gave him a break. I got up at 6am and did all the usual baby duty activities while husband snored on. However, being a man, he can’t lie in bed quite as long as I can. He invariably gets up around 8 and I tut about a “wasted lie in”.

Once husband was downstairs and taking over baby duty,I got on with making sure I had everything for the rehearsal and the concert ready including much needed black clothes, music, Cello, stand, water etc, ontop of making sure husband had everything at hand to survive a whole day alone with baby. Enough nappies, wipes, food in the fridge…do you know where the sun cream is if you go for a walk?…please put it on him…don’t let him burn!….and doing the bit of housework that I could cram in – washing on the line. I don’t dare waste a good opportunity to save money by not using the tumble dryer on what will be the 10th hot sunny day in a row (my lavender is on my doorstep is starting to wilt, I must remember to water it). 1pm rolled around very quickly and I made a dash out the door to get onto the road. Oh….forgot to eat (easily done as a new Mum)…..grab banana.

I had forgotten to give myself a bit of extra time to find a parking space as I usually come into Huddersfield on a Tuesday evening and park easily up by the church. The town was bunged and the only space I found was directly outside the church grounds with limited parking time. I would have to move my car mid rehearsal. Needs must. At least I made it on time and with 5 minutes to spare.

Final rehearsals are very important for all concerned. It is sometimes the first time we have been in a venue or the first chance the orchestra has to work with the new acoustics. In this case, the orchestra are well used to the church and the fact that we have an unusual layout due to the internal architectural columns and structure of the church. The brass end up quite a bit further away than our conductor would like, so communication between section and conductor or section and leader, can be difficult. It can also effect the music, so this all needs ironed out. It is also important for the soloists – in this case, the wonderful David Robinson and Andrew Griffiths – to get comfortable with their space infront of the pretend audience or for extra players that have only arrived on the day, e.g harpists, to get to grips with the music. For me, it is a mixture of playing, secret banana eating and social media working, so my position at the back of the Cellos to allow me to slip in and out is quite handy, so I can get photos like this:

and then upload immediately to Facebook and twitter with all the relevant #hashtags I can think of, hoping to boost some last minute interest. While I bounce around doing this, the orchestra continue to top and tail the music and hone any difficult sections. In doing this, they create a sound that passers by outside are not used to hearing and so we inevitably end up attracting public into the church that maybe would not have done so for any religious type reasons. On this occasion, we had at least 8 hang around the narthex of the church, intrigued to know what was going on and why were there musicians playing? Already being out of my seat, I jumped at the opportunity to invite them in, let me know the are welcome to sit and listen for a while and give them each a copy of our brochure, opened at the the page highlighting tonight’s concert (you never know, they might have no plans for the evening).



I was also able to catch the “wandering soloists”, who were prepping themselves, waiting for their chance to rehearse. So I was able to grab them and get a nice candid shot that I could use on the Orchestras social media channels, hoping their family will see and “like and share”.

The first of our soloists and the birthday boy for the day was David Robinson. David has a number of roles within the orchestra but his most important is that of principal bassoonist. David thought that the poster design I did for the concert, featuring he and Andrew on the front was “the best one you have ever designed”. I wonder why he thought that….



The Woolfenden Bassoon concerto that David was to perform that evening is one of those pieces that is lovely to listen to. It really is a beautifully written piece of music. However playing it is a big challenge as the time signature jumps around from 7/8 to 6/8 to 4/4. After a busy week, I needed all my concentration power to get through that one. “1-2-3-4-5-6-7 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 nice-glass-of-gin-and-tonic nice-glass-of-gin-and-tonic” Pity I don’t like gin but the words helped to keep us going.



Also looking a tad nervous was our Tuba player. Apparently there are only two concertos written for Tuba. I have never played through either and having had a very bad cold and thus missing a few rehearsals, this was the piece that I was most nervous about playing, never mind Andrew! I admit to feeling under-prepared for this one. I was very glad to be sitting at the back. Luckily for Andrew, Robert is his best friend, so his nerves didn’t has long once he got started. I stayed sitting through this one as I needed all the practice I could get.  I love this photo though. I told him to pout and it made him laugh. #BOOM!

Moved car into a more suitable car park before returning for:





Our final star of the night was to be Nial Turner. Nial is usually found in our Double Bass section and is a masters student, studying music at the University of Huddersfield. As a conducting student of Roberts, he was allowed to take the podium and conduct us through 4 Scottish Dances by Arnold. I love this piece. Toe tapping, good Celtic fun which reminds me of Captain Jack Sparrow and the Pirates of the Caribbean.  My desk partner anxiously worried and fretted about getting all the right notes in the right places with appropriate bowings and fingerings. I had decided at the first rehearsal that the rhythms were very important yes, but the notes in the fast sections were more of a “scene scape”. I’m pretty sure I was not alone. There was no rhyme about Gin that could help my fingers move any faster or more accurately.

We quickly topped and tailed the remaining pieces and Robert seemed very happy as I lost count of how many times he said “Super!”. We broke for tea/dinner and some orchestra members hung around the church eating sandwiches. Having survived on only a banana all day, I needed something a bit more substantial and found willing volunteers (Emily, Bernadette, Alison and Sarah) to join me at Nandos. This was Alisons first ever experience of this dinning establishment, so we enjoyed introducing her to all the yummy hot, spicy flavours and sauces…. that most British people avoid. We topped our evening off with a much needed shot of caffeine before getting changed and returning to the church, filtering past the arriving audience.

I will leave the actual concert review to the professionals. I felt that the first half went well though the church had become very warm. My trousers were well and truly stuck to the back of my legs as I stood with the rest of the audience for the applause.  During the break, I grabbed my mobile and went “celebrity hunting”. We were very honored to be joined by Guy Woolfenden’s wife – Jane. Guy himself had sadly passed away in 2016, but David had connections within the family and they traveled up to see him perform…and pose for a photo.

Also in attendance was the current Mayor of Kirklees – Cllr Gwen Lowe and her consort, Ken Lowe, who also dutifully posed for me for a photo, alongside our Orchestra President – Ruth M Holmes. Things to do with Kirklees and the Mayor are better received on Twitter than on Facebook. The Mayor has always had a twitter account, even though the voice of the account changes regularly. I rather liked the Mayors dress. It was very colourful in amongst all our black.


So, by the end of the night and after a rather long day. I was ready for home. I know David had put on a “Party in the Crypt” (which I was disappointed to find didn’t include glow sticks) for after the concert, to celebrate his birthday but I was knackered and missed my baby so I left pretty promptly. Before I got out of the church though, I was stopped by our Conductor Robert who told me that a few members of the audience had come that evening because they saw the activity on Facebook. They never knew Huddersfield had an Orchestra and that they would certainly look to support us in the future. “Huzzah!” I thought – my bouncing around like a yoyo earlier had paid off. I gave a very sweaty Robert a big hug and then headed out the door. I got into my car, published the final few tweets and headed home to a happy husband and a sleeping baby who had both had a good day, despite, as I discovered, husband putting nappy rash cream on babies hands a feet during their afternoon walk, instead of sun screen.

Hello bed.


A blog by Fionnuala