RCM Student Sponsorship Blog

This blog post marks the end of my first term at the Royal College of Music, London. This term has been a busy one and I anticipate this sets a precedent for the rest of my time at the RCM.

I have been amazed at just how busy percussion students are kept at this college. I have lost count of how many master classes we have had this term, with highlights being a visit from She-E Wu (marimbist and all round incredible musician), and a class from the newly appointed timpanist of the Philharmonia, Antoine Siguré. This class was especially interesting as it was fascinating to have an insight from someone who was very new to their role, and I enjoyed talking to him about the audition process and how it feels to be settling in with a new orchestra, in a new city.

Alongside lessons and classes, all percussion students took part in the Percussion Showcase this term, demonstrating a wide variety of skills with some very sensitive ensemble playing. The rest of the students here are an extremely dedicated bunch, and I admire how hard everyone works towards producing quality performances be it in a solo, ensemble or orchestral setting.

This term I have had the opportunity to play timpani in Beethoven's Third Symphony, conducted by Martin Brabbins, working with contemporary music group Ensemble Nikel and recorded Vaughn Williams 'Variations for Brass Band', for release on a disc later next year. Outside of the RCM I have been busy teaching and performing, a particular highlight was working as a deputy on 'Cymbeline' for The Royal Shakespeare Company at the Barbican.

Next terms project have already begun to be allocated, and I am pleased to be principal percussion for the Mahler 6 project with the RCM Symphony orchestra - meaning I get to deliver the 'blows of fate' with the Mahler hammer and box. I will soon be allocating the parts to other players and working with the Performance & Programming department, to contact Bell Percussion and ensure their Mahler hammer and box is available for the performance alongside other instruments required for the symphony. The work was originally scored with 3 hammer blows in the fourth movement, but Mahler decided to omit the last strike as he was supposedly a superstitious sole and felt that the third blow would signify his own demise. Some conductors ask for it to be put back in the newer part editions, some leave it out. The question of whether I shall get to deliver the third, fatal blow has been hotly debated amongst the department,  and we shall have to wait until the first rehearsal with our conductor, Nicholas Collon, to find out his take on the work.

I would once again like to take this opportunity to thank Bell Percussion for the support they give to percussion students at the RCM each year through the Bell Percussion Award, and I look forward to writing again in the near future with an update of my second term at the RCM. 

Joley Cragg

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