An Autumn full of highlights - perhaps none more ablaze than TROMP PERCUSSION, EINDHOVEN.

This was quite an autumn!! Each event so memorable, and with such a diverse set of colleagues and repertoire to cherish, a brief run-down felt in order... My debut with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra was absolutely the "complete" touring experience. Intense musical adventures, coupled with a fabulously rich social side(including just the right amount of tomfoolery!), in overwhelmingly beautiful surroundings. At the helm of these four weeks was my father Iain who joined me on the tour, and we made our way merrily around a country that neither of us would ever have supposed to visit together, least of all in this set of circumstances. There we are below, on the Doubtful Sound!! Of equal importance though was my dear new friend Alexander Shelley, a true gentleman and scholar, and a brilliant new collaborator. His mock-pique at being greeted by a giant poster OF ME as we descended the escalator to collect our bags following our long-haul flights set the tone for truly awesome times, awash with banter and conviviality. Melissa, Leah, Gary and the whole team in the office knew no limit in their kindness and the percussion boys Lenny,  Larry and the whole gang were just a perfect 10. This tour was just SO much fun - and I may just about have played the best MacMillan of my career in the (superb) Auckland Town Hall, as well as one of the most important when we performed a free-event to the packed hall in Christchurch to honour the citizens of the newly earth-shaken city.


This autumn also saw the welcome reprise of a recent premiere in Kurt Schwertsik's mercurial "Now you hear me, now you don't" which was toured by Sinfonia Viva and given its co-commissioning premiere by the classy Norrlands Opera. I'm delighted by how this work has taken hold and always enjoy its challenges and charms. I also had the chance to tour Harrison Birtwistle's "The Axe Manual" in Scotland. This was delicious - what a buzz to perform this work. Twenty-two minutes with not a weak moment; coruscating rhythmic devices, lucid poetry, and a very very violent ending! May I also offer  a big old "chapeau" to Simon Smith who tore up the fiendish piano part with abandon and accuracy both.

The Higdon rolls on and on and it was a blast to work with JoAnn Falletta once again and especially with her really rather splendid Virginia Symphony. I look forward to more of that soon with the Oregon Symphony and we even have tickets for Celtics/Blazers! Shaq - I paid good money to go see you in Phoenix and you bailed so you bettah show up this time - or you will no longer be my one "Favourite" on Twitter!!

For all this, what truly sticks in my mind are thirty young percussionists from across the world who all traveled to Eindhoven for the TROMP Percussion Festival and competition. There I sat on the jury(with splendid new friends Nancy, Momoko, Terry, Arnold, Andrei and Emmanuel!) utterly AGOG as candidate after candidate would roll on and literally shock us with their artistry, emotion and aplomb. Each player had something to offer, and it was a humbling thing to give the world premiere of the test-piece, Michael Torke's gorgeous "Mojave" to such an assembly. What a superb result, that the art of percussion is being upheld by these bright young players!! I was very moved and highly encouraged. Let me pay tribute briefly to the three finalists; Vassilena, you are fearless and brilliant and utterly embrace performing...Mike, you are a poet and the thinking musician's percussionist - a maverick with grace and subtlety...Alexej, your musicianship fills a room no matter its size and your results have only come through your astonishing commitment and hard work. Congratulations to you all - this was an astounding collective victory for percussion!!

Happy December times and best wishes for the new year,