Dark Peak Music Foundation

…. a bright musical future

Welcome to our Blog.


Here we will put up stories and  news that we think may be of interest to our members, partners and supporters.

Carnival of the Animals



by Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921)

Written in 1886

Following our theme of nature, in this week’s choice we have a humorous look at the animal kingdom with “The Carnival of the Animals” by Camille Saint-Saens.

The piece, which has 14 short movements, is great fun for all ages. Saint-Saens admitted enjoying composing it so much that he put the “serious” work of writing his 3rd Symphony to one side until it was finished. However he was so worried that such a light-hearted piece would ruin his reputation as a composer that he instructed that apart from “The Swan” it should only be published after his death. Consequently it only had a few private house-performances for his close friends. It was an instant success when it was finally published in1922, and now it is one of his best loved works.

I have included two very different recordings this time. The first has comic verses by Frances Button recited between each movement in a live concert given by members of the New York Philharmonic. The piece is written for an unusual combination of instruments – 2 pianos, string quartet, double bass, flute/piccolo, clarinet and xylophone (and glass harmonica usually played on glockenspiel these days).

The other recording played with a larger orchestra has the added interest of paintings, drawings and visual animations made by Manchester based pianist Tom Scott (who also produced the animations for the Nutcracker Suite Rachel Whibley shows in her Snowman Tour each Christmas).

I enjoyed both versions so much I thought I’d like to share them with you too.

Each creature is depicted in a separate movement, many of them in a humorous way with jokes on many levels. In the closing Carnival Parade we have our final glimpse of a few as they pass by at great speed. see how many you can spot (Clue: The Donkey has the last laugh!)

I “Introduction et marche royale du lion” (Introduction and Royal March of the Lion)
II “Poules et coqs” (Hens and Roosters)
III “Hémiones (animaux véloces)” (Wild Donkeys Swift Animals)
IV “Tortues” (Tortoises)
V “L’Éléphant” (The Elephant)
VI “Kangourous” (Kangaroos)
VII “Aquarium”
VIII “Personnages à longues oreilles” (Characters with Long Ears)
IX “Le Coucou au fond des bois” (The Cuckoo in the Depths of the Woods)
X “Volière” (Aviary)
XI “Pianistes” (Pianists)
XII “Fossiles” (Fossils)
XIII “Le cygne” (The Swan)
XIV Final (Finale)

Signposts for Exploration

Listen out for the funny ways that Saint-Saens portrays his animals. I’m sure you will instantly recognise the roaring of the lions, the braying donkeys, the clucking of chickens and the cock-a-doodle-doo of the rooster.

Some of the jokes are more subtle, for instance in Fossils Saint-Saens quotes his own composition “Danse Macabre” using the xylophone to imitate the sound of the dancing skeletons. He also includes some “musical fossils”. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (attributed to Mozart) and some very old French folksongs, “Au Clair de la Lune” and “J’ai un bon Tabac”. He even quotes from Rossinni’s Barber of Seville, written 70 years earlier.

In “Personages with long ears” as well as giving a very life-like impersonation of a donkey, he has a dig at the critics – Saint-Saens writing this pieces following a disastrous concert tour.

The double bass is the obvious choice of instrument for portraying the Elephant, but by borrowing themes from other composers’ pieces (Mendelssohn and Berlioz) depicting fairies he conjures up a ridiculous image of an elephant in a tutu!

The clever sequencing of movements to achieve maximum contrast, such as the incredible speed of the Hémiones (thought to be a type of wild Tibetan donkey) followed by the ridiculous image of tortoises doing the Can-Can.

Similarly the almost hypnotic effect of the cuckoo in the depths of the wood, where the clarinet plays its simple two note song off-stage, contrasts with the fluttering sound of the aviary featuring the flute playing continuous demi-semi-quavers. Perhaps Saint-Saens was having a joke with these two players who sat next to each other.

But probably the funniest movement of all is “Les Pianists”. The sheer cheek of including them as part of the animal kingdom and instructing them to play their scales and exercises in public as if they were beginners (out of time and with fistfuls of wrong notes) is ridiculous enough, but on another level we have an image of the strange species caged for years of its life, practising to reach the perfection we normally hear in the concert hall.

There are also moments of incredible beauty, especially in the Aquarium which achieves a shimmering sonority using the glass harmonica. And last of all the incredibly beautiful Swan featuring the cello in the most elegant gliding melody, accompanied by the pianos producing a wonderful rippling effect.


The Dying Swan

The Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova sprang to international fame in 1905 with her ground-breaking portrayal of the Dying Swan, using Saint-Saens music to produce such delicate and realistic movements that they influenced every generation of dancers who have followed since. Interestingly she actually kept swans in her garden to study the way they behaved and imitate them in her ballet.

Here is some rare historic footage of this incredible ballerina doing her signature dance. It is followed by an amazing interpretation by the American dancer Lil Buck, obviously influenced by Pavlova, but bringing in modern dance moves (including Michael Jackson’s moonwalking).

There is also an interesting link with Daphnis and Chloe (my choice from a few weeks back) as Anna Pavlova was the prima ballerina for the company “Ballet Russe” which produced the ballet in 1911.

My Animal’s Weirder than Your Animal

Why don’t you try drawing or painting a picture of your favourite animal – it can be real or imagined. You could also write a poem or even make a short composition about a creature. We would love to see your work so you could send it to admin@darkpeakmsuic.co.uk (and the weirdest ones will go into the bulletin!)


Follow the score

As in other weeks we have included a link to the score for more advanced students. This recording has the score and music running simultaneously.



Play Some of the Carnival Yourself!

We know that some of you have already been learning some movements from this piece, including The Swan and The Elephant. If you would like to make a recording of your performance we can include it in the Virtual Concert Hall, or you could submit if for the Dark Peak Young Musicians of the Year competition at the end of the year.


Summer from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons


Vivaldi’s Four Seasons: “Summer”


This week we continue with our exploration of Vivaldi’s Seasons, taking a closer look at “Summer”, the most dramatic of the four.

I have chosen this incredible live performance with Janine Jansen and the Amsterdam Sinfonietta, directed from the violin. I love the way the musicians communicate such a huge spectrum of emotions, from stillness to the almost brutal wildness of the storm.

You can find each movement at the following timings. (NB Spring comes at the beginning at 0’00” of this recording)

Movement 1 10’00”
Movement 2 15’40”
Movement 3 17’53”

As with Spring, the music vividly depicts the words of the sonnet, translated here into English.
You might like to follow the score which has the words in Italian:

Allegro non molto
Under a hard season, fired up by the sun
Languishes man, languishes the flock and burns the pine
We hear the cuckoo’s voice;
then sweet songs of the turtledove and finch are heard.
Soft breezes stir the air but threatening
the North Wind sweeps them suddenly aside.
The shepherd trembles,

fearing violent storms and his fate.

A series of extremely short phrases (often just two or three notes) create a restless uneasy mood, conveying the idea of the unbearable heat. As the energetic fast section begins the unmistakable cuckoo call is woven into the solo violin melody, and later many individually characterised bird calls, the rather mournful turtle dove (la Tortorella) with a call quite similar to our native woodpigeon and the high pitched trilling of the Goldfinch.

Adagio e piano – Presto e forte
The fear of lightning and fierce thunder
Robs his tired limbs of rest
As gnats and flies buzz furiously around.

Here the sustained solo violin melody depicts the exhausted peasant farmers as they gaze anxiously at the sky as a storm threatens. This is interspersed with faster sections representing the rumbles of thunder and leads straight into the final movement.

Alas, his fears were justified
The Heavens thunder and roar and with hail
Cut the head off the wheat and damages the grain.

The full fury of the storm is represented by cascades of extremely fast descending scales from all quarters of the orchestra. As the peasants feared, the harvest is ruined and the piece comes to a breathless finish. I remember witnessing such a storm on holiday in Italy when there hadn’t been a drop of rain for several months.

What is a Concerto?

A concerto is a piece for solo instrument (or group of instruments) with orchestral accompaniment. It is normally in three movements (fast, slow, fast). In this concerto you can hear the solo sections, often where the accompaniment is very light, allowing the soloist freedom to play with utmost delicacy, contrasted with the powerful sound of the full ensemble – in this case a string orchestra with harpsichord.

You might like to listen to, and for more advanced players maybe learn a movement of a concerto for your own instrument.

Who was Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)

You might like to find out more about Vivaldi, one of the most influential composers of the Baroque period and also an ordained priest. Although he spent much of his life in his native town of Venice, he travelled throughout Europe, hob-knobbing with nobility and royalty, and was extremely famous both as a composer and a virtuoso violinist of almost rock-star status.

He was an extraordinary teacher and many of his compositions were actually written for his pupils at the Ospedale della Pietà, a home for orphans and abandoned children in Venice. There is actually a window in the Ospedale which is just big enough to put a child through, and this is how many of the children were delivered in secret to the orphanage. There the boys learnt a trade and the girls studied music, and the most talented were allowed to stay on as adults as members of the prestigious “Ospedale” Orchestra and Choir which became famous throughout Europe. Many of the children were deformed and played behind screens so that they could not be seen by the audience – an attitude which would be completely unacceptable in our day.

Vivaldi’s Venice

The Concert Band in Venice in 2018

You may want to find out more about this extraordinary place, especially if you visited it on the 2018 Dark Peak concert tour. There are many interactive guides but I can thoroughly recommend the BBC documentary “Francesco’s Venice” told through the eyes of Francesco da Mosto, a descendant of one of the oldest Venetian families. The series is available on Youtube (NB. it is a 15 certificate).

You might like to trace the origins of some words which have come down to us from Venetian history. For example, did you know where the word “quarantine” comes from? The word originates from quarantena, the Venetian language form, meaning “forty days”. Venice was on the spice route from East to West and this was the isolation period ships and traders practised as a measure of disease prevention related to the plague.

The word Arsenal (not the football team) comes from the Arsenale which was the Venetian warship building yards. This was the first production line …. They could produce a ship every day, fully kitted with its weaponry where most nations could only build a few each year. This was one of the main factors in Venice becoming the heart of a mighty empire.

The Violin-Makers of Cremona, Northern Italy

You may have heard of the incredibly valuable stringed instruments made by Amati, Guarneri and the most famous of them all, Stradivarius, who was working around the time of Vivaldi. When one of these most perfectly crafted instruments comes up for auction it can fetch several million pounds, however many are now kept in museums and private collections where the design is studied and copied and sometime loaned to eminent soloists. Janine Jansen, the soloist in our recording, currently players on a Stradivarius violin made in 1727 which is about 10 years after the Four Seasons was composed.

To find out more about Strdadivarius violins , here is is an interesting article:

History of Stradivarius Violins


Playing by Ear

Playing by Ear

….a natural talent, only achieved by the musically gifted?

What is playing by ear?

Playing by ear is the ability to identify and play notes and chords without having to see the printed music. It is a highly desired skill among musicians. Although many assume you need to be born with a natural talent to do it, in fact it’s a skill that you can learn with the right kind of practice.

For instance, the virtuoso musician like Mozart gained fame for his ability to write out in full the Monteverdi Vespers after a single listening. For the average musician that’s only a pipe dream.

Like perfect pitch, playing by ear is often talked about as if it’s some kind of innate gift which only some people possess (and it’s true that some people seem to develop this skill without really trying) but as with all aspects of music, hard work usually beats talent in the end.

How do you play music by ear?

There are two ways people can play music by ear. There’s perfect pitch and relative pitch. Some people are born with Perfect Pitch but everyone else can learn Relative Pitch.

People who can identify exact notes or a chord without any conscious effort have perfect pitch. They can identify notes like F sharp, B flat and C etc. Only a very small percentage of people have perfect pitch. It is something you are born with and cannot learn in later life.

Relative pitch can be learnt by spending lots of time training your ear to recognise the unique sound of scale degrees, the root, the second, the major third, the minor sixth and their unique sound within the context of the key. Although you might not necessarily know what that key might be.

Why should I play by Ear?

Learning music and tunes by ear is vital to developing your inner musical skills that help you do things like improvise, compose, improve your timing and play by ear. The list goes on and on.

Music is sound and the focus should be what you hear and not what you see. So, if you’re only reading the notes, you are distracting yourself from what should be a listening focus. The only reason we have notation is a way of preserving or recording the complex written music of great composers for posterity.

How can I learn to play by ear?

First of all, you need to know the theory and rules of music. Secondly, how they sound in action. You need a 50% balance of the two.

Studying the major and minor scales, their relationship between the 7 steps, the intervals of major and minor intervals within the scale and learning the chords and chord progressions that go along with these.

So, if you haven’t already embarked on some theory and aural classes with us, now is the time to start. You could join our theory classes by Hephizbah via theory@darkpeakmusic.co.uk

Where to begin?

Learning the tonic solfa/ solfege (doh, re mi etc) is key to playing by ear and can hugely improve your aural, harmony and theory skills. You can start at any age and level, and not just confined to youngsters. Why not try our Supertonics classes with Emma, email her on emma@darkpeakmusic.co.uk

If you want to develop playing by ear skills, nothing beats time spent with your iPhone, iPod or YouTube, wearing out the replay key while working out your favourite tunes. By listening, singing out loud many times you help internalise the tune and therefore one step nearer reproducing it on you instrument. Start simple, with a tune you know really well, maybe one you learnt to sing as a youngster, it might be a nursery rhyme, Lullaby by Brahms, Happy Birthday or God save the Queen. Begin with one note and build up one note at a time until you have it. Keep going back to the recording or sing the song to help your recall. You could join Carl Raven with his Big Band Project. Email him on bigband@darkpeakmusic.co.uk

Don’t be that musician who can’t play a tune by ear or when asked by friends. ‘How long have you been playing……and you can’t play Happy Birthday!’

Playing music by ear will increase your enjoyment of playing and is where all the fun begins. Remember everyone can do it, and with practice, patience and perseverance you will manage it. As my Dad used to quote “To become truly successful in anything you need 1% talent and 99% perspiration”.

How to submit your videos

We are keen to get your videos, whether it is for the Big Band, The “Pink Panther”, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” or the Broadband Busking Challenge.

Some people have found it a little difficult, so here are a few suggestions:

Whatever you choose, we should be able to receive  it.

If you are still having difficulties, email a.zuntz@darkpeakmusic.co.uk and we will see what we can come up with.

The Seasons


Vivaldi’s Four Seasons was one of the most frequently played records in my home when I was growing up. It is so deeply imprinted in my memory that although I had not actually heard it for many years I found I knew every note, and also that in choosing a recording for you this music triggered so many childhood memories.Last week the parents of one of my younger student’s told me “… we listened to Daphnis and Chloe (last week’s choice) while the girls were having lunch”. I hope some of you might have played it whilst doing your homework, or danced or painted to it, as well as actively “listening” and watching the orchestra, as one would in a concert. I believe that that letting truly great music infuse into us unconsciously through many hearings enriches us in a way that cannot be quantified.

The Four Seasons, Vivaldi’s best known work, written in 1717 is actually a set of four concerti for violin and orchestra. On this live recording with Janine Jansen and the Amsterdam Sinfonietta you can find each concerto at the following timings:
Spring 0.00
Summer 10.20
Autumn 21.00
Winter 32.00
The Four Seasons represented  a revolutionary idea in composition and one which later became known as “programme” music. Narrative, in this case sonnets (possibly written by Vivaldi himself) is vividly represented in the music, often imitating the sounds of nature. Each sonnet is divided into three stanzas, just as each concerto falls into three movements; fast – slow – fast..

Here is an English translation for the sonnet for “Spring”.

I. Allegro (fast)
Springtime is upon us.
The birds celebrate her return with festive song,
and murmuring streams are
softly caressed by the breezes.
Thunderstorms, those heralds of Spring, roar,
casting their dark mantle over heaven,
Then they die away to silence,
and the birds take up their charming songs once more.II. Largo (slow)
On the flower-strewn meadow, with leafy branches
rustling overhead, the goat-herd sleeps,
his faithful dog beside him.III. Allegro (fast)
Led by the festive sound of rustic bagpipes,
nymphs and shepherds lightly dance
beneath the brilliant canopy of spring

The musical representation is so graphic that Vivaldi actually writes the words of the sonnet on the score. For example in the largo movement the vocal solo violin represents the sleeping goatherd, the orchestral violins’ dotted figure are the leafy branches rustling and the viola plays the part of the faithful dog barking! Notice how the solo violin, following the baroque tradition of the time decorates the melody with extensive ornamentation when it appears for the second time.
SIGNPOSTS for ExplorationSome of you might like to follow the score. This edition actually has the words on it. You may need the translation above if your Italian is not up to scratch. See if you can follow the score and and see how Vivaldi represenst the words graphically in the instrumental parts.

Birdsong is very much a feature of this piece (and last weeks piece Daphnis and Chloe). Some of you might like to learn the calls of some of our native birds. Why not see how many you can recognie on walks and perhaps try to copy them with your voice or on your instruments (having some bird-seed for breakfast will help!) Here is a link to a website where you can hear some of the songs of common British birds.

Many of the best-known melodies tunes from these pieces have been transcribed for all instruments so you could find some of them and learn to play the main theme. By playing it you become part of the music and it becomes part of you. For example The slow movement of Winter and first movement of Spring are very suitable for all instruments.
For example, here is the Largo from Winter written in a key that would be suitable for most instruments:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/7weusqrlrcw7yd1/Largo%20from%20Winter.jpg?dl=0Next week I will be looking at “Summer” and we will be exploring Vivaldi’s home-town of Venice, which many of you visited on the Dark Peak 2018 Concert Tour.



Dark Peak Biggest Big Band

The big event of the week is the start of the exciting Biggest Big Band Project.

Would your child like to be involved in an exciting online project led by renowned local sax player, Carl Raven?

The project is open to all players in Dark Peak Music, any instrument, any standard, and it will unfold over the next few weeks as Carl takes us through a brilliant process he has designed which will culminate in the creation of a virtual Big Band: The Dark Peak Biggest Big Band.

Carl will be putting together a video of a piece of music performed by your child, bit-by-bit like a jigsaw, only your child will be creating the pieces under Carl’s video guidance.

We think this exciting project is a first, and we are sure it is going to be absorbing, fun and challenging for all involved.

If you would like your child to be involved, or want some more information please email bigband@darkpeakmusic.co.uk with his/her name, instrument and approximate level of ability.

We will then contact you with further information on how to participate, including the stringent safeguarding protocols we will have in place!

You can see the introductory video underneath this post  .

We do hope your child gets involved!

Dark Peak Music@Home

Message from the Principal Musical Director

Dark Peak Music@Home

Dear Players and Parents and Friends,

I hope you are keeping well in these difficult times.  Dark Peak Music is a positive and forward looking organisation and we are determined to do what we can to support people as they deal with the challenges that this epidemic is bringing. 

We don’t know when we will be able to play again in our bands, orchestras and ensembles. It may not be before September, although we can remain hopeful that things may resume sooner than that. We know that you will all be sad to not be able to meet friends and play together for some time. I for one am already missing the company of a slightly bonkers, but brilliant bunch of young people armed with musical instruments.

It is so important that you continue to enjoy developing your playing ready for when we are all back together in groups and there is lots we can do to keep each other engaged. I wanted to let you know that our amazing team of professional musicians have stepped right up to the challenge, developing some great ideas to keep us all enjoying playing. 

The first idea is to transform our Facebook page into a hive of musical activity which we are calling Dark Peak Music@Home. 

  • Through this we are going to host a range of activities including a Virtual Concert Hall featuring all our wonderful young musicians. Put those phones and iPads to good use recording your favourite tunes, share them on the Virtual Concert Hall and get all your friends and relatives to join our Facebook Page to make it a busy and exciting musical hub. 
  • We will also post weekly performances from our ensembles over the years, including some of the great performances of the Concert Band on its international tours. 
  • As well as performances we will be posting Musical Games and Activities for younger children from our Supertonics leader Emma, and silly songs and games for the whole family from our Chinley Junior Band leader Rosie.
  • Carl Raven will also be organising Online Sessions for Big Band Players – open to anyone who would like to get involved.
  • Theory lessons with Hephzibah will also continue by email and online. Hephzibah will contact you directly about how this will work.
  • I can feel a KAZOO orchestra coming on – it would probably hit the national news!

If you have any ideas to contribute, please email me. There is plenty more we can be doing. 

So our message to all our members and supporters is get involved and let’s make the Dark Peak Page a hub for students, parents, grandparents and friends.  A PRIZE FOR THE FIRST PERSON TO GET A VIDEO OF THEIR PERFORMANCE UP 😊

At a time like this we must remember that music is more than just a pastime or a trivial entertainment. As a musician you have the power to inspire, motivate and uplift other people.  If people around you are isolated or lonely and need cheering up, play them one of your favourite tunes to lift their spirits. Play it with your all your heart, and don’t worry if it isn’t perfect – it will be a real gift for them. In the words of the esteemed educator Paul Harris “Performing is an act of giving. If you play with commitment and generosity at any level, everyone is better for it.”       

Safeguarding point:  The Facebook Page is an open page but is carefully monitored by the Trustees. All posts should be uploaded on parents’ accounts and do not put up any surnames of performers, phone numbers, email addresses or any other personal data.  We will review the ‘open’ status regularly to ensure we are all kept safe.

We have a real chance to do something wonderful together now, so  let’s act together and make Dark Peak Music@Home a real success! 

With very best wishes. 

Jeff and all the Trustees and Ensemble Directors

All events cancelled

Message from the Trustees

Re: All events postponed until further notice

To all members, trustees and EDs. CC Jayne Briggs and Dan Timmins
Dear Parent,
I am writing to you about the Dark Peak Music Foundation’s classes, rehearsals and concerts.
We have considered advice from a number of quarters and particularly taken into account the government’s firm advice about the need to practice “social distancing” and limit all unnecessary social contact.
We have therefore just taken the decision to suspend all rehearsals, classes, concerts and other activities with immediate effect and until further notice. This includes all ensembles, theory classes, Supertonics and Concerts.
This is clearly a difficult thing for our members who get so much, socially and musically from their weekly trips to the music centres, but we are very clear that we must put health and our community obligations first.
We do want to keep the spirit of Dark Peak alive over the period of closure and so Jeff and I will be looking at developing online events and activities to keep us in contact with one another and engaged in the music and social life that Dark Peak brings. We don’t really know what it will entail and so would welcome any help or ideas.
The Poland Trip is under review and we will be considering the position as the situation becomes clearer in the next couple of months.
Please do carry on making music and give us your ideas for online activities.
Best wishes
Andy Zuntz
Dark Peak Music Foundation

Coronavirus Advice

Message from the Trustees

Re: Coronavirus epidemic

Dear Players, Parents and Dark Peak Tutors,

Coronavirus Advice

The government today has given further advice and guidance on the Covid-19 pandemic as the response moves from the ‘containment’ phase to ‘delay’, so I thought it appropriate to update our guidance note accordingly. 

NHS advice to be found on https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/  is now consistent with our earlier position: 

Stay at home for 7 days if you have either a high temperature or a new continuous cough.

So, clearly, we would not expect anyone with these symptoms to attend any of our events.

There is no guidance at present from government to cancel any kind of gatherings, so rehearsals and classes should continue as planned, until different  guidance comes out.

However, if any local schools should be closed due to infection, then I think we should cancel our activities given the wide catchment area we have

I would re-iterate the previous advice, although I am sure everyone is aware of it: 

  • Avoid unnecessary contact.
  • Wash hands regularly and at the start of each session.
  • Do not share instruments

Instrument specific advice:

  • Be careful when emptying water from brass instruments. 
  • Flute players be careful not to direct the air flow towards others.

In addition we will not be providing biscuits and drinks at rehearsals. Student should bring their own water bottles if necessary. 

Please remember that Coronavirus is a changing situation and we will of course monitor developments, and consider how we, as an organisation, should react.

We will continue to follow the DfE and NHS websites and news channels and provide further general advice where relevant and appropriate.

Any thoughts from parents or tutors are most welcomed.

Should anyone be concerned about a pupil with whom they work or play, they should immediately refer their concern to their school, or parent if an individual lesson.

With thanks and best wishes.

Andy Zuntz


Dark Peak Music Foundation


Strings Playday

Dark Peak Strings Playday