For nine sax quartets attending the 2005 Saxophone Congress on the 13th February, there was serious business to be done before they could fully relax and enjoy the excitement and bustle of the occasion – the battle for senior and junior winner titles in the two Saxtet Publications Sax Quartet Competitions.
Delice was the talented and lively winner of the junior competition, performing two movements from Celtic Suite (a common choice among the juniors) and the first movement of Francaix' Petit Quatuor.
The four friends from St Paul's School, London (Simon Hendry, sop; Richard Godden, alto; Ali Jennings, tenor; John-Paul Ekins, bari) got together in 2002, and realised they should start taking themselves seriously after they had burnt their way through the amateur repertoire. They have performed in the Whispering Gallery at St Paul's Cathedral and have a number of premieres to their name, but describe their winning this competition as "the highlight of the group's career so far."
It seems that this will be the year of the sax at this summer's Edinburgh Fringe: like the National Sax Choir, Quadrophonia and Sax-Ecosse, Delice will be there – at St Andrew's Church, George Street, on 20th August. Find out more about the group at the Delice website.
All the other contestants in the junior competition had their own particular strengths, and an extrovert approach to playing and promotion is certainly one of the Saxophonics' – "North Norfolk's premiere sax quartet", as they call themselves. (Visit Saxophonics' website for proof!). In addition to Karen Street's The Right Time they gave a stylish performance of Niehaus' – you guessed it - Saxophonics as their competition programme.
From the East Berkshire Music Centre came Coltrane Saxes with Celtic Suite and a moving account of Jack End's Four Vignettes. Local talent was represented by The Aldridge Saxophone Quartet, (from Aldridge School) playing Celtic, and James Rae's spirited Geordie Hinney, and Sandwell's Quatre Sax, with a double SXP bill, The Right Time and Philip Buttalls' The Lone Ar-ranger Goes Sax Mad.
The competitive spirit was (healthily!) fierce, so it was good to see the junior quartets come together at the end of the day, along with Contraste, the National Sax Choir and soloists Arno Bornkamo and Gilad Atzmon, in an awesome massed performance (80+ saxes!) of Under the Veil, with a Smutty Sax encore.