The really narcissistic bit. First and foremost I’m a professional trombone player, with the shape to prove it. I don’t put on weight, I gain shape. Initially, professionally, I left the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 1988 to join the newly-re-formed D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, and spent six blithe years touring the highways and byways of Britain, from Plymouth to Inverness, Belfast to Norwich, and most points in between.
A frankly charmed career as a freelancer then followed, traipsing the byways of the wider world this time, from Brisbane to Buffalo and Pitea to Buenos Aires. I was privileged to work with most of the London and British orchestras during this period, and with touring came the great concert halls of the world – Vienna, Boston, Sao Paulo, the Singapore Porcupine – and of course the hugely-varied international food. Shabu-shabu, Pytt i Panna, Vitello Tonnato, Gyalagyash, Frog with Garlic. Those who recognise these terms can fold their arms and look smug, for those who don’t, I hope I’m not being smug when I just add that these are Japanese fondue; Swedish hash, served with a slice of beetroot and a fried egg on top; veal in tuna sauce; a heavy Armenian beef/lentils/garlic/black pepper stew, and what it says. This last item was in Taipei, and under the curtain to the kitchen we could see the rats.
After 18 years of this mind- and mouth-opening travel, in 2004 I joined CLS and in 2005 the BBCSO. It was good timing. After all that running around, I could stop a bit, pull on the reins, and spend some time in regular places of work, and at home. The BBCSO lives at Maida Vale Studios, the Barbican, and the Albert Hall for the Proms. CLS frequents Cadogan Hall, and Holland Park in summer.
Since joining these orchestras, routine has been much more ordered, and has allowed time for more regular writing, which is mostly music, with occasional articles and two books interrupting the flow.
I took up the trombone at the age of 8, but had already been started on the violin at 4. I think I was writing both words and music from this early age too, having been taught how to do so at home. Of course, early stories were short, and almost always featured a heroic young boy fighting various fictional enemies in local fields, or exploring haunted houses.
Music writing at that age was more of a series of astronomical diagrams, with dots and squiggles and various musical symbols in multi-colours. I gradually learned how to put down roughly what I wanted something to sound like, and thus began a lifelong process. One thing I seem to have been lucky with, and it fits in with my idea of how I believe one aspect of music should be, is tune-writing. ‘Ballet Dance of a Hippopotamus’, written aged 11, still exists as a movement in a Trombone Quartet suite. It may sound very naive and archaic, clichéd even, but I still think a good tune is what an audience will come away with after an evening of new music.
That’s enough about me. The stuff about the food was the best bit anyway.