A community rewarded


Last weekend saw the final round of games in the Pontefract and District Cricket League. For my local club, South Kirkby Colliery Cricket Club, it was a significant Saturday in that a win (or at least three bonus points) in the final game would mean winning the division one championship. The last time the team had a similar division one honour was in 1932 and I don’t remember that one.

The final game was played at Ackworth Cricket Club, 2nd in the league and seven points behind at the time. The home team batted first and declared before South Kirkby could get the maximum bowling points (3). 100 runs was the target for a batting point that would ensure South Kirkby would win the division one title. The batters did their job and in the end South Kirkby won the game with overs to spare, they held their nerve and won for the village.

This was not one season’s work but the culmination of plans and strategies that have developed over many years. Over a decade ago the Club went through many changes and the emphasis shifted from the senior teams to youth teams. Many of those playing on Saturday have come through the youth teams or are active with the youth teams as their children are playing cricket.

It has been a very good year for the Club both locally and in the County. One of the juniors who came through the system had her first game (and cap) with the Yorkshire Ladies team. The 1st team also won the Dyson Skidmore Trophy (cup competition) and the 20/20 league so a treble celebration is on the cards. All five of the junior teams had a mixed season on the field as well as camping out, under 9 cricket gala and other social activities that make for a stronger community.

All this and everyone involved with the cricket give their time and expertise for nothing. A community that does things the right way will eventually be rewarded and this year has seen the senior side get the plaudits (next year it could be the under 11 team).


Congratulations to everyone involved – players, spectators, parents, carers, volunteer coaches, physios, tea makers, groundsmen, committee, raffle prize givers… and of course the local businesses that help each year to keep the Club going and move it slowly but surely on to more achievements.

© P.R.Birkby 2014

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The cash comparison


All the elements of the world premiere of Deranged Drums on Digital Vistas were paid for by the audience that attended the concert or will use the recorded music. The contributions were processed through Indiegogo which is a crowd funding site similar to Kickstarter but with some different criteria in pricing and how the funds could be accessed.

Can you make any kind of living as an artist? Is an interesting article written by Elizabeth Day in The Observer last year http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2012/jul/29/artists-day-job-feature?CMP=twt_gu but even more illuminating are the comments from artists working in many different parts of the creative industries that follow the post.

Setting a fee for a creative work is a difficult calculation to make. How many hours have been spent in production? What is the going rate and what else is being produced by other artists and at what price? How much did the raw materials cost and what about the uniqueness/individuality of the work? How do you measure creativity and what is the rate per second? If a work took months to create is this reflected in the price?

A comparison of fees between artists and tradesmen is often quoted when negotiations are in progress. The average yearly salary for an electrician from the totaljobs.com website is £29,000 (range between £26,000 and £33,000). Prospect.ac.uk lists orchestral musicians as having a yearly salary between £25,000 and £50,000 and electrician engineers between £20,000 and £40,000.

That is the salary but then there are materials and an electrician will follow a plan drawn up by the architect (for the Royal Institute of British Architects salary guide go to http://www.ribaappointments.com/Salary-Guide.aspx) or the orchestral musician will perform the music (composer’s salary guide not available/never been produced) more than likely under the direction of a conductor (Tom Service in the Guardian has some American examples http://www.theguardian.com/music/tomserviceblog/2009/may/18/classical-music-conductors).

The creative process from imagination to design to production can be long and is this ever included in the fee(s)? When I started my publishing business over 30 years ago I was impatient for my music to get to the performers. I had many ideas of which some were impractical but many others were produced and published and performed. Regular employment stifled much of this creativity (no time to consider and progress ideas) but now I am freelance again the ideas are being finalised.

What the years of institutionalisation have given me is – better standards of production, some more efficient ways of working using technology as an assistant not as the be-all and end-all, a greater awareness of marketing strategies and more impatience as the ideas flow and need producing for the performers.
I doubt I will use crowd funding again, a website link (www.prbpnews.info)to all the details would work just as well, but I am glad of the experience and it focussed the mind to bring the music alive in the studio at the Joseph Bramah. As for the cash flow – slow at the moment but picking up.

© P.R.Birkby 2014, all figures researched on 07/09/2014

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A change of…


anything can help with creativity, for me travelling, visiting and experiencing different situations inspires many ideas. Intermittent blogs at the moment as I am visiting different parts of England and only a short hello today as there is so much new music to complete.

I do not travel with my computer, just a small notebook to jot down germs of ideas, some musical directions or in a few cases complete works. The most recent inspiration came in the form of words, poetry with rhymes in many cases, and the concepts for the music to accompany these verses arrived slightly later.

The situations that stimulate these musical ideas are often to do with the sounds of travelling. The train or plane makes jotting down ideas easier and in the past I have tried to sing into a personal recorder over the noise of a car engine. The end results have mainly been difficult and sometimes impossible to decipher.

Already a set of music has evolved from the travels and another set of music I wrote a few years ago has been discovered on a hard drive so the summer has been most productive. Both should be published in the next few weeks and you can judge how fruitful this time has been.

Undoubtedly the weather this year has been very kind to most crops, the garden has been bountiful, and it has helped the inspiration as well. A change of weather/environment/situation does a world of good for the creative muse.

© P.R.Birkby 2014

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The Drum – history and promotion


In 1995 I was commissioned to write music for percussion ensemble with narrator for the Rotherham Schools Percussion Ensemble. The ensemble had four up and coming performers who were destined to become professionals supported by other enthusiastic students. The result was The Drum, a through-composed work telling of the journey from iron ore to snare drum in approximately 10 minutes. 

One of the students from that time emailed earlier this month with a request for the score and parts so he could use it with his pupils at Hill House School in the new academic year. When I retrieved it from the shelf it looked dated and difficult to read in some places so new some typesetting was required. One day later, with many hours in front of the computer screen, it was reprinted and ready to go. 

I listened to the music again after a break of many years (I was at the first performance and remember how well it was received by audience and musicians alike) and am happy to say I still enjoyed it. This made the creative cogs turn again and I have recorded a short extract (the opening) to which I have added some images and you can watch the results on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=26uk7VdoAhc

Ordering details are available at www.prbpnews.info and at £19.80p (inclusive of p&p) I feel it is competitively priced. Hopefully some other forgotten works will be requested in the near future and I can rediscover more music. 

© P.R.Birkby 2014

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Ring out the old, ring in the…


Some organised performers and teachers have been planning next year’s programmes and I have had a number of orders for percussion music. Not the new works that I have been struggling with lately but works from approximately 20 years ago.

I am not complaining as it is an interesting study for me as the composer to find which works capture the imagination and which ones do not. It can be circumstances that change with groups disbanding and people moving to different jobs as well as sometimes the music just not being required.

That said the works that are being requested this month are mainly my favourites. I judge this by forgetting about the music for a long period of time and then listen again. If they still have some attractive moments then I am happy but if there are sections that I think are not quite right then I can understand why they don’t interest others.

The works ordered recently include the suites Festive Music (Autumn Waltz is available to listen to at SoundCloud) and Sweet Whistling (the last two movements – On the Pond and A Real Mouthful – are also on SoundCloud). The Ten Xylophone Solos are still going strong with Two Spanish Dances and Silent Cinema Chase (which also have a brass band accompaniment) being the most popular from the collection. One of my early recycling ensembles from the Groove Music series – Drums and Junk, Rock and Funk has been requested this year and a percussion ensemble with narrator – The Drum had to be found, brought up to date and is now available and looking far clearer than before (no audio of this yet but I am recording some extracts for a YouTube near you soon).

These works are from the period 1985 (Ten Xylophone Solos), 1991 (Festive Music) and 1995 (most of the others). They still sound interesting to me today but in a different way to how they seemed years ago. I hope the new works have the same longevity and all of them keep ringing, striking, bashing, rolling and, most of all, are performed for many years to come.

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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 http://youtu.be/0jHsBw3XQgE 

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 drumsandpercussiononline.com

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 -https://www.facebook.com/BarnsleyYouthChoir

© P.R.Birkby 2014

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“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 music@prbp.co.uk and I will send you the booklet.

© P.R.Birkby 2014

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