Bowls, bells and tings (and sings)


Once I had recovered from the 26th June, the world premiere performance, I have been enjoying recording some of the works we did not have time to complete on the day. This has been good for me as a performer - the pressure, reading, standard, technique and stamina have all improved during the return to music from the depths of a life in academic administration.

Deranged Drums on Digital Vistas has been influential in my rehabilitation and I am negotiating for more performances in the near future. The Mixed Metals Percussion Ensemble are keen to continue the collaboration and you will be the first to hear about any new developments.

Thank you to the members of the audience that were snapping away on their mobiles during the premiere performance, I have collected the photographs and put them together with one of the most recent recordings Vista R and you can see and hear the results on YouTube 

In the blog Deranged Drums on Digital Vistas – the instrumentalists from the 18th June there were three pen portraits of the musicians that created some of the music on the evening. Here are some more which show the wide variety of styles, experience and specialities the members of the Mixed Metals Percussion Ensemble bring to each performance.

Phil Steventon (vibraphone) is a Manchester based percussionist and bandleader, originally from Oxford. He has a wide variety of experience as a performing and teaching musician. His experiences include regularly working in musical theatre, pop bands and orchestras, big bands and various other jazz ensembles on drum kit, percussion and vibraphone, including featuring in his own vibraphone trio, as well as deputising for orchestras and bands across the country.

He has performed at the Marlborough Jazz, Cheltenham Jazz and Parklife Festivals. He has tutored various percussion courses in the South of England and worked as a private drum kit and percussion tutor. Since arriving in Manchester he has had the pleasure of working with Jiggs Whigham, Joe Locke, Enrico Pieranunzi, Dave O’Higgins and Lianne Carol, to name a few and is looking forward to the experiences the rest of his studies and musical career will bring!

Matthew Dabbs (percussion leader) studied drum kit and orchestral percussion at the Royal Northern College of Music and subsequently enjoyed a successful career in popular music as a founding member of the rock band “Longview”. He spent many years playing drums and percussion in the studio with some of the top professionals in the music industry, including: Rick Parasher (Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Nickleback and Bon Jovi), Biff Stannard (Spice Girls, Ellie Goulding) and Steve Osborne (New order, Doves, Vanessa Carlton).

After his time with the band he continued to be busy working as a freelance professional musician, in concert and in the studio. He is a regular performer with the orchestras of Opera North (Leeds) the Royal Northern Sinfonia (Newcastle) and the Sheffield Pops Orchestra (as principal percussion). He is the senior drum kit and orchestral percussion tutor at Hill House School (independent school of the year 2012). In addition to this he runs a successful private/Skype teaching practise at

Barnsley Youth Choir update

And finally – good luck to all the members of Barnsley Youth Choir (BYC) who fly out to Riga on Monday to represent the United Kingdom at the World Choir Games. All my support goes with you and remember to enjoy the whole experience. Mat and the other MDs will have rehearsed you well, you know how to produce a scintilating sound, all you need to do is relax and sing as one – good luck to you all. View the latest information at facebook -

© P.R.Birkby 2014

Posted in Inspiration, Music Composition and Performance | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“No vestige of a beginning, – no prospect of an end.”


This describes last week very well as the organisation, recording and performance of Deranged Drums on Digital Vistas came to fruition. Little did I know where the creative journey would take me when I read John Hutton’s quote in the Natural History Museum on March 2nd 2013 and the idea for a composition that had many beginnings and endings started to form.

Up until the time of the London visit the music I had composed were going to be organised in a traditional way for percussion ensemble with the drum kit as the featured instrument. Once the Hutton revelation had occurred I changed the way I thought about each idea or section of music. Rather than imagining the music being organised to flow in one specified way I began considering methods of composing so that each section would be flexible enough to act as a starting point, an ending point or some transitional point during the composition.

This has resulted in the majority of musical sections in the work (Vistas as they are titled in the score) having an individual sense of structure, able to be performed as stand alone works, with the contrast of sounds being achieved by the alternation between two percussion ensembles (one with five players and one with three) throughout. This ‘conversation’ between the ensembles was a very interesting aspect during the world premiere performance.

At the venue I had put up a board with letters and numbers that corresponded with the titles of sections in Deranged Drums on Digital Vistas. These letters and numbers had also been broadcast on social media to allow the opportunity of virtual as well as physical influences on the order of the music.


The world premiere performance at The Joseph Bramah, Market Hill, Barnsley on Thursday 26th June 2014 started with the ensemble of five percussionists at Vista 11 followed by the trio of percussionists from Vista J. Most of the sounds in Vista 11 come from cymbals on the drum kit part and Vista J is all cymbals as well. This was just one of the accidental juxtapositions of similar timbres that happened during the first performance and thank you to all that participated to create these phenomena.

Continuing with the acknowledgements I must thank Steve Kohut and the Mixed Metals Percussion Ensemble for performing the work, the guest soloist Peter Fairclough for his thoughtful and inventive drum kit ideas, other members of the ensemble – Phil Steventon, Le Yu, Matt Dabbs, Keith Ramskill and Nigel Chapman. Jack Green and Dr. Al McNichol for the studio recording during the day, Glen Sutton for filming the evening and Ben, June and all the staff at The Joseph Bramah who made us very welcome. The University of Huddersfield and Barnsley College for the use of instruments and spaces and Stewart Worthy and Steve Kohut for finding extra instruments at short notice. Robert Teal of the local express – Vitesse shops in Barnsley for the business sponsorship, everyone who contributed via Indiegogo thank you and finally Facebook friends for some photographs, any more out there please keep them coming. Everyone who has had some part to play in creating the music and putting on the event, thank you.

World Premiere at The Joseph Bramah

World Premiere at The Joseph Bramah

The first of many versions of the work has been performed and most of the music is recorded. As a future promotions I could release 1000 unique and individual versions of the work on CD as special editions and/or the Mixed Metals Percussion Ensemble could tour world performing unique versions at each venue. The prospects for Deranged Drums on Digital Vistas depends on demand from you the reader, audience and listener. Thursday’s performance was just the beginning of the distribution of the music which I hope will continue for many years.

There are still 50 programmes from the evening left, if anyone wants one as a memento and has a PayPal account, just transfer a donation of £5 or more to and I will send you the booklet.

© P.R.Birkby 2014

Posted in Music Composition and Performance | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Online promotion over, now it is your turn


The Indiegogo site is showing the project but it is no longer taking contributions (just send digital cash via PayPal to and it will still get through).  This form of promotion is over but your contributions to how the music will unfold on the night are needed. 

Deranged Drums on Digital Vistas has been written for two percussion ensembles, one with 5 players and one with three.  The music is organised as a conversation between the two ensembles and one of the elements of chance in the composition is deciding on the starting point for each.  The audience can choose the two starting points by picking one letter from A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R and S and one number from 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18.   

Mathematically there are over 660 different starting permutations and the end point is not prescribed and could be decided by the conductor or performers before or during the performance, it could be dictated by performing for a specific amount of time, it could be…  One of the interesting consequences of this approach is that the order of music could be different ever time it is performed which may produce interesting juxtapositions of sound and each performance of the same work could be unique.

For the world premiere performance the number or letter chosen most often will be the starting section of music, the second most popular letter or number will be the starting point for the other ensemble and once these are set the piece will progress in a sequential order until all sections have been performed. 

E-mail, tweet, message, text or send a pigeon with the letter and number of your choice.  Just before the start of the performance these will be added to the selections made at The Joseph Bramah on Thursday and the virtual and physical audiences will have a say in how the first performance evolves.

If you want a different artistic experience before the drums and percussion strike up, the graduates from the art and design degree course at the University Campus and keeping their exhibition open longer on the Thursday evening.  They are just across the road from The Joseph Bramah in the Arcade and have transformed the ex Rehab shop at the top of the Arcade into an excellent exhibition space.  The short film I made of the gallery can be viewed by following the link

Don’t forget to send me your number and letter and hope to see you soon.

© P.R.Birkby 2014

Posted in Music Composition and Performance | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

12 hours to go or !@ ˙ø¨®ß †ø ©ø

In 12 hours, or at 7am Greenwich Mean Time (8am British Summer Time) the crowd funding experiment with Indiegogo will have elapsed. If you still want to contribute but have just been putting it off until the right time; now is the only time and please follow the link to part with some digital cash that will support the musicians and secure your memento of the event.  

The one last process is the little matter of getting all funds into the bank account and I have complete faith in the system. When I recover from the organising and performing the world premiere – Thursday between 7 and 8pm at the Joseph Bramah, 15 Market Hill, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, S70 2PX, I hope to be able to share facts, figures, findings and my thoughts on the process. 

There was a little support from business for the event – I thought this would be the case with the prize being difficult to define – and the winner was Vitesse lifestyle express in Barnsley, thank you to Robert and if you want to see a draw from a drum the link is – <a title="Business draw to sponsor the event"”_blank”> 


The band of musicians are carefully practising the parts, the recording engineers and film crew are ready so I am hopeful of some brilliant music on Thursday.

© P.R.Birkby 2014

Posted in Music and Enterprise, Music Composition and Performance | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wetherspoon world premiere – 5 days to go


One hour of percussion music – Deranged Drums on Digital Vistas written by composer and percussionist Peter Birkby.  8 instrumentalists, over 60 percussion instruments and a musical mix of drum ‘n timpani, latin, contemporary, jazz and classical all on Market Hill in Barnsley.  The world premiere is on Thursday 26th June 2014 between 7 and 8pm at the Joseph Bramah, 15 Market Hill, Barnsley, S70 2PX .  

This is completely funded by your contributions, the last day you will be able to contribute through the Indiegogo website is Tuesday 24th, and please support by donating at  

To watch one of the 37 sections of music being performed by the composer

After the event the music will be made freely available as downloads (with links and instructions to free recording and editing software) for you to create your own version of the music and then share it through the Urban Skyline Bandcamp site.  Hope to see you soon or hear the new creations in the future. 

© P.R.Birkby 2014

Posted in Music Composition and Performance | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Countdown 6-4-3



6 days to go to the world premiere – 26th June 2014, 7 to 8pm at the Joseph Bramah, 15 Market Hill, Barnsley, S70 2PX .

4 days for anyone to contribute and get a ‘perk’ on the crowd funding adventure that is at

3 days for businesses to pledge £20 towards the Deranged Drums on Digital Vistas world premiere (cut off 11.59am, Monday 23rd June). 

Sign the petition and comment on why music education is so important to our youth, our culture and the future of our children –

Original calendar image from

Posted in Music Composition and Performance | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Seven days


In just seven days time it will be here – driving to the studio, setting up of equipment, rehearsals and recording, takes and ‘just one more take’, moving equipment and setting up again, the time when nothing more can be done and it is a matter of waiting for the audience to arrive, the performance/gig/event/premiere/show, taking all the equipment down again and packing away, the drive home and the come down as the adrenaline rush subsides.  13 hours for those who live locally, 16 or 17 hours for those who have to travel a distance – concert days are long days and not something that can be done in your spare time. 

The gig/world premiere/performance/event/show is taking place between 7 and 8pm on Thursday 26th June 2014 at the Joseph Bramah, 15 Market Hill, Barnsley, S70 2PX .  This is completely funded by you and each contribution you make will go to the musicians who will make it all happen   

To watch one of the 37 sections of music being performed by the composer and I hope you can support the event in some way. 

Seven Days is a Sting song from the 1993 album Ten Summoner’s Tales with some lovely drumming by Vinnie Colaiuta, Deranged Drums on Digital Vistas will have some brilliant drumming by Peter Fairclough. 

© P.R.Birkby 2014

Posted in Music Composition and Performance | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment