Saturday, 6 July 2013

johnkneem - Treasure Every Beat Of Your Heart

So, I don't know if anyone actually reads this.  But just in case - my other half has written a song about making the most of your life.  We're hoping people will like it enough to download it from Soundcloud, and then donate the price they think it is worth to charity.  I've posted details under the video.

You can find it on You Tube if you google "Johnkneem  Treasure"

If you like it then please download, donate and pass it on.  Thank you x

Hello! I guess you found the "show more" tab -- it's a bit small! If you like this video then please help me raise money to beat cancer. There are 3 things that you can do to help: DOWNLOAD, DONATE, and PASS IT ON.

1. DOWNLOAD the song for free from Soundcloud, no catch, it really is free and only takes a few seconds! Here's the link:

2. DONATE to one of the following charities.

Text the appropriate TEBO code, followed by the sum you wish to donate (either £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10), to the number 70070 (note O in TEBO is letter O not zero) OR follow the Justgiving link.

Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation: TEBO55 or visit

Yorkshire Cancer Centre: TEBO66 or visit

Poole Hospital Charity: TEBO77 or visit

MacMillan Cancer Support: TEBO88 or visit

Cancer Research UK: TEBO99 or visit

Example: text TEBO55 £2 to 70070 if you wish to donate £2 to the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation.

All money will go direct to the charity and the tax-man has to give his bit too, so please donate and help me KICK CANCER UP THE ARSE! You can find out more about text giving here:

3. PASS IT ON -- please share this video with all your friends/ family/work/facebook/twitter/the world!

Thank you so much, and thanks to everyone who has helped get this song and video to you.


For those interested here is some blurb about the charities and why I picked them:

Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. The only charity in the UK wholly dedicated to the defeat of lung cancer.

Yorkshire Cancer Centre. For keeping me alive and well enough to make this song. I hope all the wonderful new people I have met since moving to Yorkshire will help me raise money for this cause.

Poole Hospital Charity. For the good people who kept me alive in 2009 when I first became ill. Hopefully the students who trained with me in Bournemouth who are now flying shiny Airbuses and Boeings will be able to afford a few quid!

MacMillan Cancer Support. For everyone who has been helped by all their good work.

Cancer Research UK. For everyone who wants to fight one of the sad near-inevitabilities of life, namely that you or someone you know may well be affected by cancer.

For other songs search youtube or visit:

© & ℗ John Murray 2013

Monday, 13 May 2013

Consolation of music

It has been a while since I've written.  There is a lot that I could talk about - the British Double Reed Convention where I saw the wonderful Pauline Ooetenrijk give the most expressive oboe performance I've ever seen, my new Cor Anglais which I am slowly getting to grips with, my first wind quintet rehearsal or the orchestra concert, including a couple of prominenet oboe bits, I am playing in on Saturday.  In truth, none of these seem to matter very much at the moment.  Two weeks ago my other half was diagnosed with recurrent cancer.  He started chemo last week.

Needless to say oboe practice, striving for goals, targets and all that goes with it has completely fallen off the list of priorities.  But finding an escape and time out from an incredibly stressful situation through playing music has shot right up it.  I've not done a huge amount of practice over the last two weeks.  I have had days when I couldn't play at all, other days when I've just sat and played through pieces I know. 

We don't know how things will go or how long it will take.  Orchestra rehearsals will finish for the Summer next week, my oboe teacher is quite flexible so I will see how things go for the rest of this term and will  need to reassess in September depending on how things have progressed.  It may seem a trivial thing to be concerned about this time - but news like this makes you reassess every part of your life, everything you spend time on and forces you to rethink whether you should be doing it.  Oboe is such a big part of my life that I need to think through what I need to either give up or continue to best be able to support my partner through this. 

I will continue to play.  My partner says the most important thing is to keep doing the things that you love while you can - otherwise the cancer has won.  He makes me play when I don't really feel like it! I usually feel better for it.  In retrospect,  part of the reason for working so hard at all this when things are going well is so I can have the consolation of music, and especially of playing music, when life is hard.  Music gives expresssion when there are no words.  I suspect this blog will fall by the way side or at least become rather sporadic.  But I hate it when blogs just end with no explanation so here is mine.

Thanks for reading x

Friday, 19 April 2013

Good light and a sharp knife

Way back last August I booked myself on a reed making day course that I'd seen advertised.  It finally took place last Saturday!  I have to admit I haven't really done very much reed making recently.  I did a little tying on earlier in the year but that is about it.  The course was great though and has given me a much needed push.

There were only 6 of us in the group so chance for plenty of questions.  We went through the whole process - from tube cane to finished reed.  Obviously not much time for refining of the reed at the end but it was really helpful to have some focussed time thinking about reeds and also interesting to see a different way of doing things.

Possibly the two most useful things for me were:
1. A detailed demonstration on how to sharpen my knife - I kind of knew how but it was useful to know that I was on the right track.  I was always slightly worried I was ruining my knife rather than sharpening it!

2. A clear approach to how to scrape a blank consistently - my teacher uses a profiler so hadn't given me too much guidance here. I had picked up one approach from my reed making DVD but it was good to have an alternative view.

I picked up some other tips about general scraping technique too.

In terms of going forward I've realised I need to just practice my scraping skills more.  I have some blanks made with quite cheap cane which aren't going to make good reeds - they are far too open at the top -so I am using them to specifically practice making a neat U at the bottom and also scraping a good tip without slicing off the corners.  I thought this was something I could maybe manage in my lunch break at work, sadly it turns out that I couldn't really see what I was doing.  I did much better at my window at home.

There is a saying that the three most important things for making reeds are:
1, a sharp knife
2. a sharp knife
3. a sharp knife.

Personally I would also add - good light. Or maybe that's just a sign of getting old...

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Exciting Cor Anglais news

My exciting news for this week is that I have a Cor Anglais on approval!   It is a second hand Howarth S5 which was previously owned by a professional oboist who once played with the Halle Orchestra.  It is a beautiful instrument!

Last week my oboe was having a full service so all my practice was done on the Cor which really forced me to spend time playing with it - a good thing.

There have been some difficulties: I have found it more tiring playing it than my oboe - partly because of the weight and partly due to the increased amount of air required through it.  I think that would get better with practice.   I also think the thumb rest is in the wrong place for my hands as I find it quite uncomfortable to play unless I support the weight of the instrument elsewhere.  My handy music stand shelf has come in quite useful as I have been resting the bell on that while I play.  I think this is fixable though - the position of the thumb rest can be moved and I can also look at different types of support.  I need to work with my teacher to work out the best fingering for some of the high notes as I am struggling with anything over Eb.

On the plus side - it sounds absolutely beautiful and I love playing it.

Last week I focussed on playing through things (and working on my lesson pieces), now I have my oboe back for normal practice I have decided to be a little more specific in my Cor playing.  I am focussing on long notes with a tuner, slow scales with a tuner and playing through the slow Ferling studies. 

I am taking it to my lesson on Monday before making a final decision but I think there is a strong chance that I will be buying this - pictures will follow when (if?) it is mine. :-)

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Winter (Spring?) Term Review

Where has this term gone?  The weeks have flown by.  It has been a busy term.   I have worked hard on some challenging repertoire and my playing has moved forward.

Pieces for this term:
Arnold - Sonatina (all 3 movements)
Vivaldi - Sonata in C minor (all 4 movements)
Bougeouis -  Fantasy Pieces for oboe (first 5, now working on number 6)
Berkeley - 3 moods (currently working on number 1)
Bellini - Concerto in Eb (have only just started this)

Most of these pieces have been challenging from both a "number of notes" and a stamina perspective.  I've  put a large chunk of my practice towards exercising my fingers and building exercises based around the tricky bars in these pieces.  This was especially true of the final Arnold movement (very fast scales), the final movement of the Vivaldi and the Berkeley piece.  I've had to change my practice routine as a result and have pretty much dropped all of the "technical exercises" I was doing.   I now do some scales to warm up and move straight into my studies and pices.  I wouldn't have time to get through everything otherwise.

The Arnold piece is now resting - I won't say finished as it does require more work, but I think I've taken it as far as I am capable of doing for now.  I will come back to it later.  The Vivaldi will soon be put to one side too.  I spent weeks battling with the final movement of this, without feeling like I was getting there but it then seemed to come together eventually.    I am loving the Berkeley which is challenging in both notes and interpretation. The Bellini feels like a bit of light relief and is lovely.

Studies - I have finished working through the 48 Ferling studies.  My teacher has taken me through these quickly so that I get the notes under my fingers  She has pointed out that these are studies to keep going back to all the time. I need to work out the best way to do this.

My new study book is the Loyon 32 Etudes and I have the first one to do over Easter.  It is fiendish - perpetual semi quavers triplets.  There are too many notes and accidentals per bar, I have to work through it slowly and systematically to make sure I am playing the right notes. I am slowly getting there. It is also in quite small print, so today I gave in and made an enlarged copy,  It helped more than I thought it would.  It will be interesting to see how I can play the Arnold once I've worked through all of these!

Summer term starts again a week on Monday!

Monday, 18 March 2013

Spring Concert 2013

On Saturday my orchestra performed its Spring Concert.  I think it went reasonably well.  We were playing in a lovely local church.  It is quite small but very beautiful (and incidentally our local ABRSM music exam centre).  I think the orchestra took up as much room as the audience but we had a reasonable number of attendees - there were very few empty seats.

Our programme was:
Rossini - The Thieving Magpie.  This went better than I expected and I was very glad to get it out of the way first.  Stamina and speed wise this was the most challenging piece of the evening for me.  I am quite glad not to have to play this again. 

Warlock - Capriol Suite.  I quite liked this in the end, even with all the strange discords in it.  It was fun to play.

Bizet - L'Arlessienne Suite.  Possibly the most well known of the pieces we were playing.  It always reminds me of my school orchestra, but it is not actually as easy as that may suggest.  I think we got through it in tact though.  Though the afternoon rehearsal was, in truth, much better than the performance.


Schumann - Symphony no 1. I grew to actually quite like this - especially the first movement.  We seemed to have settled down a little more in the second half and, I think, played much better. This was definitely the best we had ever played this piece.  So it was a triumphant way to finish the programme.  A couple of people said they thought it was the most difficult symphony we had ever played.  I am not sure whether that is true or not. It is hard for me to judge when  my playing and orchestral skills are improving.  I found everything we played much more difficult a couple of years ago.  But there were some tricky moments in this one - especially around tempo and time signature changes - some of these we got right for the first and only time on the night! 

It was an enjoyable evening,  my reed worked,  I managed to get through the programme without my lip going and overall I was pleased with how I played.

But most of all I am REALLY looking forward to some new music at tomorrow's rehearsal!

Monday, 11 March 2013

Catching up

It has been a while since I've been able to write anything - the rest of life intervened for a while.   Oboe practice was also erratic for a couple of weeks but is but I feel like I'm bakc on track this week.

A few things that catch up on:

Royal Academy Of Music museum.

I had a weekend in London and popped into this tiny little (free) museum - handily located just a few minutes walk from Howarth. It doens't take long to get round but is incredibly interesting and has a lovely music shop on the ground floor.  They also currently have an oboe exhibition on showing how oboe keywork has progressed from baroque to current day - finishing off with the new keywork developed by Christopher Regdate.  "Exhibition" is probably too grand a word (did I mention it was tiny) but incredibly interesting and well worth a look if you are in the area. It's on till the 28th March.  I thoroughly recommend it. 

Royal Academy Museum

Howarth visit

Well obviously I had to pop in there too.  I bought a book of studies recommended by teacher (they look very hard!), a micrometer (NEW TOY!!!) and some cane which was on offer.  I also had my reed knives professionally sharpened at the Japenese Knife Store nearbyas recommented at the Big Double Reed Day.


Cameo Orchestra Playday

Yesterday I went on a play day organised by the Manchester Camerata.  There were around 60 amateur musicians there and, conducted by a member of the Camerata (I think, though he didn't actually say who he was!), we worked through Mendelssohn's Sympony No 3 - the scottish.  It was a good day.  We had an initial run through as a group. a sectional (wind and brass together), a second whole orchestra rehearsal before doing a final run through of the piece as if it was a performance.  It was a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon but the website did claim that we would have "expert coaching from Camerata Musicians" which I don't think they really delivered.   Aside from the conductor, no other members of the group seemed to be present - even our wind sectional was not lead by a wind player.  It was very much like the day rehearsals with the local orchestra that I sometimes play with - a chance to play with very good amateurs with a professional conductor.  Overall I enjoyed it but I don't think I would go on one again (unless they were playing something I was desperate to have a go at!).

Play day

Lessons/ orchestra etc

I'll say more about what I'm doing in lessons later in the week.  Orchestra concert is next Saturday - I will be glad to get rid of this programme it feels like we've been playing it forever.  There maybe some exciting Cor Anglais news in the next couple of weeks.  I've also been invited to join a Wind Quintet.  So some interesting oboe times to come!