New York New York

Last week London hosted a very special residency by the New York Philharmonic at the Barbican Centre.

I was lucky enough to be able to attend one day of this residency, which is still very much a new concept.  The idea being for the orchestra to hold a range of activities throughout each day and evening from symphonic concerts, family events, new commissions and creative learning work.  It was the latter, in the form of a masterclass, that took my interest most.

Each principal player of the New York Philharmonic, who are held in the highest regard as some of the finest orchestral musicians in the world, gave a 3 hour long class to a select group of instrumentalists from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama – a very close neighbour of the Barbican Centre itself.  The ‘open’ masterclass for trumpet was given by no other than Mr Philip Smith.  The class opened with a spine-tingling performance by Philip Smith of the opening trumpet solo from Mahler 5, as he said, ‘to gain our attention’.  There was no doubt that he did.

Over the course of the 3 hours Philip Smith led an extremely insightful but also relaxed, good humoured class with 6 variable trumpet ‘guinea pig’ students. Each student presented a performance of a piece they were currently working on, including works such as, Jolivet’s Concertino, Honneger’s Intrada to a very accomplished interpretation of Enescu’s Legende.  After each student’s mini lesson by the master – he opened the floor up to questions from a room filled with trumpet players.

I thoroughly recommend any student or professional musician to take time to attend such opportunities when they arise.  There is nothing better to re-bolster one’s motivation or rekindle inspiration for your own instrument than listening to one of the world’s greatest exponents of it.


Brit awards and touring dates for Nina Nesbitt

Hi there, it’s Nina Nesbitt here again with a little update on my recent musical adventures 🙂

Since the last time I posted my blog here I have been busy receiving a lot of music video entries for my competition to find some fabulous support acts for my Mini UK Tour in April/May 2012. It is still open for anyone to enter, with the deadline being 1st March 2012. Here are the details again if you are keen to send in an entry and get a chance to play in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester or London.

For my mini tour in April 2012 I have a main support act travelling with me. However, in each city – London, Manchester, Glasgow & Edinburgh – I’m going to have someone different to open up my show each night. I’m really supportive of other upcoming or aspiring artists so I’m going to select 4 different people for the different cities to open up each show for me. If you’d like a chance to support me in one of the cities please email ”[email protected] ” with your cover of one of my songs from the Nina Nesbitt ‘Live Take’ EP and also the city you’d like to support me in. For the gigs in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Manchester you must be 14+ and for London gig it is 16+ to take part in the competition. You do not have to have gig experience, I’m just trying to give some new artists a platform to showcase their talents. You can find my ‘live take’ Ep tracks on iTunes, Amazon and YouTube to listen to, search Nina Nesbitt. Good luck!

Part of my job as a musician is to travel a lot and see many places as I write, play and record in a lot of different cities. But, when I am back home in Edinburgh, I am also learning to play the piano at the moment by having tuition with the fantastic Will Pickvance. I’ve really been enjoying these FUN piano sessions and it’s certainly making me feel a lot more confident in using a digital piano for my live shows. It’s also giving me better skills with my composing on the piano. I would recommend anyone to learn more than one instrument if you are a keen musician, as it can really enhance your performance and also encourage you to write music in many different ways.

I write my own songs and sometimes I use the guitar and other times it will be the piano that brings me a melody that I really like. People write in many different ways, and often ask me how do I do it? Well, sometimes a melody comes to me first, other times it’s maybe a guitar riff that sounds interesting that I build on. However, it is not always that I write the melody first, sometimes it is the lyrics that come to me from observations I make in daily life or even experiences myself and my friends have. I can remember once sitting on Bus 44 and something caught my eye which inspired a song. I always carry a little writing book in my bag and write down lyrics/ideas as they come into my head. Occasionally you will find me sitting on the train or the bus when I’m on my travels singing quietly into my mobile phone to record a melody or lyric that has just come to me, haha! Mobile phones are great for writing your lyrics down on or recording your melodies so that they are not lost, it may give you a few funny looks on the bus but you get used to it 🙂

Soon I will be heading back to London again to co-write with a few very experienced people that have written for artists such as Adele, Ellie Goulding, James Morrison and Ed Sheeran etc. I do prefer to write material on my own but also find it very interesting to write with others. One can learn a lot about the processes they use and techniques to write those very successful and beautiful songs that many of them have had major hits with. They are very experienced writers, sharing skills and experiences with each other can only be a good thing. The same as learning to play an instrument really. Sharing skills is great fun & so very creative!

My recent headline gig in Glasgow in early February was one of my favourite shows ever!! Both Chloe Latimer & Jonny Downie were brilliant as my support acts and they both rose to the challenge big time of showcasing their talents – they really rocked it!! Everyone in the crowd where absolutely amazing and very supportive. They listened intently to my music and I had the most fantastic time meeting all my fans after the show, by spending time chatting to them all and responding to photo requests & autographs. I think it’s really important if you are an artist out there ‘gigging’ that you definitely take time to meet the people in the audience who very kindly made the effort to come and see you play and continue to support your music. Without them a successful music career as a performing artist would not be possible, so to me they are the most important people. Most of the fans also follow me on Twitter, @ninanesbitt , and on Facebook, , where I makes sure I interact with them by trying to respond to most of the comments on my music FB page and some tweets here and there. It is a great forum to be able to give a little bit back to the people who have supported you along the way and continue to do so and spread the love of music to others as well.

If you are a budding musician I would advise you to set up an artist page on Facebook and a Twitter account, it is very important in the music world at this moment in time 🙂 Get online, use YouTube to post things your music on and look for gig opportunities and instrumental / vocal tuition to help you fine tune your skills and build your confidence in your chosen instrument.
One of my other little past times is that I do secret gigs around the UK from time to time, to gain more performance experience and to have the chance to play along side other more experienced musicians also.
I recently did a gig in Newcastle at the Cluny 2 with three other lovely touring musicians who very kindly introduced me to their audience as their special guest of the night. It’s a brilliant way to gain more experience and quite exciting to be the surprise guest that no one may have heard of before and extend their musical interests hopefully by putting on a good performance.

The BRIT AWARDS are on the cards next for me to attend and then I’m away on a Tour around Europe with Ed Sheeran & Passenger, which will be an amazing experience no doubt. I shall be back to share more of my musical adventures along the way. I will give you an update on my Brit Award experience & share with you all what life is like touring on a double decker bus for 2 weeks! I bet I will miss my own bed, ha! Watch this space!! 😀 Nina x


La Gamme D’amour

Preparing for and recording a new disc of French Renaissance and Baroque music for guitar and lute during valentine’s week has inadvertently turned my thoughts to the unavoidable connection between this music and romantic love.

It’s very easy for us to conjur up the somewhat cliched image of the stricken lover, woefully plucking his lute to some melancholy air beneath the window of his coy or cruel mistress, or as it is beautifully rendered in Shakespeare’s ‘As you like it’, ‘Is it not strange that sheep’s guts could hail souls out of men’s bodies?’ There is however a good deal of truth in the image of the lute or guitar being an essential weapon in the war of seduction. In many of Watteau’s paintings guitars in particular are often put in this context, ‘La gamme d’amour (the scale of love) being an excellent example, where the sensual intentions of the gracefully strumming gallant seem entirely obvious to the onlooker. Indeed, the appearence of the 5 course guitar in Spain towards the end of the 16th century did in fact engender a sense of outrage in those of a conservative musical or moral disposition who feared that this easily played and strummed instrument (‘There is not a stable boy who is not a musician on the guitar’) would bring about a moral decline very similar to the fears expressed when rock and roll first appeared in the 1950s. Certainly the guitar enjoyed a reputation of louche sensuality ‘It has a certain something that is feminine and pleasing to women, flattering their hearts and making them inclined to voluptiousness’. Perhaps it was the absence of a full bass register on this new instrument which associated it with all things feminine and contrasted it with the nobler lute and its ever expanding bass range.

Thankfully the guitar’s reputation was given a boost by two of its most famous exponents Louis XIV in France and Charles II in Restoration England. One musician, the Italian guitarist/composer Francesco Corbetta (1615-81) in particular flanks these two monarchs having been an important figure at both courts. Corbetta was initially brought to Versailles to be Louis’ guitar tutor and was very likely part of the entourage which accompanied the triumphant Charles on his return to England’s throne in 1660. Corbetta even dedicated a book of music (both called ‘La guitarre royalle’) to each king. The guitar enjoyed a great period of vogue in restoration England and was extemelly popular among young ladies of rank ‘Francesco had composed a sarabande, which either charmed or infatuated every person; for the whole guitarery at court were trying at it; and god knows what a universal strumming there was’. Corbetta’s music also finds itself at the centre of a sexual intrigue where the Duke of York, supposedly desirous to play the aforementioned sarabande uses it as an excuse to visit the chambers of the Lady Chesterfield who was apparently the owner of the ‘best guitar in England’. Her husband however realised what was going on, ‘Jealousy, like a malignant vapour now seized upon his brain: a thousand suspicions, blacker than ink took possesion of his imagination and were continually increasing; for while the brother played upon the guitar to the duke the sister ogled and accompanied him with her eyes as if the coast had been clear and no enemy to observe them.’

If contemporary reports about the guitar are to be believed, then it does seem to be the perfect instrument for both of these typically baroque monarchs with their endless streams of mistresses, love of spectacle, dancing, theatre and general merrymaking. Indeed the guitar does seem to symbolise the absolute epitome of everything that would have seemed abhorant to Cromwell and his puritanical cohorts and for this reason alone, without even considering its rich and beautiful repertoire, it should be celebrated.

‘La Royalle’ featuring music by Corbetta dedicated to Charles II, alongside guitar and theorbo music by De Visee and music for renaissance guitar and lute by Attaignant, Le Roy, Morlaye and Brayssing will be released by Delphian records (DCD 111) later this year.

Gordon J S Ferries Feb 2012  –

Gordon is one of the UK’s foremost exponent of the baroque guitar.


Singing with Most Entertaining

I have been singing with Most Entertaining Vocal Workshops since they started a couple of years ago. Before that I had sung with big choirs but was ready for a change. There are at most 15-20 in a group, though sometimes a bit smaller too.  We do a variety of different types of songs such as pop (over the decades), soul, traditional/folk, jazz, gospel, African and Gaelic etc. You can suggest a favourite to the singing tutor too. The tutors arrange the songs into harmonies and teach them to us, and you don’t have to be able to read music. We sometimes write our own words to music and create improvised harmonies which is challenging, but great fun. We do a “gig” at the end of each 6 week workshop with the guitar group; friends and family can come along.

One of the highlights for me has been the chance to perform solo. I chose Moon River, one of my favourite jazz songs. I was really nervous as hadn’t done this before, but made sure I had learnt the words – there aren’t too many.  I had a one to one lesson with Kira the tutor and Finlay from Most Entertaining accompanied me on the piano, so I was really well prepared. The second time Kira asked for a volunteer to do Valerie, one of my favourite songs and my hand shot up right away. We used a backing track and the rest of the singing group did backing vocals – awesome!

The next gig is coming up soon, and it’s an exciting time. As the gig approaches, you have to practice the harmonies and learn the words, though we can use the words at the gig if needed. The tutor sends recordings on MP3s to help, so it’s not too demanding. It’s a really friendly atmosphere. This term we had Freddie King a jazz singer teach us some serious breath techniques and Maeve Mackinnon a traditional singer has prepared some great acoustic arrangements of bluegrass and  well know pop songs. Looking forward to having fun singing on Wednesday.

Margaret Fletcher, February 2012

She will be participating in our next workshop gig at Circus, St Mary’s Street on February 15th 7pm


The function of music

I want to start at the beginning and write a little about the function of music.

In a culture where everything is measured, assessed and standardised, there is little reflection on what making music means and how we can use it to promote well-being, improve our family and social relationships, and of course, to express ourselves.

The word music is derived from the Greek ‘mousa’, which refers to the nine Greek goddesses (or nine Muses) who inspired creation and embodied all art. Another interesting fact is that many other cultures don’t have a general word for music. It is such an integral part of their existence and way of life that it simply doesn’t exist as a separate subject or activity. The word as we know it was defined by Edgard Varèse as ‘organised sound’. The idea being that any sound deliberately organised by human creation, is music. He also stated that natural sounds (such as waterfalls, or birds singing) can be musical, but are not actually music.

If any organised sound is music, then how do we define good music? If sound is created as a result of a highly skilled person playing an instrument to a respectably high standard, then surely it is good music? I don’t think so. The Greeks had the right idea. They believed music to be divine, and a result of direct intervention of the Gods. This meant that music had a high purpose, and it was believed that music brought people closer to the divine. If we take out the spiritual element but hang on to the same idea, then good music will bring people closer to each other, or closer to God if they so desire. The performer or the creator of the music is the messenger, so he or she needs to have this intention for it to pass on to any listener. As a composer or a performer, if a musician’s intention is to do this, then it is good music whatever the level or standard of the musician.

Nadine teaches piano at the Royal Academy of Music Junior School and is Director of Classical Babies, Teddington.


Can you support Nina Nesbitt?

Hi everyone, let me introduce myself……

I’m Nina Nesbitt, a 17 year old singer/songwriter from Edinburgh. I finished high school in June 2011 which gave me the chance to focus on my music full time. I’ve always liked singing & writing songs and begun posting cover songs initially on YouTube to get some feedback from people. I also looked for opportunities to start performing more at live music venues at beginning of the summer last year, as well as attending Most Entertaining for some instrumental tuition and performances.

Nina Nesbitt plays PianoSince last summer my music career has taken off at an amazing speed following my live performances, one of which Ed Sheeran seen and subsequently invited me to support him in Glasgow & duet with him in London. Example heard about me & viewed one of my covers on YouTube of his song Stay Awake and liked it so much he asked me to support him in Manchester, Newcastle & Glasgow. It’s been a crazy few months with a lot of opportunities coming my way in terms of my own music career and I will be back on here to blog regularly to share more of my musical adventures & experiences very soon.

In the meantime, for my up and coming mini tour in April 2012 of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester and London I have launched a Competition today on my Facebook page which gives other keen up and coming artists the chance to support me on this tour by opening up my show in one of these cities. If you’re interested in taking part here are the details below, which you can also find on my Facebook page

COMPETITION TIME: For my mini tour in April 2012 I’ve got an idea of the main support act I’m going to take with me. However, in each city – London, Manchester, Glasgow & Edinburgh – I’m going to have someone different to open up my show each night. Instead of me being told who is supporting me I’ve come to the conclusion I’d like to decide myself. I’m really supportive of other upcoming or aspiring artists so I’m going to select 4 different people for different cities to open up the night for me. If you’d like a chance to support me in one of the cities please email ”[email protected] ” with your cover of one of my songs from the Nina Nesbitt ‘Live Take’ EP and also the city you’d like to support me in. For the gigs in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Manchester you must be 14+ and for London gig it is 16+ to take part in the competition. You do not have to have gig experience, I’m just trying to give some new artists a platform to showcase their talents. You can find my ‘live take’ Ep tracks on iTunes and YouTube to listen to, search Nina Nesbitt. Closing date for this competition is 1st March 2012. Good luck!

At my headline show at Glasgow Beanscene on Thursday 2nd February I’ve also chosen a local girl from Clydebank High School to open my show as I heard her sing recently and really liked her voice. I feel it’s important to give other young people a chance to show case their musical talent and look forward to having Chloe Latimer (15) open my show in Glasgow!! Jonny Downie another young up and coming artist will be my main support on the evening. You can find both artists on Facebook 🙂