Jazz Professional



Continuing the Minstrel's Tale down along the Costa Blanca
The events portrayed in this series are not necessarily in chronological order
We're not going to play the blues anymore.
Let the white folks play the blues.
They got 'em, so they can keep 'em.
Miles Davis

Chapter Eighteen


It was my wife's birthday the other day, so I took out the Schilke, stuck a mouthpiece in and gave her Happy Birthday as a treat. I have a musicians' gallery in my house, and when I looked at her down over the balcony she had her hands over her ears. Was it that bad? I called down. No, just ear-splitting, she replied. Yes, after all those years blasting away in noisy ballrooms with the drums thundering in my ears I suppose it was a bit much at close quarters. Still, my heart was in it, and I did play it rather beautifully for her.

It's called a musicians' gallery but has never been used for anything like that. On my last birthday we had the Spanish band down in the ballroom. Actually that was the lounge but Conny had transformed it into a small dancehall by shoving everything that wasn't screwed down over against the wall. If the band had set up their gear in the gallery it would most likely have plunged through the ceiling. I've never seen such a load of heavy electronic stuff for two guitars, keyboards and vocalist. It was a wonder they didn't blow all the fuses, never mind our eardrums, but they didn't.

No, I use the gallery as my computer room and I have roughly the same amount of electronic junk as they, but of a different type. This morning I've been using it all to write some scores for a mate up in Darlington. No sweat, I already have the scores, tried and tested, they only need to be added to. The originals are for a three-piece front line, the new ones call for a five-piece. The winds would have to be revoiced and rescored, is all.

I do most of my scoring using Sibelius because it has this marvellous plug-in called Scorch, with which you can send the scores and instrument parts over the Internet. The guy at the other end can listen to a playback of the score and print everything out ready to play. Sure beats the good old days. It reminds me of the time Johnny Keating had to write an arrangement for the Geraldo orchestra. They were in London, he was in Edinburgh. He was pushed for time and just managed to finish the score in the morning of the broadcast.

Rushing to the airport he grabbed a man just about to board the plane for London, thrust the score into his hand and begged him to put it in a taxi when he got there, there's the address of the studio, here's the money for the taxi, oh, thankyou, thankyou, thankyou. The score was never seen again. Like Glenn Miller's plane, vanished forever.

Meanwhile, back on earth, my original scores had been written with Encore, but that's no longer a problem. Finale now has an option for importing Encore scores and Sibelius can now load Finale scores. Piece of cake, right? Wrong.

As you can't transpose in and out of concert at will with Encore it is necessary to write the scores in transposed pitch. So I went first into Encore and transposed everything back into concert. When I tried to import the score into Finale it wasn't having any of that. I had the latest version of both programmes, and apparently Encore had caught Finale on the hop and you couldn't do that with the new version. I had to go back to a score saved in an older version of Encore and worry about the transposition later.

I did it! Oh, it was beautiful! Everything was now on there in Finale, and with the most stunning playback. All I had to do was to save it as an ETF file and Sibelius would be able to read that. We were saved, right? Wrong again. Here's what the result looked like. 920 Special

If you look closely you can just make out the original notes, but on top there is the recurring motif of a bar found elsewhere in the score. I suppose it has to do with voices, in this case ghostly ones, and, believe me, it goes on like this right to the end. And it has changed key and all. I cannot bring myself to tell you what it did with the chord symbols later on.

What can you do with this? Well, not much. So I went back to Encore and saved the 920 file as a midi file, and that worked out fine, went straight into Sibelius transposed into concert where it needed to be. The only things missing were the chord symbols, so I printed out the keyboards part. Rescoring for the five winds was easy, using the Sibelius explode method. Oh, doesn't it sound so simple?

Now repeating all this to the scoring software makers would not be a good idea. They wouldn't believe you, they can't reproduce the error themselves and they know much more about music than you do, anyway, don't they? Forget it, OK? Do what I did and you won't go far wrong. And keep quiet about it, that's my advice to you.

After battling with all that this morning I went down to look at the news on television and found the NDR (North German Radio) Hamburg symphony orchestra playing Mahler's 8th in a concert hall in Kiel. Enormous orchestra, conducted by Christoph Eschenbach, a man with soul, three huge choirs from various other countries and a long row of exalted divas. There was even an extra brass section playing from over in one of the balconies, a proper musicians' gallery that one was. There must have been a thousand or more musicians on that podium. I sat there with tears in my eyes. How could anyone write that? How could anyone conduct it? How could anyone even play it? Tell you what—I bet Mahler never tried copying that one over from Encore.

Upon hearing that Meisterwerk I resolved never to complain again. Well, maybe now and then, but not much. I wrote a piece for that symphony orchestra some years back. It was for some Mozart celebration or other and I scored the first movement of his Symphony in G minor for the symphony orchestra and the NDR radio big band. Sort of a jazz/classic version. They told me it was a great success. If it hadn't been there's a good chance that it might have been Mozart's ghost messing up my 920 Special. You can't be too sure about these things.

Chapter Nineteen >>>

Copyright © 2004, Ron Simmonds. All Rights Reserved