Facing the music
PUBLISHED: 09:00 26 August 2013
While Alan says he will carry on playing the piano for pleasure, he says his days of playing trombone are over.
For the past 35 years Alan, who lives near Falmouth in Cornwall, has taught trombone and euphonium to scores of specialist music students at Wells Cathedral School.
“There’s something very special about Wells. It has a lovely balance between academic life and music and there is a terrific sense of belonging. I’m going to miss it,” he says.
His 36-year career as a trombonist has seen him record and perform with Pink Floyd and the Beatles and play on countless film soundtracks including The Omen, Return of the Pink Panther, Out of Africa and Passage to India.
Growing up in a small village near Leicester, Alan started playing piano at the age of four. He took up trombone in his early teens having realised that, like his father, also a trombonist, he could earn more money playing in musicals around Leicester than he could doing a paper round.
At the age of 21 he joined the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra spending 10 years travelling the world. It was while he was with the Royal Philharmonic that he played with the Beatles.
“It was in the late 1960s and the Beatles were beginning their break up,” he says.
“I remember we recorded Hey Jude for a TV spectacular very late at night, I guess to avoid the fans. We were a full orchestra dressed in white tuxedos.”
Alan enjoyed the experience of recording The Wall with Pink Floyd.
“They were excellent musicians and knew exactly what they wanted, using pioneering recording techniques to achieve a unique sound,” he says.
He has recorded so many film soundtracks that he has lost count though his favourites include The Return of the Pink Panther and Out of Africa.
But the travelling with the Royal Philharmonic started to take its toll.
He said: “I once came back from a long tour and my youngest daughter wouldn’t let me pick her up because she thought I was a stranger. I knew then that I needed a more settled existence.”
He went to be 2nd trombone at Covent Garden where he stayed for a decade. During this time he was asked to go to Wells to do some teaching.
“I fell in love with the school and the city and realised that the potential to develop a vibrant brass department, under the Specialist scheme, was something I could not resist.”
During his career Alan has freelanced for countless touring ballet and opera companies. He performed with the English Chamber Orchestra and while with them worked with Benjamin Britten as solo alto trombonist in his opera The Burning Fiery Furnace.
It is his latest accolade, a Wells Cathedral School Foundation Fellowship, that has left him lost for words.
The Foundation, which is charged with raising £9.4million for Cedars Hall, a new music performance centre, will present Alan with his award at the end of September.
“The Fellowship is a great honour although I feel it should be me doing all the thanking,” he says.
“I would happily go back and do it all again. It has been a great privilege.” n