I’m going to Dartington International Summer School on Saturday 14th August, for the 7th year in succession. It is the most amazing gathering of musicians, opportunities to play & sing, meet friends & generally soak up the atmosphere, in lovely Devon countryside.

The first time I went it was just for 3 days, because one of the Wind ensemble tutors wanted to to use a work of mine, Ragmala, as the focus for his course, as it fitted in with the week’s Indian Theme, & the visit of Ravi Shankar. From then on I was hooked. I’ve made some great friends there, even though we only meet for a week or 2 every year. I’m happy to say that music of mine has been used every year since, for various courses.

One of the most enjoyable courses, in the opinion of about 80 of us, was  Wind Band, run by Steve Dummer. Sadly this course hasn’t run for the last 2 years, but we still talk about it – we worked hard, always sounded good, but often laughed until we cried at the exchange of  banter & badinage that whizzed across the band. Steve has run orchestral workshops instead, which have also been great.

There are loads of really good courses & performances, & everyone has their favourite memories, mine include fireworks,(real & musical) , last year’s Haydn Creation, the annual Viennese Ball,(in which I usually play bass trombone on the baritone sax) & being in the Swing Band, Many of us also love  Herbie Flowers & his team’s constant stream of anecdotes, in Light Orchestra, as well as their late night ‘Lonely Hearts Piano Bar’ sessions .

I’ll be in a tent for a fortnight, so fortunately I have friends  with a van who go a week before me for 3 weeks, & carry my sleeping bag etc. as well as  Baritone sax, my alto sax, & cor anglais . I only have to carry my oboe, & suitcase on the train.

Dartington may change considerably after this year, for various reasons, but I’ll always be grateful for the coincidences & chance meetings which caused me to go there for the first time seven years ago.

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