Just a Little From the Top

Available from this site at the introductory price of £13.95


Roderick Elms: Just a Little From the Top

Introduction by Aled Jones

A truly enjoyable account of Roderick Elms’ life in music, peppered with stories, from the hilarious to the educational! This lively account of the life and times of a valued friend includes plenty of entertaining anecdotes, plus details of musical mishaps and triumphs along the way. A great read for anyone interested in the workings of today’s classical music world.”
Aled Jones

‘Just a Little From the Top’ chronicles Roderick Elms’ love of music from childhood, through school and college, ultimately leading to a career spanning more than forty years, in which he has worked at the highest levels of music-making in London.

It gives a unique insight into many aspects of the workings of the profession and contains a multitude of anecdotes, many humorous, about his fascinating life journey. These include occasions when things have gone wrong, sometimes as a result of practical or mechanical failures, others due to poor leadership.

A little early biographical information takes the reader through wonderful experiences, gained by many young people, from the musical opportunities bestowed by the Redbridge Music Service and its music advisor, Malcolm Bidgood OBE. It also takes a trip through some of the Redbridge-based musical groups, which played such a big part in the lives of young musicians living in that area in the late-sixties, seventies and eighties. Not least, the internationally unknown Gnaff Ensemble!

Ongar Music Club
Records to Recitals

Available from this site at the introductory price of £13.50


Roderick Elms: Ongar Music Club – Records to Recitals • A personal history

This book chronicles the remarkable story of Ongar Music Club from the lounges and record players of this market town in Essex to fully-fledged public performances, given by many of the world’s most distinguished musicians, including Lord Yehudi Menuhin, John Lill CBE, Sir Peter Pears, Dame Janet Baker, Benjamin Grosvenor, Stephen Isserlis and Dame Eva Turner.

The club founded the prestigious Essex Young Musician of the Year competition in 1984, and in 1986 it formed a jazz section, which now runs independently. It is one of the most respected jazz clubs in the country, having presented many of the great names from the world of jazz, such as Kenny Ball, Acker Bilk, Maxine Daniels, Digby Fairweather, Cy Laurie, Humphrey Lyttleton and Ronnie Scott.

The book has a foreword written specially by the club’s esteemed president John Lill CBE.

By their very nature, organs have the power to excite, but the only real demands of playing this exciting chord are making sure the organ is still turned on, pulling out some stops, waiting for the previous section to finish, getting a nod from the conductor, and playing the chord. Contrary to what might be thought, there's absolutely no necessity to count the hundreds of preceding bars in which you don't play! This wonderful moment is actually marked to be played just forte (loud) – not very loud, not as loud as possible, and certainly not full organ. Playing at the indicated volume produces the required dramatic contrast with the extended and extremely quiet section that precedes it. However, some conductors and promoters routinely attempt to insist on this being played as loudly as possible. To do so is totally unnecessary; it's not what the composer asked for and shows the organist's hand ahead of the tumultuous ending of the work, complete with trumpets and timpani, therefore allowing no further excitement to be summoned from the organ.

Many of the available recordings are balanced to perpetuate the impression of the organ as a solo instrument, while others, notably Simon Preston with the Berlin Philharmonic, keep the instrument as an appropriate feature of the symphonic texture.

To think of this symphony broadly in respect of just one chord and the ensuing rumbustious section of this great piece, would be to do it a great disservice. For many, the second, slow section of the first movement is the jewel in the work's symphonic crown (the work is actually in two movements, each with two sub-movements). This slow 'movement' opens with the first and very quiet entry of the organ, providing a bedrock for the exquisite theme played by the violins. The organ plays just a textural and accompanying role throughout.

The second movement opens with a scherzo-like section, and this provides some fireworks for the orchestral concertante pianist. This part can be significantly more demanding than that for the organ, especially when the conductor decides to go rogue in the middle of the virtuosic scale passages! A particular pleasure afforded to the pianist is the camaraderie of a second pianist who joins him at the start of the finale to play a little tinkling piano duet – a most beautiful moment reminiscent of  The Aquarium movement from Saint–Saëns' The Carnival of the Animals. The second pianist's presence also affords some welcome company during the frequently slow progress of first-movement rehearsals, which can offer particular orchestral challenges, especially if an inappropriate tempo is set.

There are symphonic and choral works which have significantly more visible and challenging organ parts – you only have to look at the near virtuosic demands of the organ writing in parts of the first movement of Mahler's 8th Symphony, for example. However, this is not in any way to detract from the beauty and emotional power of this symphony, which displays all the wonderfully crafted features which would be expected from Saint-Saëns. Beyond 'the chord', the work's popularity and immediate appeal are a testament to the composer's innate craftsmanship.

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