2020 | January 1st | Subscription Increase

Increase in Subscriptions from 1st January 2020

As advised in the cover letter of the last Double Reed News (DRN), subscriptions are increasing in January 2020 (not January 2019 as stated in error). Both Standard and Student annual subscription rates are increasing by £5 to £30 for Standard and £20 Student (excluding any relevant additional charges for overseas postage – £5 for the EU and £10 for the rest of the world). Life Membership is now £250.

This is the first increase since 2007 and is driven by the need to ensure our income continues to cover costs and help provide funds to support new activities the society wishes to undertake.

If you pay by Standing Order please take action now to tell your bank of the new amount which is effective for all subscriptions due for renewal from 1st January 2020. For many this can be quickly accomplished using your online banking facilities.

Even at the increased rates, which will be less than RPI measured inflation, subscriptions are excellent value, giving you three issues of DRN, reduced rates to BDRS events, and discounts at specialist retailers and insurers. Your subscription of course also helps BDRS’s aims of encouraging and fostering the study, performance, and enjoyment of orchestral double reeds.

There will be further communication with the Spring DRN to ensure that all members, particularly those for whom we don’t have an effective email address, know about the subscription increase and what to do; however, please don’t delay, act now to make the change to your Standing Order!

Please mention BDRS to your oboe and bassoon friends and colleagues and encourage those who aren’t members to join!

With best wishes for Christmas and a happy and musically active New Year,

 Geoffrey Bridge

BDRS Chair

2019 | 5th December | Memorial for John Whitfield

A Memorial Celebration for John Whitfield

John Whitfield

Many of you will have known and worked with John Whitfield – alongside him as an extraordinary bassoonist, or under his baton in one of the many outstandingly creative events he led from the early 1980s onwards.

After a long decline, John died at Trinity Hospice late on Monday 4th November – a day filled with music, especially Bach, in the company of his very good friend Will Casson-Smith, and in the evening Jane Salmon, who played Bach’s cello music to him on behalf of all his friends.

John was totally himself to the last, both his wicked wit and his devotion to music shining through all that he had to contend with. His last creative act was to conjure up a concert at the Wigmore Hall, which took place on Thursday 5th December. A distinguished line-up of musicians performed two new arrangements by John, for winds and double bass, of Bartók and Brahms, surrounding a performance of Bach’s Chaconne for solo violin by Krysia Osostowicz.

Further details are available here.

2019 | April 29th | Musick for the Royal Fireworks 270th Anniversary

Earlier this year eighty double-reed players joined junior members of the Royal Academy of Music in London in a commemorative performance of Handel’s Musick for the Royal Fireworks, 270 years to the day after its first performance. Laurence Perkins led the massed ensemble, with Sarah Francis and Roger Birnstingl taking sectionals earlier in the day. The audio recording of the massed performance in the Duke’s Hall is available for you to listen to below, in three parts.


More photographs of the massed ensemble performance are available in the summer 2019 edition of Double Reed News.

2019 | March | Uilleann Bagpipe Chanter Double Reeds In Action

We have heard from Phil Westwell who has taken some interesting slow-motion photography of an uilleann bagpipe chanter double reed; there is a link below to the film on YouTube. It makes for interesting viewing.

For those who aren’t familiar with the structure of this instrument, Phil tells us that regarding construction, the uilleann bagpipe reed is like a giant oboe reed (the blades are the same size as a bassoon reed), although bagpipe reeds are free-standing rather than played in the mouth, which makes it possible to film them in normal operation. Phil says “The film contained a few surprises for me, especially the Hard D note at the end of the video. I thought it might be of interest.”


If anyone has any questions for Phil, our Secretary can put you in contact.

2019 | Feb | Silent Aria: Suite for Oboe & Piano by Philip Herbert

Oboists might be familiar with the abridged version of Silent Aria which appears on the ABRSM oboe syllabus; here is some background to how the full suite came to be written.

The suite for oboe and piano was published  in November 2018, by Novello/Musicsales classical.  There are four movements to this piece:

  1. Silent Aria
  2. Spiritual
  3. Melisma
  4. Pulsation

The Suite is written by Leicestershire Composer Philip Herbert (pictured below). It was commissioned by Serendipity UK for the 2014 ‘Let’s Dance International Festival’, where there was an opportunity to collaborate with the acclaimed choreographer Henri Oguike, along with dancers.

The Suite Silent Aria carries this title, as the suite was inspired by the work of award-winning black choreographers who worked during the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, but whose work more recently has been largely been forgotten. Each movement is imbued with an eclectic array of musical influences. In the first movement, there are some beautifully sustained melodic lines for the oboe, suspended over a syncopated three-note motif, which is coupled with arpeggio figures in the piano accompaniment. Sections of this movement also contain the lush chord progressions more readily associated with a soul ballad.

The second movement is based on a soulful theme and variations which carries the influence of a spiritual/blues and pentatonic tonalities, with the opportunity for the players to swing across the beat.

The third movement is ternary in form with a dark, haunting main theme in C# minor; the mood lightens in the middle section as the music moves into C major, before returning to the opening theme in C# minor.

The fourth movement touches on calypso and Latin dance rhythms. There is plenty of room in this movement to enjoy the joyous rhythmic exchange between the oboe and piano parts!

It could be programmed with works such as Alwyn’s Sonata for Oboe & Piano, or that of Poulenc, or even Edmund Rubbra’s Sonata in C for Oboe & Piano, along with Schumann’s Romantic Pieces, Bartók’s Romanian Dances, Ravel’s Habanera, or even pieces by Benjamin Britten.

You can hear an excerpt of the suite here http://www.philipherbert.org/sound/  in its abridged version, as found on the ABRSM syllabus.

Khemi Shabazz (pictured) is a versatile oboist and a keen explorer of a range of musical styles from classical music and world music through to electronica.

Photo credits Below left © Leicester Mercury Mike Sewell and below right © Kandace Walker

Khemi Shabazz
Philip Herbert


2018 | July | Music for Rare Instruments

The BDRS has been blessed with the generous gift of access to a repertoire of downloadable music for the rarer instruments of the double reed family by Jennifer Paull, whom you can read about here on Wikipedia.

Jennifer spent her lifetime playing, instigating, and creating a repertoire for the oboe d’amore, then publishing and recording it. This then spread to all the rare members of the oboe family, so there are many works that are for ensemble too – from simple to advanced. When Jennifer retired, she donated it all to WIMA. It is downloadable free-of-charge (see below). Every item has a sound illustration – either computer-generated or her own recordings where available. Realising that not everybody has a bass oboe or musette, or even oboe d’amore for that matter, there are alternative parts for oboe and bassoon where applicable. It represents a lifetime of work.

The repertoire is downloaded by many players and Jennifer wishes the British and Australasian Double Reed Societies to have direct links to it.

Each score contains a composer biography and a full programme note and cover so that putting it into a binder makes a complete book. There is the sound recording too.

The link to the archive is here and there are even Christmas Carols for a consort group by Ian Keith Harris, the Australian composer.

“Working exclusively for rare instruments is not a question of making money. It’s a question of creating the repertoire so that they cease to be ‘rare’. My goal has been to make them well-known to composers. When I first started working with the d’amore in 1964, there were between five and ten instruments in GB. Nobody wanted to play it or even knew about it and there certainly was virtually no repertoire. I am delighted to say things are now very different. I hope you and your members will avail themselves freely of it!”
Jennifer Paull, 26th June 2018

The BDRS is extremely grateful to Jennifer for this gift and is sure that much pleasure will be derived from this music.

2018 | January | Simmonds Music Closes

Simmonds Music Closes its Doors


With great regret we announce that bassoonist Tom Simmonds’ business, known as Simmonds Music, in Grantham, has had to cease trading. Tom has suffered from a serious neuromuscular illness over the last two years and with that and a lack of footfall in the High Street he has been unable to sustain a viable concern. The receivers have been called in.

Tom has been a staunch supporter of the BDRS for many years since he worked for John Myatt in Hitchen as their bassoon specialist.

For further information click here.