The Sovereign Saxophone Octet in Concert at the Buxton Festival Fringe


The Sovereign Saxophone Octet at Buxton Methodist Church [Photo: Brian Lightowler]

We were back at Buxton again last night, with more new tunes to add to the well-tried favourites.  As ever the Festival Fringe organisation was spot on, and the good folk at the Buxton Methodist Church (along with band partners helping with tickets and refreshments) did us proud.  There was a good and enthusiastic audience, and we garnered another complimentary review to add to our collection.  A thoroughly enjoyable and worthwhile evening out!

Here’s this year’s programme in detail:-

  • African Waltz ~ Galt MacDermot arr. Gordon Robson
  • Sheep May Safely Graze ~ J.S. Bach arr. Alun Cook
  • The Pearls ~ Jelly Roll Morton arr. David Webber
  • Beale Street Blues ~ W.C. Handy arr. David Webber
  • Canzona “La Padovana” ~ Ludovico Gross de Viadana
  • Nimrod ~ Elgar arr. J.J. Ashley
  • Wachet Auf ~ J.S. Bach arr. Adrian Budgen
  • Carnival ~ Karen Street
  • Tahiti Trot ~ Shostakovich arr. Gordon Robson
  • O Magnum Mysterium ~ Giovanni Gabrieli arr. Stephen Hutchinson
  • Building Blocks ~ Mike Dale
  • L’il Darlin’ ~ Neal Hefti arr. Gordon Robson
  • Take Five ~ Paul Desmond
  • Oblivion ~ Astor Piazzola arr. Gordon Robson
  • Witch Hunt ~ Ulrich Schultheiss arr. Nigel Wood
  • Moon River ~ Henry Mancini arr. Don Ashton


An Evening with the SSO – Buxton 2015

Sovereign Saxophone Octet

The Sovereign Saxophone Octet at the Buxton Festival Fringe, July 2015 (l-r: Helen Southall, Gordon Robson, David Webber, Karoline Brennan, John Bowyer, Mike Dale, Stephen Hutchinson, Dorothea Livesey)

Well this is becoming a very enjoyable habit – it’s July, so it must be Buxton!

This was the octet’s fourth visit to the Buxton Festival Fringe, so we made sure to add some new tunes to our repertoire for the event.  This did lead to some anxiety at pre-concert rehearsals: would we ever manage to fit all of those notes in (and more to the point, put them in the right places)?  Would we manage to play this piece fast enough – or that one slow enough? But, as ever, it all came together on the night, and a splendid time was had by all.  (There’s a review by the Festival’s roving reviewer Keith Savage here.)

The programme for the evening was:-

  • Tiger Rag (ODJB, arr. Webber)
  • The Chant (Stitzel, arr. Dale)
  • Black Coffee (Webster & Burke, arr. Dale)
  • Tomcat (Chattaway, arr. Ashton)
  • Chatterbox (Gordon)
  • The Zonk Zone (Halton)
  • Dream and Reality (Ashton)
  • Canzona – La Padovana (de Viadana)
  • Concerto for Two Saxophones* – 1st Movement (Vivaldi, arr. Walton)
  • Flower Duet from Lakmé (Delibes, arr. Wood)
  • Chug (Gordon)
  • Mrs. Malcolm, Her Reel (Funky Freuchie) (Ingham)
  • The Sheik of Araby (Snyder, arr. Webber)
  • Caravan (Tizol, arr. Halton)

We finished with a repeat performance of Tiger Rag, this time with community singing of ‘Hold that tiger!’, with the audience ably rehearsed by Dave Webber.

Thanks are due once again to the volunteers who organise the Buxton Fringe events so efficiently, to the members of Buxton Methodist Church for the use of this excellent venue (and help with everything from the microphone to the tea facilities), and to the octet members’ friends and partners who helped out with tickets and refreshments.

*Vivaldi was a very forward-thinking composer, but saxophones were hard to come by in the early 1700s, so this was originally known as the Concerto for Two Trumpets.  (It didn’t do to let on about owning a time machine in those days.)

Back to Buxton We Go!

Festival Photo

Buxton Bunting & Balloons [Photo by Ian J. Parkes]

Well I know it’s been a busy old year, but honestly, where does the time go……?  I hadn’t even got around to putting the programme for our concert at last year’s Buxton Fringe* up here, and already it’s time to tell everyone about the next one.

The Sovereign Saxophone Octet will be returning to our regular spot in the Buxton Methodist Church at 8 p.m. on Sunday 19th July, 2015.  Full address and ticket information is available via the Buxton Fringe 2015 website.  (Scroll down to July 19th to find us.)  We’ll be introducing lots of new tunes and arrangements this year, as well as a few old favourites, so put the date in your diary now.  We look forward to seeing lots of you there!




*The programme for the SSO concert at Buxton last year was:-

  • Engine No. 9 (Don Ashton)
  • St. Pauls Suite (Holst, arr. Halton)
  • The Lone Arranger Goes Sax Mad (arr. Buttall)
  • La Vie en Rose (Louiguy, arr. Dale)
  • Sidewalk Blues (Morton, arr. Webber)
  • The Chant (Stitzel, arr. Dale)
  • Waltz from Masquerade (Khachaturian, arr. Robson)
  • Canzon Primi Toni & Canzon Septimi Toni (Gabrieli, arr. Frankton)
  • Crucifixus (Lotti, arr. Jolly)
  • Puttin’ on the Ritz (Berlin, arr. Thorne)
  • Singing in the Rain (Freed, arr. Ashton)
  • I Got Plenty (Gershwin, arr. Ashton)
  • Take Five (Desmond)
  • Chug (Gordon)

A Bicentennial Celebration of Sax

Buxton Festival Fringe Programme Cover

2014 Buxton Festival Fringe programme cover, designed by University of Derby student Helen McIvor

After a flurry of activity at the end of 2012 and the start of last year, the SSO went a bit quiet concert-wise, largely due to family and work commitments and other musical activities.  But we don’t go quiet for long, and we’re happy to say that normal service will be resumed this summer with our now traditional visit to the Buxton Festival Fringe in July.  On Saturday July 19th the octet will be returning to the Buxton Methodist Church, which we’ve enjoyed playing at in the past.  Full venue details can be found on on the Buxton Festival Fringe calendar. Tickets will be bookable in advance from early June via the Buxton Opera House online booking service, by phone from the Opera House Box Office on 0845 127 2190, or  at the door on the night.


2014 is a significant year for saxophonists and saxophone fans everywhere, as it is the 200th anniversary of the birth of the instrument’s inventor, Adolphe Sax, so we’re planning to include some snippets of Sax-related gossip and history to enliven the proceedings, along with our usual eclectic mixture of music from many eras, arranged for eight saxophones.  We hope to see you in Buxton in July!

Sax Sculpture, Dinant, Belgium

Sax’s birthplace – Dinant, Belgium

Menai Mayhem

View of Menai Straits and bridge

Thomas Telford’s Menai Suspension Bridge, with snowy Snowdonia in the distance

St. Mary’s Church, Menai Bridge is an inverse TARDIS; it looks quite large from the outside, but inside it’s positively cosy – and especially so once populated by 24 saxophonists, a conductor and an enthusiastic audience who filled all the nooks and crannies that were left.  After an afternoon rehearsal and an excellent (and very welcome) meal across the road at the Anglesey Arms, we rattled the rafters in various combinations.  It was a mighty and entertaining noise!

Programme for the evening:-

Sovereign Saxophone Octet and North Wales Saxophone Choir (together)

  • War March of the Priests (Mendelssohn)
  • Toccata & Fugue in D Minor (Bach)

North Wales Saxophone Choir

  • Phil the Fluter’s Ball (Anon.)
  • Mood Indigo (Ellington)
  • March from The Little Suite (Trevor Duncan arr. Robinson)
  • Suo Gan (Trad.)
  • Perdido (Tizol)
  • Kuckuckswaltz (Jonasson)
  • Our Love is Here to Stay (Gershwin arr. Holcombe)
  • Li’l Darlin’ (Hefti arr. Hodgson)
  • 17 Come Sunday (Vaughan Williams arr. Hodgson)
  • Kitten Scamper (Anon.)
  • The Girl from Ipanema (Jobim)

<< Interval >>

Sovereign Saxophone Octet

  • The Sheik of Araby (Ted Snyder, arr. David Webber)
  • The Flower Duet (Leo Delibes, arr. Nigel Wood)
  • The Chant (Mel Stitzel, arr. Mike Dale)
  • Marigold (Billy Mayerl, arr. Gordon Robson)
  • Singin’ in the Rain (Nacio Herb Brown, are. Don Ashton)
  • Chug (Pauline Gordon)
  • Crucifixus (Antonio Lotti, arr. Chris Jolly)
  • Sidewalk Blues (Jelly Roll Morton, arr. David Webber)
  • Witch Hunt (Ulrich Schultheiss, arr. Nigel Wood)

All together again…

  • 24/7 (Paganini, arr. Hodgson)
  • African Waltz (Galt MacDermot, arr. Gordon Robson)

Joint Concert with the North Wales Saxophone Choir – More Details

NWSC / SSO Joint Concert

NWSC / SSO Joint Concert
Anglesey – 13th April 2013

We now have more details about our next concert, where we’ll be the guests of the North Wales Saxophone Choir  at a joint concert on the Island of Anglesey, just across the Menai Straits from Snowdonia.  The NCSO and SSO will play both separately and together.  Should be a night to remember for saxophiles!

The venue will be St Mary’s Church, Mona Road, Menai Bridge, Gwynedd LL59 5EA

The date of the concert is Saturday 13th April 2013, starting at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets will cost £6.00 each, which includes the cost of light refreshments.

If you’d like more information about the NWSC and the concert,  please contact Bob Daimond:-

  • e-mail: nwsaxchoir AT
  • tel. no. 07799 715042

A Unique Evening of International Music (Part 2)

Luciano Gerber

Luciano Gerber playing and singing contemporary Brazilian songs

Alice Wang playing the Chinese piano

Alice playing the Chinese piano

This was certainly an evening that lived up to its title!

Detail of Alice's piano

Detail of the beautiful craftsmanship of Alice’s Chinese piano

I’ve never heard a Chinese piano (or guzheng) played live to this standard before, and it was something of a revelation.  Alice Wang is currently studying accountancy in Manchester, but has been learning the instrument from a young age and brought hers with her when she came to the UK; no mean feat in itself as it is both bulky and delicately beautiful.  Alice explained the origin and meaning of each piece she played, and the audience certainly seemed to appreciate the complex and intricate music.

Luciano Gerber then expertly played and sang us a selection of contemporary Brazilian music.  His explanations of the Portuguese lyrics and the different styles of music from various corners of his vast homeland certainly added to the enjoyment of the evening.

SSO, after the Bramhall concert

The SSO after the Bramhall concert
[photo by Gordon Jackson, Bramhall & Woodford Rotary Club]

After some very welcome refreshments during the interval, the SSO took over, and attempted to cover the rest of the world in the second half of the concert.  Here’s the programme we played:-

  • Tahiti Trot – Shostakovich arr. Gordon Robson
  • Medley from ‘The Sound of Music’ – Richard Rodgers arr. Don Ashton
  • Engine No. 9 – Les Hooper arr. Don Ashton
  • Marigold – Billy Mayerl arr. Gordon Robson
  • The Sheik of Araby – Ted Snyder arr. David Webber
  • Moon River – Henry Mancini arr. Don Ashton
  • African Waltz – Galt MacDermot arr. Gordon Robson

All in all, a very successful and enjoyable evening, which raised somewhere in the region of £1000 for  WaterAid, End Polio Now and local Rotary Club charities.

A Unique Evening of International Music!

We’re currently preparing for our next concert, which is at Bramhall Methodist Church on Saturday, 24th November 2012.  It’s a fund-raising concert in aid of the charities WaterAid and End Polio Now.  The concert has been organised  by the local Rotary Club in memory of the late Bob Batty, who was a well-respected member of the Bramhall community.

The programme for the evening includes:-

  • Alice Wang (Chinese Piano)
  • Luciano Gerber (Guitar)

and of course…

  • The Sovereign Saxophone Octet

It will definitely be a unique and fascinating mix of styles and sounds, and all performed in aid of some very good causes.

Please come along if you can!  The concert will start at 7:30 p.m., and the admission price will be £8, including refreshments.  Tickets are available from Simply Books, the Methodist Church Hall office in Bramhall, or any local rotarian.

More Pieces for Eight – Buxton 2012

SSO at Buxton Festival Fringe, 2012

The SSO returned to the Buxton Festival Fringe last Thursday evening, and once again a splendid time was had by all!  (As well as lots of smiling faces and applause on the night, we received a very complimentary review from the Fringe’s reviewer Andrew J Hodkinson.)

Big thanks are due to the hard-working and highly efficient people who organise the Fringe, and to the clergy and congregation at Buxton Methodist Church which is such a lovely venue to play in.  It helps so much to have venues and publicity organised so well!  If it’s possible, even bigger thanks go to all the friends and relatives who helped out at the concert with things like ticket and cd sales, and serving refreshments.   Thanks everyone!

The weather was pretty horrible on Thursday, so we were quite relieved to see a steady stream of audience members appearing from the rain-sodden street outside at concert time.   We had a great time time playing tunes old and new to friends old and new.  Looking forward to next year already – by which time we do intend to have a new cd available, hopefully including the Gabrielli double quartets which several audience members asked for.

More Pieces for Eight: Programme

African Waltz
 Galt MacDermot arr. Gordon Robson
Medley from ‘The Sound of Music’  Richard Rodgers arr. Don Ashton
Flower Duet
 Leo Delibes arr. Nigel Wood
 Billy Mayerl arr. Gordon Robson
The Pearls
 Jelly Roll Morton arr. David Webber
Cushion Foot Stomp Clarence Williams arr. David Webber
Carnival Karen Street

*** Interval ***

Canzon Primi Toni Giovanni Gabrieli arr. Mike Frankton
Canzon Septimi Toni Giovanni Gabrieli arr. Mike Frankton
 Antonio Lotti arr. Chris Jolly
Danse Bohemienne Claude Debussy arr. James Crockford
Tahiti Trot Dmitri Shostakovich arr. Gordon Robson
Swingmatism Jay McShann arr. Mike Dale
The Zonk Zone Jon Halton
Witch Hunt
 Ulrich Schultheiss arr. Nigel Wood
The Sheik of Araby Ted Snyder arr. David Webber

Where it all began

‘La Maison de Monsieur Sax’ on thé Rue Adolphe Sax, Dinant

A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to visit Dinant in Belgium.  Dinant is the birthplace of Adolphe Sax, the inventor of the whole saxophone family (among many other musical things), and has a street, a square, a museum and lots of sculpture dedicated to the great man, so I packed my bags and off I went.  Dinant is a lovely town and I highly recommend it as a place to visit whether you are a saxophile or not.  (I’m told that the town bridge isn’t always haunted by mysterious English women playing the  chalumeau!)  Apparently it’s the two-hundredth anniversary of M. Sax’s birth in 2014.  I suspect there will be a bit of a party, with much discussion of reeds and mouthpieces, and possibly the consumption of a litre or two of the splendid local beverages….

Talking of parties, here’s a last shameless plug for our octet concert in Buxton on July 19th.  Advance tickets are now available via the Buxton Opera House web-site.