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Alan Stringer R.I.P

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martin mc hale
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Joined: 16 Sep 2002
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Location: welsh national opera

PostPosted: Sat Sep 08, 2012 2:52 pm    Post subject: Alan Stringer R.I.P Reply with quote

Sadly, I have heard that Alan Stringer, who for may years was the principal trumpet of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra has died in France today. To all who knew him , Alan was both a wonderful player and a true gentleman.
An example of his artistry can be heard here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhkcUnpA4B4
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 09, 2012 2:36 am    Post subject: Love you Grandad R.I.P Reply with quote

Yesterday was a sad day for all of our family. Alan Stringer MBE was not only one of the greatest trumpet players of his generation but a phenomenal Grandad to me and my brother. He will be greatly missed! I find it heart warming and a great sentiment to his memory to find forums such as this dedicated to him.

Thank you all of your support and thoughts at this time.

R.I.P Grandad. Love your Grand Children.

Gregan and Gareth xxx
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 09, 2012 3:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What a stunning recording! Thanks Martin. I never had the honour to meet Alan, but he was often spoke of as an inspiration to many of my teachers, namely Ian Balmain, who was previously with Alan in the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. Best wishes to all the Stringer family too, his music lives on.
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 2:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some legends are quieter than others, some times merely covered by the modesty of the legend itself. Then again, a legend can become common place if it settles on your door step for long enough and you know no different? Then again, some legends happened when legends were only recognised in their own closed profession/fraternity, and this well before today’s cleb madness. All of these probably apply to what was probably one of the greatest orchestral trumpet players in the UK, Alan Stringer MB(f)E.

I suddenly realised last year I’d not seen Alan Stringer since he had retired from the RLPO and moved away to Cornwall then France nearly 15 years ago. I then realised Alan would be 80 this December. I have two very close friends from Liverpool who were also taught by Alan while we were all at FE College together doing A levels receiving lessons all at the same period; Gareth Bimson Co principal trumpet BBCSO & Morris Fogg who runs brass at Sefton Music Service. I twisted their arms (not a lot) to accompany me on a trip to see Alan in Nerac for four days to meet our old mentor and chew the fat from times past. They agreed, and we took off from Luton on March 14th Alan’s three scouse trumpeters! Suddenly (as one becomes older) we had a great desire to know much more about our teacher and what it was like in the early years and how the legend came about.

I first saw Alan Stringer when I was 12, I’d just got off a big green bus with the afternoon off school and was being herded along with 500 other school kids from around Liverpool for a Schools “yawn” Concert, “Better than double science” I thought. I’d already been playing the trumpet for two years, and just a year later I’d gone to around 5 of these “yawn” concerts, and do you know what? The same guys were there playing the trumpet on all occasions, “I bet this playing the trumpet lark’s an easy number, sat there just waiting for us to turn up, toot-toot, that’ll be £5 ta very much now I’ll go and watch the tele until tonight’s concert, and that’ll be another £5 ta very much; I’ll have a bit of that!” me thought! And so it came to be (10 years later), but I insisted on a little more than £5.

Soon the “yawn” element went out of these concerts, those guys could really play I began to realise, and what tonguing (YPG). Soon they were familiar to me, there’s the one at the end with silver hair, the tall one in the middle with light red hair, and the one at the other end, small with dark red hair and a thick mustachio! Then at 14 I thought I knew a fair bit about the trumpet by then, I could play a selection from “Fiddler on the Roof” (you wont find that in the Roger Voisin books) and (in Liverpool Senior Schools Orchestra) The Water Music by Handel arr: by David Stone (in four sharps no less) this one kept on giving me head aches as there were about 11’teen top B’s in it, “Why couldn’t strings play in Bb?” At one schools (“yawn”) concert “Charlie Groves” offered the baton out to the sleeping juvenile throng, my hand was up and I was walking before “Charlie” had the chance to look else where. What an experience, I had to be carried off after the 7th encore and the baton surgically removed at the Royal Hospital. “Charlie” said I could keep the baton anyway! Through 14 to 15 I then went to private lessons with Bill Flood (read on later), and then at 15 I won a scholarship to study with the short one with red hair and a big mustachio, Robert Nicholas sub principal trumpet of the RLPO. Arriving at 6th form college or what was really FE college I took A level music, it was there that the head of department (P.B.Cooper) said to me one day, “Of course you will have to have lessons with Alan Stringer now” that was the one at the other end with silver hair, wasn’t it? I was taken over by glee and abject fear at the same time; I remember thinking, “I hope he doesn’t remember I was the one who took the trumpet bit in YPG twice as fast as it should go? Gulp!” After my first lesson with Alan, I felt like I’d met a God, been touched, the next time I felt like this was when I joined him in the RLPO as his 2nd trumpet some two & a half years later!

Alan Stringer was born in Ancoats hospital Manchester December 8th 1928, and lived in Moston, 3 Kew Gardens. Alan was introduced to the cornet via his father & mother who both attended Oldham Rd Brotherhood Chapel. Mother sang solo’s and Alan’s Sister Dorothy played piano and Alan’s father took care of the Chapel band’s finances. Alan’s father asked the band director, a Mr. Dooley if he would give the young Alan ( lessons. Of course what with father being connected to the band, father wanted Alan to do well and not let the side down, so he pushed the young Alan somewhat. Starting at the bottom of the section (as we all did) Alan gradually moved up enjoying band life and concerts in parks and other churches and marches, he especially enjoyed the marches with massed bands because of the great noise!

After a few years, at 11 (even then his progress was alarming quick) he became solo cornet of the Chapel band and also joined another band that Mr. Dooley conducted, Victoria Hall Chapel band, also on solo cornet, and then also moving onto another band Mr. Dooley conducted (plenty of jobs in those days for conductors eh?) in Salford called the Windsor Institute Band. So, three bands a week with Dad behind on the, “do the practise” front, it just had to happen! And at 11 years he had progressed enough to be asked to play with the Southport Police band and had to wear a uniform twice his size! Another early playing memory stuck with Alan whilst lucky enough to go on tour with a band at this tender age in Cologne, is that of seeing the first Nazi rallies in early 1939.

Also at 11/12 he moved school from Lilly Lane school to the famous William Hume Grammar school in Whalley Range (funnily enough, opposite the RNCM Halls of residence when I attended), there he met a friend that he would eventually join up with at the Liverpool Phil, Tom Wriggley. Tom was a rival, as in, trumpet player, they played in the school orchestra together, and even then Alan remembers having, how shall we say, “other extraneous noise” competitions with Tom in rehearsal! By the time they met up again at the Liverpool Phil in 1953 Tom was the bass trombone player!

A few years later Alan’s father seized a chance at getting Alan both a prospective job and a place in a good band. At 13 Alan joined the Vicars Armstrong Band and gained an apprenticeship there, but the factory soon folded, and it was back to school!

Cornet life was grand, always out and playing or practising and dad getting him ready to off, and then (as Rob Wilton would say) “I remember the day war broke out” and on the 2nd day war broke out Alan was evacuated to Abergele in North Wales, senza cornet might I add! Alan hated the school there in Wales, and there was more or less a fight a day, he remembers one fight with a big wide lad (as he put it), who fancied the same redhead as he did, Alan said, “I gave out more than I got” On retuning to Manchester lessons resumed with Mr. Dooley, but after a short while Mr. Dooley reckoned it was time to move Alan on and gave him an address of a Mr. White in Collyhurst, in Alan’s own words, “He was fantastic”

There were many occasions where Alan gave solo concerts with his sister Dorothy accompanying him, they played at lunch times in Woodford aerodrome, and they were both shown the new Lancaster bombers after they had played, they also played at Masonic parties as Alan’s father was a mason, this early solo exposure gave Alan a sound grounding in solo performance. And it’s very true to say from this point, that Alan had no real playing problems at all, he stuck it on, and it all came out, simple really, regardless of instrument or mouthpiece!! Then came Besses Boys band.

Contest time with Besses with a chap on stick called Dennis Wright, and not the Dennis Wright, needless to say; but, Alan wasn’t in the Boys band for long, he went right to the main band right on to solo cornet at 16. Alan’s hero player at the time was the one and only Willy Lang then at Black Dyke, but Alan only got to hear Willy whilst at the same contests! Of course the war had just finished (1946), life and times v rations were still tough, so it seemed to be a good idea to join the RAF (at 1 where most things in life were supplied, bands and musicians were needed a plenty, and you were paid, so Alan headed south to Uxbridge where very soon he was to meet his wife (and still happily married to) who played trombone in the women’s band, Alice!

Alice was in the woman’s RAF band playing trombone (she freely admits to learning this instrument in a few weeks before the audition as she was really a piano player), a close friend of hers was joining the RAF and with a similar point of view to that of Alan’s on life and at the time of joining the prospects were good. Her friend, an instrumentalist pointed out that the piano, “wasn’t much use” in the RAF band, so she would shave to learn something else quickly; “Why I chose the trombone I’ll never know” Alice admitted to me; a similar question that goes through many trombone players heads every day I agreed! They courted through the RAF years and on leaving the RAF married in 1952 and took up residence in Ickenham.

RAF life suited Alan, lots of playing and every thing else organised for you, just listen to the instructions and do, easy! Later we shall get to Alan’s powers of organisation which are well know amongst his peers and other pro’s & Alice (chief Alan organiser) of his time, and myself of course!

There were hundreds of concerts across Alan’s 6 years in the RAF, but they gave regular Albert Hall concerts which were well attended and often recorded by the BBC for broadcast. It was on one of these concerts that the fixer from the Royal Opera happened to be there and heard Alan’s stand up solo of “Trumpet Voluntary”. Morris Smith was impressed and asked Alan to do some extra work with the ROH; and then, Alan met Harry, as in Harry Dilly!

Living in Ickenham the freelance ball started to roll, Alan was initially in the RAF for 5 years, but stayed for a 6th leaving at 24. There was much work at the Garden for Alan, both on stage and in the pit and also from this work did a 6 month tour with D’oyly Carte. One day, Alan bumped into an old friend from the RAF, a flautist named Johnnie Leach who had come back to the smoke to see some mates as he had been away as he had taken a post with the Liverpool Philharmonic (destiny calling?). After the usual banter plus a pint or two Johnnie proffers, “Alan, there’s a full time job up there right now with the Liverpool Phil, 1st trumpet, why not have a crack at it?” And the answer from Alan was obvious, “sounds good, I’d love to have a go!” Alan did an audition for the conductor, Hugh Rignold, in talking with Alan on his audition he seems to have got the job on pure playing ability as no repertoire was given, or sight reading, he was given the job before he left the room in fact, and in two weeks (little known to him) he would be playing Brandenburg 2 for the first time at Liverpool’s City Stadium and he didn’t have a picc, nor had ever played one!

The present principal of the RLPO had taken the 3rd chair, Handel Hone, and a Mr. Underwood on 2nd, and Fred Devon on 1st trombone. Handel Hone was very much of the old school of playing (inc. long model trumpet) and had been there since the late 1920’s and now near to 65. The orchestra rep was moving forwards (as in more modern and tackling the tougher Strauss works and in some cases for the first time) as was in all orchestras in the mid 1950’s, and this was 1953 when Alan came to the RLPO at 24 years old; there’s no doubt it was a difficult appointment for Handel! Handel was asked to move down and take a lower chair to the new whipper-snapper on principal at only 24 years old! I was to meet Handel as a teacher looking after the brass section at the Liverpool’s Schools Senior Orchestra in 1970, we will see if there is time later for me to log this meeting and my impressions.

It was 1953, and the orchestral trumpet world standard-wise was about to be turned on its head & from Liverpool, not from London! My next observations are crafted via stories handed down to me from other trumpet players & teachers in and around Liverpool, plus one or two of my own theories! My first real one2one private teacher was one Bill Flood whose house/back yard backed on to The Kop in Anfield (where I was born, in Anfield, not Bill Flood’s back yard). My lessons were on Saturday afternoons, and if Liverpool scored you couldn’t hear yourself play! Bill was the original trumpet geek, an enthusiast beyond belief way ahead of the geeks today, he didn’t drink or smoke, he had five copies of the Arban all in different languages, he had libraries of music and records form all over the World, got “The Brass Bulletin” from Switzerland, had different mouthpieces (golly-gosh), owned records from Mendez, to Al Hert, Timofey Dokshutzer (who I first heard at 14), Knudt Hodvalt, Harry James, Armando Gitahla, Conrad Gozzo, you name it. Bill was a part time pro/free lance and teacher, his life was the trumpet, and before Alan came to the Philharmonic Bill had been a more or less a regular extra through Handel. So, here’s the picture:

Alan arrives; the rumours go, a little like this. One freelancer to another: “how’s the new boy getting on, has he split some gudun’s” (apparently in the 1950’s splits were all the rage and difficult to avoid, especially if you played a long model field trumpet in Eb), the reply came: “Erm, no, he’s been there three weeks now, and split nothing” “not one?” came the reply of the questioner, “none” A few more weeks went by, and the banter was both the same in the Philharmonic dressing rooms: “How long has he been here now?” “Three months” “Has split owt yet?” “No, bloody nowt” Apparently this went on for nearly nine months before he split one (and that was in rehearsal), and then Handel bought him a drink!

I’m about to make some sweeping suppositions here, but, English Symphony Orchestras were about to change then, we know on averages that a lot of new works between 1930’s & the 1950’s mainly went to London orchestras (like BBCSO & Walton), but even though many of the great standards we now know from the Strauss rep to Stravinsky were yet to infiltrate regular (and I mean regular) standard rep in the 1950’s, and first recordings of Mahler had large gaps in from 1936 to 1947 with only Bruno Walter being able to champion at the stick. Many of these works were about to hit Alan head on without any prior knowledge (including transpositions of), but here was there difference, there was always the soloists in Alan and he took on these new Strauss & Mahler epics on like a new concerto. E.G Just a few weeks in the job, he had to do Brandenburg 2 and had to journey to Holland to buy a Mahillon picc. And soon enough, 17/11/54 he does the Leopold Mozart with Fritz Spiegl. 19/8/59 Shostakovich piano trumpet and strings with John Ogden, not to mention, the performances of Strauss & Mahler & Stravinsky that happened with Alan in the seat, these works were also a first for the RLPO, these choices of rep was because Alan was in the 1st tpt seat, “cos let’s face it trumpet players out there”, if you aint got a red hot principal trumpet (which was not that common place in the 1940’s/50’s in regional orchestras) these works of Mahler & Strauss, Stravinsky were not going to happen!

The early years had some fluctuation in the brass section, Eric Heap was soon to arrive as Alan’s new 2nd, much of the trombone section would change apart from Tom Wriggly, and Ivor James was soon to arrive on principal horn. Hugh Rignold (conductor) would give way to Sir John Pritchard, and then soon would start a long relationship with Sir Charles Groves. As we move to the 1960’s which I will cover in part two of this article on Alan Stringer, we will cover his short period at the LSO, how the legendary recording of the Haydn on Argo came about, the long stability of the RLPO brass section under Alan, his friends and professional colleagues recollect on Alan’s time there, my impressions of the man as my teacher for four years, some extraordinary stories etched in the brass annals of time, MB(f)E (where the “f” will be explained), the RLPO brass ensemble, Roy Castle, the Queen, Princess Anne, and his extraordinary mentality on workload as in one concert for example “Samson Handel, Vivaldi Double, Petrushka” and no bumper (mind you, three would look strange in the Vivaldi). And the Edmund Roxburgh commission, and retirement & life in France!
Phil Lawrence
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Brian Moore
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 3:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I had the privilege of meeting Alan for a pub lunch in Chagford in Devon a few years ago in my research on recordings of the Haydn Trumpet Concerto. It was his recording that I grew up with, and on discovering that he was living in Cornwall I contacted him to ask if he'd mind if I asked him a few questions about his recording. He was so modest - and he insisted on meeting halfway between where we lived to save on my travelling! He was utterly charming - and whilst he obviously was rather quite proud of what he had done, was at the same time totally self-effacing. A great player, and a very sad loss to the trumpeting world.
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