13 Winds including a Double Bass!

by Alan George

Musical Director of The Academy of St Olave’s


Autumn Concert

Autumn Concert

Our Autumn Concert on Saturday 22nd September 2018 is the third and final concert of our 40th anniversary year. The concert starts and finishes with Mozart, with the final work – Mozart’s Gran Partita – showcasing the orchestra’s superb wind players!


The concert starts at 8 pm, and is in St Olave’s Church York.

Insights into Programming a Concert

In this short article, Alan George explains how the programme for the 2018 Autumn Concert was put together, and why it has something for everyone!

John Smith on Double Bass

Double Bass player John Smith becomes an honourary wind player in Mozart’s Gran Partita!

Wind Serenade

The starting point for this programme was Mozart’s gigantic Gran Partita, K.361 – popularly known as the “Serenade for 13 Wind Instruments”, even though the 13th happens to be a string bass! Our former principal flute, Diana Clough, had been pushing this piece for years (despite there being no part for her!), and it was finally agreed that we now have the resources to put it on.

And these are considerable: Mozart adds to the traditional Harmonie scoring (pairs of oboes, clarinets, horns, bassoons) a pair of basset horns (in effect alto clarinets – much favoured by the composer’s friend Anton Stadler, dedicatee of the famous quintet and concerto), as well as a second pair of hand horns (crooked in a different key, thus making available an entire harmonic series of extra chromatic notes), as well as the aforementioned double bass.

It is also the sheer scale of the work which proved revolutionary: no fewer than seven movements – not so unusual in some of his earlier serenades, eg the Posthorn, but on an altogether grander scale than before. This expanded structure, with its extra minuet (of the faster variety) and extra slow movement (the set of variations) was to prove highly influential: starting with Mozart himself in his Divertimento for string trio (K.563), the ever popular Septet of Beethoven and Octet of Schubert were obviously modelled on Mozart’s example.

String Band

Over the past few years we have used works like this to make more economical use of limited rehearsal time: so while a wind serenade is being rehearsed the string band can be working at something else! And so we have Vaughan Williams’s evergreen Fantasia on Greensleeves and Nielsen’s Op.1: his Little Suite – a sure winner, in the best tradition of Scandinavian string serenades.

Flutes, Harp and Horns

But making the best use of players does not finish here: the flute and harp required by Vaughan Williams will introduce Greensleeves with another delectable piece of Nielsen, The Fog is Lifting; and it so happens that Mozart’s lively Symphony No. 32 unusually calls for two flutes and four horns. So everyone gets a good play in this concert – if not at the same time!

Wind quintet in January 2018

Members of the Academy of St Olave’s Wind Section rehearse Nielsen’s Wind Quintet in January 2018: Diana Clough, Alexandra Nightingale, Mark Sykes, Charles Miller and Lesley Schatzberger.

The Academy of St Olave's, January 2018

Alan George with the Academy of St Olave’s, January 2018

September 2018 Poster

Tickets and Directions

Tickets for our concert on Saturday 22 September can be purchased in advance from our website, or from Visit York, 1 Museum Street, York.  Alternatively, just come along to the concert at St Olave’s Church between 7.15 and 8 pm and you will be able to pay at the door.

Directions for getting to the concert, complete with map, are on the How-to-find-us page of our website.

We look forward to seeing you!