Thoughts, News and Events


The Markham Awards 2018

I am delighted to announce that Konstantinos Raptis is the 2018 recipient of my Sarah Markham Saxophone Award.

Kostas has recently completed his Masters in Music (Creative Musician) at Leeds College of Music, having previously studied as an undergraduate with me at the University of Hull. Kostas is an exciting player, combining a knowledge of classical saxophone, production skills and maintaining the musical influences of his home country: Greece.

My father, Ralph, died in September 2018. In honour of his life and the endless support he gave me during my musical career, I am establishing an award in his name: The Ralph Markham Achievement Award.

I am very happy that Pui Ying Sze (known as Joanna) is the first recipient of the Ralph Markham Achievement Award. Joanna has recently completed her Masters in Music Performance at the University of Sheffield with me. Originally from Hong Kong, Joanna has decided to stay in the UK to further her saxophone studies, and has just begun a one year advanced diploma at Trinity Laban Conservatoire. Joanna’s dedication to her playing, her hard work during her Masters, and her energy and enthusiasm for all her new experiences in the UK make her a perfect recipient for this new award.

Reflections on the Sixth Greek Saxophone Festival

I’ve spent some time reflecting on my wonderful visit to Lárisa for the Sixth Greek Saxophone Festival. What an amazing and inspirational experience.

Arriving at a beautiful city, staying in a luxurious hotel, and enjoying a welcoming dinner with the organisers was a great start. What I didn’t expect was the sense of togetherness, support, enthusiasm, excitement, and a sharing of ideas that I would experience over the next couple of days.

There were five levels of competition resulting in frantic last minute practising by children and adults of all ages getting ready for their chance on stage. The competitions are set by level of playing, not age, which opens up the opportunity for all amateur players to challenge themselves and take part.
Practically every saxophone teacher from all areas of Greece attend the event, supporting their students. It is a real hive of activity, with set works at all levels and a chance to play with a pianist. It is a fantastic opportunity for all students to aim high and perform as well as they can.
The event has been held in several different cities over the years; the organisers are keen to reflect that this is an event for the whole of Greece and its saxophone community. But the city of Lárisa clearly enjoys hosting the event - on the Saturday evening there was an outdoor ‘Battle of the Bands’ competition. It was warm enough (even though it was still the end of March) for everyone to be outside enjoying the live music, with a healthy dose of competition sprinkled on top!
I thoroughly enjoyed performing in the ‘International Special Guests’ concert. Working with Greek pianist, Stefanos Ntinapogias was a delight - putting together Nigel Wood’s Man-Mou with a couple of short rehearsals is no mean feat! I also played Glass by Graham Fitkin, Trilog by Philppe Geiss, and Estudio Tongolele by Gabriela Ortiz. Estudio Tongolele is from a collection of seven characteristic pieces for solo alto or soprano: ‘Saxiana Presto’, edited by Nicolas Prost and published by Gérard Billaudot. Mimmo Malandra from Italy, and Nino Dimov from Macedonia also performed in this concert.
I had the privilege of working with the students in two workshop sessions. Rarely have I worked with such engaged students, all trying out the techniques I showed them with energy and commitment. I used two compositions by Kenneth Wilkinson to illustrate breathing and support ideas; Fragile Dyads uses multiphonics, and Clockwork is an extremely delicate piece. Both sessions ended with a performance of these works - a tribute to the students’ focus after only an hour’s workshop session!
One of the highlights for me was listening to the Greek saxophonists perform in their concert. The sense of camaraderie, friendship, and enthusiasm for playing was clear. They were playing for each other and for their students. They were showing what they loved to play, sharing new repertoire they had discovered in the last year, and collaborating together. From a quartet made up of a teacher and his students, to trios, duos, solos, a beat box baritone saxophonist, and finally an improvised work using loop pedal and involving anyone who wanted to join in.
Thank you to Stathis, Thanos, Kostas, and the Greek Saxophone Association for inviting me to be a part of this wonderful festival. It was a coming together of the Greek saxophone community, and the positive energy was inspiring. Finally, many thanks to Yamaha for helping to make my visit there possible. I know I will be back to that beautiful country very soon - you won’t be able to keep me away!

Saxophone Festival of Greece in Larissa

We’ve just arrived in Larissa ready for the annual saxophone festival that begins tomorrow in the conservatory of music. We arrived in Greece a couple of days ago and have spent an amazing couple of days discovering Athens.



The new Acropolis museum is fantastic, designed to mimic the proportions of the Parthenon. The manager of the hotel we stayed at recommended we visit the museum first and then walk around the site which was a great idea. We were able to imagine what it would have looked like when it was built two and a half thousand years ago. Wandering around Athens we saw loads of street sellers, artists, and buskers playing all kinds of music including a jazz guitarist who played with great simplicity and amazing feel. We joined in a group photo after being beckoned by some incredibly happy people from Taiwan, only to slowly realise we might have accidentally joined some kind of Taiwanese sect! After promising to meet them the next day we hurriedly left...

Our host for the festival, Stathis Mavrommatis, was kind enough to drive us north from Athens to Larissa. The festival starts tomorrow and I’ll be adjudicating one of the saxophone competitions and also meeting my pianist and will have a chance to rehearse. On Sunday I’ll be giving a master class, and performing in a concert along with the other international guests, Nino Dimov and Mimmo Malandra. We will then form the jury of the highest level competition.

This annual festival sees the whole saxophone community from Greece getting together. I’m excited to see and hear what’s going on in this welcoming country.


Snowbound Skype

Yesterday was a tough day for me. I really hated that for the first time in 15 years of teaching at the Royal College of Music Junior Department I was prevented from teaching because of the weather. A combination of icy roads in my area, and the East Coast mainline advising people not to travel made it the only sensible decision.

I don't like my students missing their regular lessons and had a bit of a brainwave. Sometimes when students can't meet me, I give a lesson using Skype or FaceTime. The sound quality is quite good over FaceTime and Skype and it is the next best thing to a regular lesson. From my home in Huddersfield I decided that this might work for the students at the Royal College of Music in London. Many of my students live close to London and did make it in, so I was delighted that I was able to give some of them Skype lessons yesterday. The salsa section of Catherine McMichael's Sapphire was transported to my music studio in Huddersfield effortlessly.


Knuston Hall Saxophone Course

In a few days time I'll be back at the beautiful Knuston Hall in Northamptonshire working on the Saxophone Course for adult players with Kenneth Wilkinson and Sarah Hind. I look forward to teaching on this course every year, but I'm usually to be found there in August. We've taken on this course at rather short notice so there have been some late nights making sure we have everything ready for the course. Kenneth and Sarah will be there from Sunday, looking after 24 saxophonists playing in ensembles from trio and quartet through to octets and a mighty saxophone ensemble. I'm arriving later in the week as I have some other things to juggle, namely my son on half term holiday and my usual university teaching (it's nearly saxophone day!) There are a couple of workshops in the week too, Kenneth has written a great jazz tune for his, and I'll be talking about how to prepare for a concert with some top practising tips and also how to control those performance nerves.

Royal College of Music Junior Department

I’ve been teaching at the Royal College of Music junior department today as usual, but unusually I’m staying in London for the weekend. That’s because one of my talented students, Teddy Humphrey, is performing a recital in the Elgar Room at the Royal Albert Hall tomorrow morning as part of the classical coffee morning concert series. Teddy is a former student of James Rae and he will be playing the Sonata James wrote for me and my pianist Paul Turner for my 40th birthday concert. Teddy will be joined by two of his fellow students, Matthew and Josephine as well as me to play Iturralde’s Suite Hellanique for saxophone quartet. Teddy will also be playing pieces by Demersseman and Jolivet, pieces that helped him win his place to study at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama later this year. Teddy also studies jazz saxophone at the RCM junior department with Mornington Lockett, and he’ll be playing a arrangement by Mornington of a Sonny Stitt tune.

It was great working with Teddy and his pianist, Tony earlier today. It’s going to be a fantastic concert in the morning. https://www.royalalberthall.com/tickets/events/2018/classical-coffee-mornings-teddy-humphrey/


Fifth Annual Saxophone Day - 8th March 2018

I'm finalising details of my fifth annual saxophone day at the University of Huddersfield. All the details and the day's programme of events can be found here.

It's great to have Richard Ingham as my featured guest, he was my first specialist saxophone teacher. We've known each other since he began teaching me in 1987. We've worked together many times, including in the Northern Saxophone Quartet. We've performed many times as a duo, including performing Lauba's Ars at the World Saxophone Congress in Slovenia. The saxophone day will include a rare performance of Dialogue de l’Ombre Double (Boulez) by Richard, alongside Pete Stollery (sound diffusion). My saxophone quartet Quirk will also be performing, and helping run the workshops.


New Year, New Home, New Teaching Studio!

We have finally settled in our new home. The acoustic window for our music room was finished last week. We didn't want to annoy the neighbours, especially when we rehearse our saxophone duo, and so we came up with a brilliant idea. We got a double-glazing firm to make a window designed to keep traffic and airport noise out, but glaze it in reverse, so it bounces our noise in rather than keep external noise out. This was fitted on the inside of the window frame, with the original double-glazed window still in situ on the outside; so quadruple-glazing with acoustic laminate too. We've taken turns to stand outside the window while the other plays as loud and high as possible inside, you can hardly hear a saxophone! It's a great place to restart my private teaching practice.

Glazunov Concerto with the Bloomsbury Woodwind Ensemble

I have been invited to perform an arrangement of the Glazunov Concerto for Saxophone for soloist and woodwind orchestra, conducted by Shea Lolin. Shea is the music director of the Bloomsbury Woodwind Ensemble, City Wind Orchestra and the East London Clarinet Choir. He has conducted several world premieres, having secured funding from all the major awarding bodies. He is also the artistic director of the ‘Woodwind Orchestra Play Day’ hosted at premiere venues throughout the country, providing amateur musicians with valuable playing opportunities.

I'll be performing the Glazunov with the Bloomsbury Woodwind Ensemble on Saturday 12th May 2018, 7:30 pm, at St James's Church, Paddington W2 3UD. This will be part of a concert titled 'Russian Fire', "a dramatic, eloquent and powerful concert of Russian scores". Here's a link to the details.

Honourable Guest at the 6th Greek Saxophone Convention & Festival

Stathis Mavrommatis, the president of the Greek Saxophone Association, has invited me to be an honoured guest of the 6th Greek Saxophone Convention. I'll be giving a performance, masterclass and on the jury of the saxophone competition. The details are here, it is all in Greek! Thank you Yamaha for your sponsorship.


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Sarah Markham

SARAH MARKHAM


Saxophonist Educator Conductor MentorSarah is a Yamaha and Vandoren performing artist.

Yamaha
Vandoren
Quirk Duo

QUIRK DUO


The Quirk Duo is saxophonists Sarah Markham and Kenneth Wilkinson. Between them they have a performing career spanning sixty years, enjoying many genres including solo recitals, opera, orchestral, jazz, pop and chamber music. The Quirk Duo is a distillation of those experiences, an exploration of possibilities.
Quirk Saxophone Quartet

QUIRK SAXOPHONE QUARTET


The Quirk Saxophone Quartet is made up of like-minded saxophonists:

Sarah Markham - soprano
Kenneth Wilkinson - alto
Chris Jolly - tenor
Sarah Hind - baritone