Interview: CUWO 2013-14 Soloist – James Crockford


James Crockford will be performing Dahl’s Alto Saxophone Concerto with the Cambridge University Wind Orchestra on 22nd February 2014 as part of the annual Wind Orchestra Varsity Concert taking place in Oxford.

Tell us a bit about yourself….

I’m in my third year in Cambridge studying for an MPhil in Martin Luther’s theological-musical aesthetics, at the Faculty of Divinity, whilst also training for Anglican ordination. In a previous incarnation I read music at the University of Nottingham, majoring in saxophone performance and research in tango and jazz fusions.
In the past few years I’ve played saxophone with the CUMS Symphony and Chamber Orchestras, Cambridge University Jazz Orchestra, and with various other college jazz outfits, as well as for solo and quartet recitals.
This year I was awarded the inaugural Trinity Hall Instrumental Award, which has enabled me to study with Simon Haram, Professor of Saxophone at the Royal Academy of Music.

Why did you decide to apply to audition for the CUMS Concerto Competition?

I’ve grown accustomed to performing in a variety of contexts – solo recitals, chamber settings, orchestral work, jazz clubs and theatre gigs – but never as a soloist with an orchestra, since it’s such a rare opportunity. I wanted to get the experience of working in that very different dynamic as a performer. In addition, so many of the best works for solo saxophone are concertos, and I thought I’d love the chance to give one an outing with an orchestra – in particular because saxophone concertos are so rarely performed.

How did you find the experience of taking part in the competition process?

A little daunting, since you know just how much talent there is around CUMS, and you’ve got to be on top of your playing; but in another sense, very encouraging, since the applicants are all routing for each other.

How have you found the opportunity to perform this concerto and work with the Wind Orchestra? 

It’s been a brilliant learning curve, as it is so different working with an orchestra and a conductor. Quintin Beer, who’s conducting the orchestra for this term, has been excellently attentive at engaging both soloist and orchestra, and keeping me involved with shaping the orchestra’s approach, whilst also maintaining the freedom and leadership of the soloist. That’s the sort of dynamic I’ve not had to work at before, and it’s very fulfilling. We’re still in the midst of rehearsals at the moment, and it’s great to see the opportunity come to fruition.

Wednesday 19 Feb, 2014


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Cambridge University Musical Society
West Road Concert Hall
11 West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DP
Principal Guest Conductor
Sir Roger Norrington CBE
CUMS Conductor Laureate
Stephen Cleobury CBE
Director, Cambridge University Chamber Choir
Martin Ennis
Artistic Advisor
Sian Edwards
Associate Directors, Cambridge University Chamber Choir
David Lowe, Nicholas Mulroy