Writing & Musings

I've found a new saxophone book to read!

Zagreb is an amazing place, so friendly. The Saxophone World Congress coincided with the Croatia v England match in the world cup. There were huge TV screens on the sides of tall buildings and seated areas everywhere for people to watch. Great atmosphere.

The Congress was as inspiring as ever: virtuoso playing, and we saw more performer-composer performances than at the last congress. My last blog mentioned the "Cyber Bird" Concerto, here it is:

Quirk performed Smudge, written by our tenor saxophone player Chris Jolly, and Pieces for Five Players, by Richard Ingham. Every performance is video recorded at the Congress, so our performance should be available to watch eventually; it takes a few months before the technicians get all the performances online.

Quirk met a jazz saxophone quartet from the USA called Four: Mark Watkins (soprano), Ray Smith (alto), Sandon Mayhew (tenor) and Jon Gudmundson (baritone). During their performance Ray Smith played a couple of jazz impro solos; the best jazz I've heard for years... wow. Here's Four in action:

The soprano saxophone player in Four (Dr Mark Watkins) has recently published a saxophone treatise: From the Inside Out. It's a fascinating explanation of the physiological aspects of saxophone playing, giving a definitive guide to everything from traditional techniques (how to play low notes), to flutter tonguing. Dr Watkins used internal video cameras backed up with scientific research to give definitive answers to questions we all ask releated to our performance practice. Here's the details: Watkins, M. (2018). From the Inside Out. U.S.A.: Outskirts Press. It's on Amazon!

"Cyber Bird"

Soon we'll be flying to Croatia to attend (and perform in) the World Saxophone Congress. I've checked out the agenda, a week of exciting performances and inspirational people.

For quite a while I've had an old CD in my car that I listen to now and again. It's a recording of Nobuya Sugawa performing Takashi Yoshimatsu's Saxophone Concerto "Cyber Bird" for Alto Saxophone, Piano and Orchestra, Op. 59 (1994). One of the most amazing compositions I have ever experienced, and an inspirational performance by Sugawa.

Sarah told me today that Nobuya Sugawa is going to the World Congress, and is going to perform "Cyber Bird" with orchestra and piano! Wow, a once in a lifetime opportunity to hear it live...

If you can't be there to hear it, here's a link to a recording on Spotify.

Talking of inspirational events, details of the Sixth Annual Saxophone Day at the University of Huddersfield are on Sarah's website.

Quirk; after the event

The Quirk quartet performed twice at the Saxophone Day, hosted by the University of Huddersfield and directed by Sarah Markham. The first concert was at 10:15 am in St. Paul's Hall, the second at 6:00 pm. In the later performance we were joined by Richard Ingham playing soprano saxophone, so in effect we became a quintet. We performed one of Richard's compositions; Pieces for five players.

I think it's pretty rare that the same quartet, plays the same composition, in the same performance space, exactly a year apart. The only difference being the guest saxophonists that joined the quartet.

This year; Richard Ingham, last year; Claude Delangle. From the quartet's point of view this was fascinating, Richard and Claude rehearsed and performed in completely different ways.

Claude took more of a solo role, taking time to experiment with the musical line and musical detail. In some ways Claude was working blind; there is little explanation as to the premise of the composition. Claude's interpretation was beautiful, French classical saxophone at its best. As expected, absolutely stunning.

We were surprised at how different Richard's interpretation was. Of course we should have expected it, he is the composer and 'inside' the music. He created the gestalt to be carried forward. His performance (apart from the cadenza solo passages) was less that of a soloist. His sound became part of the ensemble and revealed intricate textures and harmonic spacings, at times the Scottish influence came to the fore.

I recently read an interesting paper by Patricia Holmes discussing timbre as a conveyor of emotion. This year's performance seemed to resonate with that discussion. If you're interested here's the details of the article:

Holmes, P. A. (2012). An Exploration of Musical Communication Through Expressive Use of Timbre: The Performer's Perspective. Psychology of Music, 40(3), 301-323.

Opera Dudes!

Yesterday I did a gig with the Opera Dudes, that's them at the sound check.

The Opera Dudes are Tim Lole and Neil Allen, it’s usually the same line-up in the section; myself on woodwind, Richard Baker on Trombone, Gary Wyatt and Rob Deakin on trumpets. If you’ve never seen the Opera Dudes in action, well, you should…. excellent operatic tenors, with a mix of Frank Spencer impressions and long funny narratives describing their lives and history.

It’s always fun for me, because Tim Lole tends to email parts out a few days before the gig with new arrangements. This week The Pearl Fishers duet (Georges Bizet) long clarinet solo had moved to flute. There was also a new addition; E lucevan le stelle from Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca on clarinet. Nessun dorma from the final act of Puccini’s opera Turandot obviously needed a French classical alto saxophone solo as an accompaniment.

This description from their website sums up their classical cabaret evenings:

“Take a bricklayer, a pub and club singer, a highly-experienced operatic tenor, an organ scholar, a cassock-clad chorister, a Cambridge Graduate, an impressionist, a couple of comedians, and a prize-winning conductor with appearances on the TV, mix them together and what do you get? Just a couple of seriously talented guys giving you a great night out. In other words, the Opera Dudes.

Mik Artistik

Some might say Mik Artistik is an acquired taste, I think he's brilliant.

Plastic Fox is one of my favourites:

All those weekly performance classes trying to encompass everything needed to perform and have presence in front of an audience. Plastic Fox, it’s all there.

...and there’s always Cheap watch, from the market:

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Kenneth Wilkinson


Feel free to use the contact form to discuss having lessons in my teaching studio (classical and jazz). An audio system is available to record and listen to material we study.


Workshops relate to, and improve, your instrumental performance. Recent workshop sessions include:

How do I sound like that?
An exploration of mouthpieces and reeds (classical and jazz), timbre and sound production.

A safe, non-threatening, comfortable approach to improvisation!

An introduction to jazz improvisation for (often anxious) players, with little or no experience.

Reed Alteration

A workshop demonstrating techniques to hone and fine tune your reeds.
Quirk Duo


The Quirk Duo is saxophonists Sarah Markham (Yamaha and Vandoren performing artist), and Kenneth Wilkinson. Between them they have a performing career spanning sixty years, enjoying many genres including solo recitals, opera, orchestral, jazz, pop and chamber music. The Quirk Duo is a distillation of those experiences, an exploration of possibilities.
Quirk Saxophone Quartet


The Quirk Saxophone Quartet is made up of like-minded saxophonists:

Sarah Markham - soprano
Kenneth Wilkinson - alto
Chris Jolly - tenor
Sarah Hind - baritone