There and Back Again

Hello everyone!

It’s been a long time since I last posted an update on here, and now I feel I have so much to talk about that I am not sure where to begin! This could be a long one…

After last September’s blog update, I went on to complete 3 months of volunteer work at North Glasgow College (now known as Glasgow Kelvin College since November’s merger with Stow College and John Wheatley College). I had lots of great experiences there, developing a strong interest in music education. Examples include the opportunity to plan and deliver a lesson to the first year music theory classes, and watching the development of the students performance skills as they prepared for their Christmas gig in Glasgow. I also had the opportunity to meet and listen to world-renowned composer Craig Armstrong, who came to give a guest lecture to the students. He discussed his approach to scoring, with particular focus on his recent work on Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Here he is delivering his lecture:

Craig Armstrong delivering his guest lecture.

Craig Armstrong delivering his guest lecture.

The theory class was quite a daunting experience as this aspect of studying music is typically the one where people are the least interested, so I had my work cut out from me trying to keep the attention and interest of about 15 students in each class. The lecturer, Campbell Owens, had asked that I plan a lesson on Harmonising a Melody, and Transposing a Melody. Straight away I thought that Norwegian Wood by The Beatles would be a good example to use. It’s a fairly simple melody that is easy to remember and it can be played over one chord. However, my task was to help the students understand the concept of putting chords to the melody, so sticking to just one chord was not my intention. We discussed some chord progressions that they were all familiar with to varying degrees, such as I-IV-V and ii-V-I, and I explained how we could apply these chord progressions to the melody, starting simply and gradually getting more difficult. Below is a look at the worksheet I gave the students, allowing them several attempts at harmonising the melody in different ways, and attempts at transposing the melody into another key.

Harmonising and Transposing a Melody

One of the most enjoyable nights was the leaving night of Bert (aka Allan Bertram), who was one of the most important teachers in my development as a musician. We had a great night of curry and beer, with a great speech from Bert as well as everyone performing their own self-penned limericks about Bert, as the man himself was well-known to appreciate the art of a good limerick! Here’s a picture from that night:

A snap taken during Bert's speech at his leaving night

A snap taken during Bert’s speech at his leaving night

After the experience of teaching at the college, I recently got the opportunity to interview for a position as part-time lecturer in the Music department, and was successful. It is likely that I will function as a supply teacher to start with and it can develop from there. Hopefully I can be back at the college soon in a more official capacity! I think I could have a lot to offer the students coming through the course.

Aside from that, I still perform regularly with my function band DMS and we have recently played several Wedding Showcases for Hire A Band at both the Holiday Inn in East Kilbride, and most recently the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, with some new dates to add to the diary for this wedding season. Here are some pictures from one of the showcases at the Holiday Inn:

Since the last blog, I am also a part of two new, very different projects. The first is a jazz-rock quartet called ‘Connected’, performing original material written by drummer Chris Whitehouse. After some rehearsals we had our first gig at the ‘Stretched’ night at Bar Bloc, on the last Tuesday of each month, showcasing local talent on the Glasgow music scene. The gig was on the 27th of March and we played for about 45 minutes. It was a great experience, and my first gig playing that style of music. In the jazz idiom, I am the least experienced of the group as the others all study on the Jazz course at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, whereas my studies at Napier were much less focused on jazz.

Left to Right: Stephen Maxwell (Guitar), Chris Whitehouse (Drums/Composition), Euan Taylor (Bass) and Jonathan Edwards (Tenor Saxophone)

Left to Right: Stephen Maxwell (Guitar), Chris Whitehouse (Drums/Composition), Euan Taylor (Bass) and Jonathan Edwards (Tenor Saxophone)

We also recorded an album this week. 8 tunes were recorded in one day! One, very long day at Edinburgh Napier’s Masters Studios at the Merchiston Campus. Gus Stirrat was our engineer for the day and he did a great job making sure everything was how it should be. The session went pretty well, although I feel like I performed better on some tracks than others. It will be interesting to see how it turns out. The difficulty with a live session is that it is not as easy to fix any imperfections, so we should have a fairly raw album, which could definitely be a good thing! Here are some pictures from the day.

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Finally, the other project I mentioned before is working in the live band for Emma Nuèlle. This disco pop outfit is the brainchild of songwriters Emma Bryceland and Ross Campbell. Emma also performs lead vocals for the live group, with myself on guitar, Lewis Shaw on bass and Ben Montgomery on drums.

Emma Nuèlle

Emma Nuèlle

So far we have had one rehearsal and it was sounding pretty exciting. There should be a lot to come from this project in 2014! The first Emma Nuèlle music video is can be watched below. I must warn that it is pretty raunchy and not for the faint hearted! Enjoy!

Emma Nuèlle – Honey (Official Video) nsfw

Thanks for reading. I’m sure it will not be as long until next time!

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