When Adolph Sax introduced his new instrument to the musical world back in the late 1850s, he could not have anticipated the hostility from the established musical fraternity this would bring. Of course he was a couple of hundred years too late. The format of the symphony orchestra was well established, and orchestral players feared that this new invention would somehow have a negative effect on their job security. There was no way that Bach, Mozart or Beethoven could be tempted back from their graves to reorchestrate the classics, and only slowly did more modern composers begin to accept the possibilities offered by this new upstart instrument. Ravel, Debussy and Prokofiev were amongst those who found a role for the saxophone in their music.
Military bands found it useful, (as I write I just heard John Dankworth on radio 4 say that it was used for the oomp pah effect, with the emphasis on the pah rather than the oomp!), and it was only with the advent of the new American music, jazz, that the saxophone found it’s real voice.
Maybe because of this, saxophonists have often chosen safety in cohorting with one another, giving rise to the ever growing phenomena of saxophone groups of all sizes from quartets up to “choirs” of 200 or so players, as recently gathered on the Clifton Suspension Bridge (to play, happy birthday dear Isambard Kingdom, happy birthday to you).
Way back in 1994, many of the pupils who came to me for saxophone lessons, were what I often refer to as
late beginners. Keen, enthusiastic adults who needed no encouragement to practice, out to make up for a misspent musical youth, and who had little or no experience of making music collectively. So it was that a group of about 6 of us with ages ranging from 13 to 70, gathered in the basement of Clevedon Music Shop one Saturday morning to play through some simple saxophone quartet arrangements. So Cadbury Saxschool came about (named after the road I live in, and to reflect the fact that whatever I do, I am always a bit of a pedant). Some years, and many musicians later,as the nature of the band changed, and more and more players joined, we bacame The Cadbury Saxophone Band. At the moment, when all are present the band numbers some 28 players and the only entry qualification is that you know which end of the instrument to blow in.
The saxophone has probably now gained more popularity and respectability than at any time in its brief history. Whether or not these are justified in the hands of the Cadbury Saxophone Band, we will have to leave to you, the audience, to decide.
And please no saxophone jokes like…What’s the difference between a saxophone and a trampoline? …… You take your boots off to jump on a trampoline!