Southampton Saxophones in Strasbourg

Giant saxophones strewn around Strasbourg
Giant saxophones strewn around Strasbourg


First stop for the summer vacation: the World Saxophone Congress.  Kathryn Firth, who just finished her BA Hons Music, tells us about it here.  BTW Kathryn was the co-winner of the Peter Evans prize for performance (an award for finalists who have made an outstanding musical contribution during their course) and is pursuing her saxophone studies in America next year on an MMus in performance, with a teaching assistantship to fund her work – well done Kathryn!

The World Saxophone Congress is an event marked into many saxophonists’ diaries literally years before it happens. As the event’s name suggests, saxophonists from all around the world gather in a location set three years before for a week’s worth of all things saxophone. So when we realised that the 2015 congress was to be held in Strasbourg (France), seven of the department’s classical saxophone students decided to book flights, hotels and passes to go out there. Topped off by the fact that our teacher Dr Angela Space would be performing a concert, it was an event not to be missed.

Angela's concert in the programme
Angela’s concert in the programme
Moanin' Frogs at le Parc de l'Orangerie
Moanin’ Frogs at le Parc de l’Orangerie

Across the duration of the congress, we saw a variety of performances in numerous locations, including the Strasbourg Conservatoire, art galleries, Le Parc de l’Orangerie, Place Kléber and even a nightclub. Performers included Derek Brown (a beatboxing saxophonist), the Royal Northern College of Music’s Saxophone Orchestra, Apollo Saxophone Quartet, Paris House Addict (a saxophone, violin and DJ trio that regularly perform in nightclubs), The Moanin’ Frogs (a sextet performing a range of different styles), Amy Green & Charlotte Harding (who presented a programme entitled Over 100 Years of Women in Saxophone) as well as Angela (who premiered her composition “Full Stop Suicide”, featuring an electric guitar). As well as these mini-concerts, there was a large evening concert every night in the Salle Erasme, allowing us to hear world-class performers such as Timothy McAllister and Kenneth Tse accompanied by the Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra and la Musique de la Garde Républicaine.

Exploring le Parc de l'Orangerie
Exploring le Parc de l’Orangerie
 Philippe Geiss' 'Sir Patrick' with la Musique de la Garde Republicaine
Philippe Geiss’ ‘Sir Patrick’ with la Musique de la Garde Republicaine

July 12th marked the first ever World Sax Day, with the event organisers putting on a series of concerts all around Strasbourg. The main concert of the day was in Place Kléber, where the World Sax Day Orchestra performed under the leadership of Philippe Geiss (with whom every one of us fell in love – “Sax Hero” is quite possibly my new favourite piece . . . ). The concert, which was broadcast all over the world, also featured a marriage proposal (she said yes!), followed by a mass saxophone performance and, despite the rain, it was really quite exciting to be involved in the first ever World Sax Day.

Southampton's Wayne Hau being streamed around the world
Southampton’s Wayne Hau being streamed around the world

As well as serving as time for a little bit of a break, our saxophone-filled week in Strasbourg enabled each of us to develop repertoire ideas to take into the third year or even further study, as well as exposing us to new saxophone performance techniques that we’d like to try and master (slap-tongue will happen soon!). As well as this, some of us had the desire to get back into arranging and composition re-ignited. It was decided while we were out in Strasbourg that the 2018 World Saxophone Congress was to be held in Croatia, and we already can’t wait!

Post -concert cocktails
Post -concert cocktails