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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.


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