Richard Ingham - English Saxophonist & Composer
About Richard Ingham
Richard Ingham has had an extensive career as a performer, composer and educator. He has given solo saxophone recitals and chamber concerts throughout UK, North America, Asia and Europe.
Numerous composers have written works have for him, and he has played by invitation at every World Saxophone Congress since 1985 (in Washington DC, Tokyo, Pesaro, Valencia, Montreal, Minneapolis, Ljubljana, Bangkok, St Andrews, Strasbourg and Zagreb). In 2012 was the Artistic Director of the acclaimed 16th World Saxophone Congress in St Andrews, Scotland.
He is a Yamaha artist, conducted the National Saxophone Choir of Great Britain for several years and has composed many original works. He studied at the University of York, specialising in clarinet and contemporary music. Later he studied at Leeds Metropolitan University and the University of Leeds, both in aspects of music technology. A brief but inspirational period was spent at Bloomington University, Indiana, studying saxophone with Eugene Rousseau.
Richard has been teaching for 40 years, always alongside his performing and composing career. He teaches saxophone (classical and jazz), chamber music performance, jazz performance, and history of 20th-century music. His jazz courses at the University of St Andrews have been running for 24 years.
He was the editor and contributing author of the Cambridge Companion to the Saxophone (Cambridge University Press, 1999), widely regarded as the leading book on the subject.
- Informal lessons to get started.
- Cross boundaries and dipping toes into different kinds of music.
- Subtle marketing from a man of great integrity.
- Summer courses in Bloomington, Indiana with Eugene Rousseau.
- The UK is more encouraging than destructive.
- The influence of contemporary clarinet music.
- Examination boards influencing the development of the UK saxophone.
- Kids growing up would listen to pop music and that’s where they would hear a saxophone.
- Playing Boulez’s Dialogue de l’Ombre Double
- Having a composing break for almost 20 years.
- A career as a series of accidents.
- Teaching at the University of Aberdeen.
- The development of the saxophone in China.
- Having time to prepare before stepping on stage.
- Richard’s Website | Largo Music (Richard’s Publications)
- Eugene Rousseau
- Indiana University
- World Saxophone Congress
- 16th World Saxophone Congress (St. Andrews)
- Cambridge Companion to the Saxophone
- John Dankworth
- Marcel Mule
- Daniel Deffayet
- Larry Teal
- Paul Harvey
- Peter Clinch
- John Sampen
- Marilyn Shrude
- Pennan to Penang
- Jean-Marie Londeix
- Claude Delangle
- Debra Richtmeyer
Transcript of Podcast Interview with Richard Ingham.
Please enjoy the transcript of this podcast episode. With thousands of words in each episode it might contain a few typos and may also have been edited for clarity.
Barry Cockcroft: 00:02:51 Perhaps you could tell me how you really got started playing the saxophone in the first place.
Richard Ingham: 00:02:56 I guess I got started on the recorder when I was 7 and then the clarinet when I was 9. During my teenage years, I concentrated on clasiscal clarinet. I did play saxophone from the age of 11. I guess what you have to bear in mind is that at this time, in the 1960, there was no great tradition of classical saxophone in Britain as compared to, for instance, friends elsewhere. I maintained my saxophone playing and it was kind of ‘dance-bandy’ and aspects of jazz and didn’t actually start classical saxophone until my twenties. My first teacher was actually a dance band leader, a very good dance band leader. The lessons with him were to say the least informal. He taught me for the first few years, but he never told me about any boundaries between genres of music.
Richard Ingham: 00:04:22 We did some Mozart duets, we’d do some dance band stuff, it was the sixties so there was the latest pop stuff coming in. So to me it was all music. I tried to spend the rest of my life trying to encourage people to cross boundaries and dip their toes into different kinds of music. And it’s only obviously later on I realized how privileged I was to have that original upbringing and inspiration.
Richard Ingham: 00:04:50 In my twenties, I decided to concentrate more on the saxophone. This is after the University of York. I was very fortunate to meet Eugene Rousseau in 1980. He was doing a tour of the United Kingdom, promoting Yamaha saxophones. I actually hadn’t heard of him, I had no kind of knowledge or at that time, any great interest in classical saxophone playing. I thought it sounded good and apparently he was amazing. It also he fell to me to do some duets with him. He asked for a volunteer and everybody else on the teaching team that I was working on at the time, turned it down, and so I got to play some of the Glen Smith flute music with Eugene.
Richard Ingham: 00:05:54 It was just wonderful to hear him play. One of the most striking things was that he did the whole show, but it was a recital and he talked about the saxophone. He never mentioned Yamaha saxophones once that they were available. I guess that was obvious because that was what he was playing. But the whole point was, if you think this is any good, you might want to check out the instruments. To this day I’ve really appreciated that kind of subtle marketing from a man of great integrity.
Richard Ingham: 00:06:31 He told me about his summer courses in Bloomington, Indiana and I managed to get some funding together to go that year. I spent a week at Bloomington course meeting other people mainly from North America; USA and Canada, and it was a real life changer. It was amazing. I was already studying some aspects of classical saxophone but that made me decide that’s really what I wanted to do.
Barry Cockcroft: 00:07:11 Do you think being overseas, particularly in being away from your home environment, was it part of that?
Richard Ingham: 00:07:18 Oh yes. Yeah, I think so. I mean, I wasn’t kind of brainwashed into it. It was just such a music. I could see what this instrument is really doing now. And it was the first time I’ve been to North America. That was a huge thing for me. I mean I was 25 or 26 but because I’d always had a great interest in jazz playing some and listening to a lot, all the people who were my heroes and the people I respected greatly were mainly Americans. So it was great to visit that country first time.
Barry Cockcroft: 00:08:00 You must have seen a tremendous difference in teaching styles going to America and spending some time with Rousseau. Could you describe how that felt at the time?
Richard Ingham: 00:08:11 I think I learned more from him than anybody else in my teaching, which is what I try to put over to my students, perhaps by example, rather than by dictating. Basically, he’s a very giving man. It’s incredibly simple and I’m still surprised that not everybody gets this. A student comes into the room and plays for you. You need to appreciate that they’ve been working all week on whatever they’re working on. So you need to offer some kind of praise and congratulations. And then you need to tell them, take it apart again, but without destroying them, and tell them what they need to work on. But the main thing is as they leave the saxophone teaching studio, they need to have in their heads, right, I’m going to go off and practise all week. And that’s it, it is really as simple as that. You can decorate it as much as you like. He was a great teaching example. I have seen some poor teacher examples as well, which obviously I’m not going to go into.
Richard Ingham: 00:09:35 Do they. Do they influence you as well? Did they form part of the approach that you take when you see something that doesn’t quite gel with the way you look at things?
Richard Ingham: 00:09:43 Absolutely. We went to one of the World Saxophone Congresses. The first one I went to a 1995 in Washington DC, University of Maryland and it was a single format event because it was still quite young. Everybody went to all the events. There was one master class example session where four great teachers each had 30 minutes to do a masterclass. This was absolutely, absolutely fascinating. Eugene Rousseau was one of them and he marvelous. He used it perfectly, he heard the student play and he made some suggestions and inspired the students.
Richard Ingham: 00:09:46 There were others but one of them spent the first 10 minutes of the session saying how difficult it was to do anything in the allotted 30 minutes which I thought was hilarious and then proceeded to do very little in the remaining 20 minutes. If you ever wanted a heads up on who to study with, this was just perfect.
Richard Ingham: 00:11:16 And, and somebody else maybe it was another session, was just incredibly negative. hey stopped the student after less than a bar. Look, no, no, no, no. That’s so disrespectful to the student who is there on this world stage. So at least at least let them play two bars! It just went on like that and it was incredibly negative. Yes. Sorry. I do learn a lot from teaching. I’m not impressed with, so yes.,
Barry Cockcroft: 00:11:57 In Australia there has been a tradition of sugarcoating teaching a little bit to encourage students. The critical approach doesn’t always work. But I see a change happening now where people are being able to disassociate criticism from how they feel about themselves so they can have criticism on their music but still leave feeling intact. I guess having gone through a sort of rigorous French system at times it seems brutal because they’re so honest when they want to say something, but when I look back on that myself, although it was challenging to be confronted by that, I guess it got the point across and I made the changes they requested. I’ve seen plenty of people crumble under that approach. In the UK, is it a more of a system of encouragement or let’s say constructive criticism?
Richard Ingham: 00:12:56 So I think it’s more encouragement. I don’t hear too many stories of crumbling. I would say that the UK is more encouraging than destructive.
Barry Cockcroft: 00:13:21 Would you say with your own teaching and your approach to teaching that you’ve taken elements of the teaching that you’ve received yourself or have you come to form your own style?
Richard Ingham: 00:13:35 Both really. With my teacher the band leader, that whole thing of playing different kinds of music and really recognizing the different areas. For instance, how to swing rather than get through lots of exams. Then being introduced to that sweet phrasing when you’re 18, it’s very difficult. Actually he had a very informal, we would say unstructured, style of teaching. He hadn’t had any really formal training, and in a sense he kind of handed me on to other people. I do revert to that less formal approach because you can get lots of inspiration.
Richard Ingham: 00:14:44 My clarinet teacher, was Georgina Dobray. I used to go to London for lessons with her and she was very, very strict, very rigorous, and I learned a huge amount from her. She was also specialist in contemporary clareinet music. That was hugely influential on me and as I mentioned, Eugene Rousseau. I actually just, that week with him inspired me for the rest of my life.
Richard Ingham: 00:15:25 I did spend a lot of time as a jazz educator and quite a few years ago I started to get interested in the Suzuki method. I was dealing with some jazz students who were exponents of this on violin and I studied this method, went along to workshops and observed a lot and I thought it was quite remarkable. I actually learned a lot from the Suzuki teaching methods in using aural techniques of not being a slave to the page, and not necessarily just with beginners.
Barry Cockcroft: 00:16:11 Is that unusual in saxophopne teaching and learning that you’ve seen? Is most of it done through reading in classical saxophone?
Richard Ingham: 00:16:22 Yes although I don’t claim any pioneering attitude for myself. But I don’t meet many people who have similar kind of emphasis on non literary teaching. Obviously if you’re going to use literary teaching, if you’re going to get through the repertoire but at least 70 percent of the world’s music is not written.
Barry Cockcroft: 00:16:58 Do you see a difference these days for the opportunities for young students compared to yourself when you were starting out?
Richard Ingham: 00:17:08 Yes. Well, this is kind of tricky because when I was starting out when I was studying at University, I was principally a clarinetist and there were well trodden paths for performers. Certainly with the saxophone, it was very, very different indeed. The mid 1980’s was the game changer in the UK and this is what we’ve come to examination boards which are obviously not the be all and end all music but they are incredibly useful. The ones in the UK very, very good. Particularly huge associated board which operates a lot in Asia as well as the UK. Trinity examination system had saxophone grades and those are the exams for school entry from elementary, intermediate and advanced. But that was a small operation and there were not examination centres everywhere. Eventually the Associated Board took on classical saxophone exams in about 1994. So this was a huge step forward because it meant that when the kid at school said to the head of music, the music teacher, I’ve got a saxophone, previously to the head would say, well you just have fun with that. you can do whatever you like. You can’t take the formal exams in it so you’re not going to get anywhere. There are very few places you can go and study it. It was kind of an insular approach, but I think it was realistic. And then after 1984, then you could have graded exams. Then it was possible to get qualifications and then more and more colleges started offering classical saxophone. So that was, that was really the turning point.
Richard Ingham: 00:19:10 I mean there’s a classic case of the great saxophonist and clarinetist John Dankworth, a kind of UK legend in jazz and a very fine classical player aswell. He studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London and basically he had to hide his saxophone away and just not tell his teacher and then just became the international artist. So I only tell you that to illustrate how times change and then you find out by talking to people or going to Bloomington or whatever, but there’s this huge great tradition of classical performance and teaching. Again the strongest ones originally from France and the USA, so Marcel Mule and Daniel Deffayet in France, Larry Teal et cetera in the USA, decades before it was recognized.
Barry Cockcroft: 00:20:07 That means that a tremendous amount of development has happened in quite a short time then because the sheer number of saxophonists coming out of the UK and new music and events – it’s prodigious.
Richard Ingham: 00:20:20 I agree with that. It’s great. I used to worry about this. With all these people coming up and it’s hard enough for those who were already in the business to get work. How’s this going to work for jobs? It’s very interesting that work was created. It seemed like the market expanded to cope with a high percentage of those performers coming out of college. It’s just been a delight to see the development of that and some very exciting stuff going on in the conservatoires. You’re absolutely right. It’s interesting that you should have that Australian point of view because in the UK thing, well we do what we do, but if it is recognized that we’re putting out a lot of excellent young performers was very good to hear from an international perspective.
Barry Cockcroft: 00:21:22 It’s an interesting parallel with the music exam system you have because initially in Australia it was modeled on the same system and then an Australian system developed out of that. Before there was a large body of original saxophone repertoire, a lot of the music came from the UK syllabus and it appeared on the Australian syllabus. For a good 10 or 20 years, the repertoire that was studied in Australia was out of the UK based on the exam boards lists. Because of that, what happened next was a sort of logical development. But then people started asking the question, well, wouldn’t it be good to have some Australian composers on those lists? And it evolved from there. And, today the syllabus is quite different. Although the structure remains quite the same, a lot of the repertoire now is Australian. Just like in the UK, you’ve got English composers represented like yourself on the syllabus that the kids can play.
Richard Ingham: 00:22:28 That’s a very good point. Maybe it’s a similar thing then in Australia, when the UK really started moving. There wasn’t so much historial awareness which wasn’t great because there was a lot to learn. On the other hand, there was no historical baggage so you didn’t feel bound to immerse yourself in the French or US traditions. A lot of really great music came out. From the 1960s there was a pop revolution in the USA and the UK. Kids growing up in the seventies and eighties we’d have pop music as their background and that’s where they would hear a saxophone. So with that in there, it does explain a little bit the UK saxophone sound. Composers who are writing were obviously informed by that kind of background, every bit as much as the classical background. In part, that goes to explain some of the recent tradition of the UK saxophone music, if you can call it tradition.
Barry Cockcroft: 00:23:51 Tradition in a new sense. It’s hard to describe because essentially each country has its own way of developing both its composition and its performance style and it’s heavily influenced by everwhere else. But each place does have something to offer that’s quite unique. Sometimes I ask myself why I’ve been playing a lot of Australian music. I’d love to play some music from – and I pick a random country – and I can’t think of a composer from that country. And then I think hang on that countries larger than my country. They’ve got more composers than we do have over here. So to be able to share these developments between countries I think is really important. And I think perhaps the world saxophone congress has played an important part in that sharing of of development. I can’t help wonder what drives someone like yourself to take on the organisation of the world saxohone congress. I mean why did you do that?
Richard Ingham: 00:25:10 Right. That remains unanswered question. I found that the one I went to in 1985 to be hugely inspiring. So many wonderful things. I was playing at the time with the Northern Saxophone Quartet. Actually we got an invitation quite late on. The London Saxophone quartet, Paul Harvey’s group who directed the the 1976 Congress in London couldn’t go at the last minute, so we were invited to go. Again, it was a real life changer and I met so many interesting people including Peter Clinch so I was privileged to meet him, the great Australian saxophonist with his quartet. Then I went to all of them since then as a quartet and as a soloist, and as a conductor. I have had my music played. I moved to Scotland to Fife, just north of Edinburgh about 10 years ago. I was working a lot. I’d worked in St. Andrews for a number of years, but commuting every month. Then I was living very near it and I thought this would be such a marvelous place for a world saxophone congress with all the facilities. I should obviously say that there was a whole committee along me as the director, and as you can imagine, other people did most of the work.
Barry Cockcroft: 00:26:57 I somehow doubt that in a sense because I know a committee of supportive people is essential but sometimes the vision to draw those people together and to keep people motivated is a really crucial part of it. One of the things that I enjoyed about the conference that you organized in St. Andrews was it had a feeling of community. Maybe it was because I knew you and I knew some other people and I had the UK background. The town itself was small, in that it was intimate. You could walk very short distances and see people. I thought the whole, the whole congress had that element to it where you were never far from anything or anyone and you’d bump into people easily. And I really enjoyed that aspect.
Richard Ingham: 00:27:48 Well, thank you.
Barry Cockcroft: 00:27:51 Those connections that you form sometimes by chance of bumping into people, even on a recurring basis I love. I really live for random connections with people and if an event can help to create those connections, I think that’s a powerful thing.
Richard Ingham: 00:28:07 Yes, I really value the international connections. Obviously going back to the 1985, someone like John Sampen and Marilyn Shrude I meet every three years. It’s just wonderful to see them every time. You can talk to them every day via email or whatever but the physical meeting thing is so important. And finally I look forward to, I mean the playing is one thing, but for me it’s more about listening and finding out new stuff and somebody you know will introduce you someone new.
Richard Ingham: 00:28:50 I think that one of the fascinating things with the World Saxophone Congress’s, is that each time it is organized, it’s completely new event. There’s very little carry over from the previous event end and largely due to the sort of overall concept of the director. And I really like that. I like that there is not a continuity. It sort of resets you change the town, and the vision and the type of music and the musicians, all of that changes and I think it’s fascinating.
Richard Ingham: 00:29:19 I’m glad there is a lot more jazz out from the underground and also the experimental side, the contemporary side. That’s not what you diluted in any way. Of course that means there like 5,000 shows on at once but you find your way through it.
Barry Cockcroft: 00:29:57 The very first congress I went to was in 1992 and I had no idea what to go and listen to and I bumped into a guy (and I was a young guy) and he just sat down with me and he went through the program and he said, look, if you don’t know anyone, these are the people you should go to listen to. And do you know who that person was? It was Bill Street from Canada and to this day, I still see him and remind him of that, that he was welcoming of a green, young saxophonist from Australia. He shared his time with me just as he would with anyone else and I was always appreciative of that and all of the things that I went to hear that he recommended what were wonderful.
Richard Ingham: 00:30:45 He’s a great guy. Yes, yes. You picked the right guy to talk to.
Barry Cockcroft: 00:30:48 Again, a random meeting on the street, you know, getting off a train or something. I’d love to hear a little bit about your approach to, both teaching, but also practicing. Do you think the way that you practice now when you’ve got something coming up is different to when you were learning as a student?
Richard Ingham: 00:31:05 Yes. All evolves all time and it has changed quite a bit over the last couple of years. Which surprised me and pleased me that I can do all that. I had big wish which had kind of taken over my performing over the last two or three years – I gave the first UK performance of the saxophone version of the Boulez’s Dialogue de l’Ombre Double a couple of years ago. I have another two performances this year which is just months and months of practice. That kind of music, I just love. I’m just having my head in it was fantastic but just practice discipline – I had review every aspect of what I was doing. For instance, even though I’m 64, even at my age I suddenly started practicing, standing up, which may seem like a minor thing and I thought that’s pretty good if I can still do that and I would think that I was more energetic. But I found it much more healthy and I had to work at different warm up routines to deal with the kind of music, non tonal. So there weren’t any tonal scales, it was all intervals, which I find really, really interesting. I also just based on my own experience in speaking to people are looking for research, just practicing or more frequent, shorter periods rather than just going on and on and on then stopping for a while and thinking because you flogged it for three hours that you’d got some efficient.
Richard Ingham: 00:33:06 So really quite short periods because as we now know the brain can concentrate for times shorter than we think. So if you’re going to make it efficient, it’s going to take you all day anyway, but practise for a short while and have a break. Because of that piece actually my approach to practising has changed a lot. I have attempted to pass this on to my students. It has taken me a lifetime to learn this but I am telling you now just to save you 50 years. And it’s hard work for them because they think, well I should practice for an hour or two hours. Well you can forget that. You’ll be in a practice room corridor and somebody will fall out of a practice room after five hours solid. The first thing you should say to them is something like, well, tell you the last four hours were a waste of time, which is a bit nasty, but if you want to work efficiently, then we need to think about that.
Barry Cockcroft: 00:34:21 Do you think efficiency can be taught or is it an inefficient process you have to go through in order to learn?
Richard Ingham: 00:34:27 I think you just answered the question. That’s brilliant. Yeah, exactly. Because like you, I can pass things on. I say this works and we know it works because I failed and now I found out how to succeed with that. I’m saving you time, but maybe you have to fail yourself first.
Barry Cockcroft: 00:34:46 So I guess the ultimate question then is do we have to have those inefficiencies in order to achieve. Is it just a process of learning music?
Richard Ingham: 00:34:57 I think we probably do, yes. Otherwise it would be too easy. Well, yeah. I often use sporting analogies when I’m teaching. Because it’s live and stressful. I would say if your team is winning all the time, and you’re not used to losing. When you do lose, you’re going to completely crumble. So a few losses on the way up will toughen you up and you’ll be better for that. So the analgy you will be to learn from the inefficiency. I did all that, but actually it didn’t work, but now I know that doesn’t work so I’m not going to waste my time and therfore I’m more efficient. I think we’re always striving. During my next period of practicing I will be still looking for more efficient ways of learning things. Not just in order to get it done quicker but actually out of academic interest in efficiency.
Barry Cockcroft: 00:36:04 You’ve had a very multipronged career so far. There are quite a few things that I want to ask you, but if I could touch on composition because you are well known as a saxophonist, but at the same time for many years you’ve been composing. I’m very curious to see how that fit into your, into your musical life because you’ve not just written for saxophone but also for other instruments and your music is published and it’s widely played. How has that developed alongside your performing career?
Richard Ingham: 00:36:48 I was kind of interested in it early on and then actually had a lay off for about 20 years where I didn’t write anything up to the late 1990’s. Now I realize that I spent all that time listening. I think that informed my writing and then I just got into it. It is a huge part of my work and I do find that obviously when I’m coaching my own pieces, I know what’s happening and what the composer ie. myself requires, but I do find it very helpful when interpreting other composers work. And so it works both ways actually because it can help you interpret a piece by having a bit of insight into what a composer might be doing and also it inspires you in your own writing and gives you extra ideas. Whenever I’m doing my wind chamber musc course, a residential event every summer, so lot coaching with maybe a wind quintet or strings and piano. I’ll just spend quite a long time, obviously coaching, but I’m just listening all the time and seeing what other composers are doing. I’m not sure if that answers your question.
Richard Ingham: 00:38:23 I guess the two passions, bout life are performance and writing music. I’m currently right now winding down quite a big chunk of my teaching operations in order to concentrate more on my writing and playing. I have a lot of works kind of stacked up and they need to be recorded so Ijust need to give myself time to do that.
Barry Cockcroft: 00:39:00 How important has it been to have your works independently published and available to the world?
Richard Ingham: 00:39:06 Very important actually. It’s a great thrill. People contact me and say, we are playing some of your music. The suite I wrote for soprano saxophone and accordion, From Pennan to Penang has been peformed a few times besides by myself. Actually there is a full performance in Perth in Western Australia. It is genuinely a thrill when somebody says I want to play our music. I want to play a large amount of your music. There was a performance in Vancouver awhile ago and somebody contacted me just this week, because they wanted to buy some of the music. So that’s really good. I just like to get the music out there, which think to be honest, we are all, well I’ll speak for myself we are all insecure. And when somebody says that they like the music, we say it’s worth carrying on then. It sounds terrible, doesn’t it? I mean, carry on writing. It just that when people play the music, or buy it, that’s an extra inspiration. Well, I’m not sitting in the room writing a playing for myself here. So it’s really great thrill that so many people have a played my music, it’s great.
Barry Cockcroft: 00:40:45 I liked the approach that when music is composed, it should be played. That just writing a piece isn’t enough. A composition doesn’t exist until it’s performed. And I know plenty of composers who perhaps don’t sign up to that because they got plenty of music that isn’t performed and perhaps the, the joys in writing the music, not in putting it out there. And it’s um, I think for a lot of composers they’re quite insular and the writing is the job. Putting the music out there. It’s a performance job. And I love that collaboration between performer and composer. And if you can get it right, if you can get to the two people working together, you get this amazing synergy between the two art forms. And I think it’s vital in order to find really the best pieces. And when a composer performer can do both jobs, then I guess the ticking that box, but on a wider level if he can really sink with a players and composers together, I think that’s amazing.
Richard Ingham: 00:41:56 I agree with you, I think it’s essential. It’s produced some of the greatest music. When going back centuries in the clarinet tradition, Mozart and Anton Stadler, Brahms and Richard Mühlfeld, they were dependent upon each other. The Mozart concerto would not have come about if Mozart was not around Stadler. I’m sure that goes on today. I often people just meet at college and are inspired by each other. It works both ways and you’re absolutely right, it’s crucial and more musical results come out to of that rather than abstraction. Although, as you’re learning your craft as a composer, that’s not to say you shouldn’t do exercises which you know are never going to be played because you need to learn the techniques, but as soon, it is pretty self evident, getting music played.
Barry Cockcroft: 00:43:11 Do you think your career has evolved under a master plan or has it been more of an organic process?
Richard Ingham: 00:43:22 A sequence of accidents. There is some stuff that I’ve gone for, this is what I tell people who you’re always advising, university students giving career advice. There are things I have wanted to do which haven’t arisen and then things I never thought I’d be asked to do which have. So that’s kind of my career basically. There’s certainly no master plan. I mean you have ideas and you try. Sometimes stuff comes off, projects, and other stuff and sometimes it doesn’t. Then all the surprising stuff comes in. I tell you, I know what I want to do and then I try and make that concrete and then I guess I try to know a lot about the busines. So yeah, I make less mistakes. How about that?
Barry Cockcroft: 00:44:38 Is it okay to make mistakes?
Richard Ingham: 00:44:40 Yes, definitely. Not deliberately. How’d you mean in life or…?
Barry Cockcroft: 00:44:49 Well, everybody says we learn from our mistakes, so therefore it must be a good thing and it’s okay to make mistakes.
Richard Ingham: 00:44:55 Yeah, absolutely. And then you need to learn from those mistakes. It’s a good thing, if you can identify that they are mistakes. If not being a bit of trouble with tour career. We just learn from our own. I don’t suggest people go out deliberately made mistakes, but by default we do, and we learn from them. So I think that the whole jazz education, is a good case in point. For instance, there is no such thing as a wrong note, I never ever, particularly with the early beginning improvisers, I’ve never too judgmental about for instance, note choice. It becomes obvious which are the better notes, so you’re encouraging people. Say for instance, if you heard someone improvising using the blue scale, then somebody plays a bumb note, I wouldn’t say anything, it’s kind of self regulating.
Barry Cockcroft: 00:46:09 Do you think that there is a typical day that you have when you’re teaching? Is there a routine to your lessons or is everything different for each student?
Richard Ingham: 00:46:19 My current teaching practice with I enjoy very much is at the University of Aberdeen. I have my quite a lot of saxophone students there. I have my own teaching philosophy, which we spoke about earlier, it is based on that simple axiom that I observed from Eugene Rousseau who obviously didn’t tell me that’s what he did. The student comes in and plays and shouldn’t you show appreciation? Discuss it and hopefully inspire them to practice. Each student is different. When I teach classical saxophoner and jazz saxophone so obviously with specialists in those areas the lesson would be rather different and it does vary from in a two semester system. It varies from first semester to the second semester. And I must say that one of the reasons I enjoy working in Aberdeen is because the department basically operates as I see fit, which is pretty great and I think I’m experienced enough to know what I am doing so I could set my own repertoire choices for a student. In the first semester, we concentrate on technical work, scales, exercises, and the very wonderful Jean-Marie exercises volume 2, which none of my students get away with not doing. Then for the second semester we concentrate much more on the recital. Also this is not in the lesson but it’s absolutely crucial to have ensembles. I have quite a large saxophone enemble and two quartets and I like to get the students involved in quartets as well. Each lesson is tailored to each individual person. I insist on a developing technique and developing repertoire. There’s that notion of just dropping something in that you think the student might find interesting which would lead on to something else. If I can get all classical students to do some jazz and vice versa. As you know, often works in quite an amazing way because the one that weren’t doing is suddenly the one that they want to do after all. So they switched about. It is very rewarding when that happens.
Barry Cockcroft: 00:49:23 I have got on my shelf a reference book called the Cambridge Companion to the Saxophone. This book has become essential really to anyone involved with saxophone and I’m curious to know how that came about and how you came to be involved with the creation of that book.
Richard Ingham: 00:49:41 Well, thank you very much. It’s something I’m very proud of. I edited it and wrote four of the chapters. It’s an amazing project. It was in the mid 1990’s. Obviously this book has meant a lot to me just doing it, but also what people tell me. Here’s a fine example of, ‘I never saw this one coming’. I just got a phone call out of the blue, would I be interested in editing this volume. So I thought about it for at least half a second before agreeing to do it. The background of it is that the editor of clarinet volume, Colin Lawson is a colleague of mine and it was as simple as this. When he was finishing his, the commissioning editor, at Cambridge University Press said to him that we want to do a saxophone one, who do you recommend? So he seemingly recommended me and the phoned me up. That was the start of it.
Richard Ingham: 00:51:05 I thought that it was such a good project to work on just in itself. At that time I had a sequence of students coming from various colleges and universities and some of them would say, Oh, for my studies I have to write a dissertation or some long essay on saxophone history or saxophone repertoire and there are no books in the library. And I said you’re dead right there aren’t any. I’ll rephrase that, there have been saxophone books for a long time, but if you go to the library and you want to do some research on the violin then you have a shelf much longer than your arm. Then you look up saxophone and the just aren’t many and not that many with appropriate history. So it was actually with that in mind, I tried to tailor as editor the book so that students at university conservatoires when they wanted information on the background, on the history of development of the instrument and the physical nature of it and the repertoire up to the present day. Then I hope that this project would give them something to go to. It seems like it has and that has been a great thrill. So that was really a driving force behind it. Contact with so many international colleagues and getting the expertise in and setting out the chapter subject headings, subject material and then putting it all together. It took about three or four years I think, from the phone call to when it was published. It was published in 1999.
Richard Ingham: 00:53:13 So obviously I learned a huge amount about our instrument. That was the original philosophy. Also, I wanted the man or women in the street with any kind of passing knowledge of music to be able to pick it up and read it. I think it’s very readable, not too technical, but there’s a lot of technical stuff in there.
Barry Cockcroft: 00:53:41 Do you think there’s a reason why there’s a bit of a shortage of textbook style compilations available for saxophone? I mean, there’s so much research done with doctoral students that it just doesn’t seem to make it to print.
Richard Ingham: 00:53:57 Just history, I can’t account for it. 1840 it was a long time ago, but it’s still a young instrument compared to the fiddle, clarinet and the flute. Maybe people are just more interested in playing. I hadn’t had the experience of traveling to all the congresses, then I would not have had any kind of international perspective, which I did have and it helped the book. I deliberately invited people from different saxophone cultures to write for me. So there was a bit of the UK, there was a bit of France and there was a bit of the USA. My dear late friend Tom Liley in the States did a marvelous job and Claude Delangle from Paris did a great job on completely different subjects but I thought it was great to have them both in the same book. I took it right through obviously to jazz, I did the jazz history chapter myself, and then I did the pop one and commercial with Jon Halliwell. I played wind synthesiser for many years so I included that in it as well because I knew that was an element of the future.
Richard Ingham: 00:55:46 One of the funniest things was because it was going to be coming out in 1999 and living through the 1990’s I was thinking that there was a new century coming up. Of course a lot of references in the text were using the expression ‘this century’, referring to the 20th century. Even though it was just a few years away, the 21st century with way into the future. So I had to be really careful. My proudest ambition of foresight was to make sure all of those were reworded because I didn’t want it to come out in February, 1999 and be completely out of date by January 2000. So it wouldn’t be funny.
Barry Cockcroft: 00:56:37 Do you think the books had any influence in China since it was translated and it became a text available to Chinese saxophonists.
Richard Ingham: 00:56:45 I hope so but I can’t really tell you. I mean maybe you maybe, you know. Working with the guy who did the translation itself was very interesting. I mean, I’d like to think that it’s had an influence. I’ve enjoyed my trips to China. They are developing just a tremendous classical saxophone tradition. So I would like to think it’s had some influence in terms of reference and historical perspective. Theree are some elements that are not in it but I’d like to think so. Just referring back to what you were saying about Australian music, I remember giving a concert and Chengdu, some years ago in far western China. At the end of it, my host said, well, Richard, do you have any advice for these 40 classical saxophonists sitting in front of us. All of whom have been playing country French music essentially because that’s where the traditional came from. Their teachers had been to France. So I tried to make a real strong point of not saying don’t play any of this French music but saying you have to play Chinese music. There must be millions of great Chinese composers. Get your friends to write music and develop a whole new Chinese repertoire of saxophone music. So to your original question, I don’t know the impact of the Chinese translation has had, although I’m delighted it was translated.
Barry Cockcroft: 00:58:49 Now I have a few rapid fire questions. So they quick questions with a quick answer. So whatever comes to mind. If you just had one hour to practice, how would you spend your time?
Richard Ingham: 00:59:02 Warm up. Long notes. Vibrato. I really like the interval study, technical warmup I devised myself and I kind of stick to that because it gets me around the instrument. That would be 15, 20 minutes or something like that. And then if I had a concert tomorrow, I would assume it was well under my fingers, so I just need to keep it. If you’re still struggling to make it work the day before, this is really not good news. I would go over certain passages, some tricky passage with a metronome and just work on those. Just bedding down those tricky passages, not even necessarily taking them up to full speed and then a warm down. I find this quite useful just taking a whole section of music which may be challenging but just playing in long notes so you’re just playing those notes. There would be no mental pressure to execute for rapid digital acrobatics. Just just by playing those notes in sequence without the pressure of getting them right all the time, I think that helps. Another version of this with the, let’s say it’s a five minute piece that you are playing tomorrow, so I would do the warm up and then I would play the piece all the way through at the same time of day that you will be performing. I try to get my students to do that, I think that helps.
Barry Cockcroft: 01:01:35 If someone had a 10:00 PM performance, you’d encourage them to practice at 10:00 PM.
Richard Ingham: 01:01:41 Yeah and do this for two or three days running up to it. Do a performance to themselves at 10:00 PM, bsolutely essential. Likewise, even worse 9 AM. So you have to do this or else you are going to get caught out. When they started doing all the satellite TV stuff for football and they started doing the kickoff times all over the place instead of just 3:00 PM. 7:00 PM was kind of standard for many years, but then they start putting in 5:00 PM and then 12 noon. That was a pretty unusual time to be playing football. I’m absolutely certain that those teams would be training and playing full out matches at that time.
Barry Cockcroft: 01:02:27 So you’re saying that if you replicate the conditions of performance in your practice, then it’s more likely to go well for you.
Richard Ingham: 01:02:34 Yes. It’s just one less uncertainty, one less variable that you’re knocking out of the equation. When you do a run, so a theatre thing eventually you just rock up and you just play it. That’s great. If if you practice your piece and do a run through at 10:00 PM, 10:00 PM. When you come to do it for real, somewhere in your head is a little voice saying, ‘right off we go again’ as opposed to ‘Oh my god, I’m playing at 10 o’clock at night.’
Barry Cockcroft: 01:03:08 Who do you consider to be one of the most successful contributors to the saxophone and why?
Richard Ingham: 01:03:15 I have some heroes. Eugene Rousseau means such a lot to me both for his playing and the person that he is. I’m just going to duck the question and give you a couple of others. Jean-Marie Londeix has been a big influence on me. Just the beauty and control in his playing and his pedagogical approach and his publications. Debra Richtmeyer, just the sound that she produces is fantastic. Control of a Vincent David would have to be right up there as a saxophone performer and creative genius along with Charlie Parker and Jan Garbarek and Johnny Hodges. That is far too many. And yeah, somebody like yourself, the way you play, and the music you’ve written has been so hugely influential. When I watch you play, you make it look so easy. And then I go into practice and I just can’t do it. You know, it’s really annoying.
Richard Ingham: 01:04:50 Thank you. Right before performance talking just a few minutes before performance, before you walk on stage, what do you do before you walk on stage that helps you play at your best?
Richard Ingham: 01:05:04 Well make sure you are not too tired before you go on. That’s it really. I don’t have a routine of yoga or anything. I think you need to get your mind into the state where you should be playing to avoid unnecessary distractions. You need to take the right amount of food. Not too little not too much. That’s always a tricky one. It’s not a very good answer. To be honest, you’re playing in different places sometimes different countries, every approach is different. So just give yourself time to prepare before you go on.
Barry Cockcroft: 01:06:03 You probably won’t believe this, but I got into a fight before going on stage one time.
Richard Ingham: 01:06:11 No I don’t believe that.
Barry Cockcroft: 01:06:11 No, because what you’re describing of being in the zone and not being distracted. I was attempting to do that, but there was a guy there who was hassling. He was hassling somebody else and I couldn’t help but get involved and it led to a bit of pushing and shoving. So before I went on to do this performance, I’d been involved in a little tussle. I would say for sure. That was not my ideal preparation for walking on stage.
Richard Ingham: 01:07:01 If you could play better, you replicate it. Actually this is why you get people to prepare at the right time in the right situation getting used to the stage or whatever. Because you can’t predict what’s going to go wrong, like a fight. All those people I’ve mentioned and you know here we are. You’re in Australia and I’m in Scotland. It’s a worldwide thing and it’s so rewarding and fulfilling to to play with people. It is exciting just to swap stories and work with people from across the globe.
Richard Ingham: 01:07:51 So you were asking which saxophone players or personalities in the world that I most admire or was influenced by. I think given the worldwide nature of music, I kind of have to say that a person on top of my list would be my colleague Claude Delangle at CNSM. Obviously his playing style and I was privileged to spend a couple of days teaching there a couple years ago. Just the way he works with this students and he’s a very inspirational teacher, but he’s also a fantastic ambassador. He takes the saxophone and performances and classes all over the world. Not only to give what he has to that culture, but to learn what’s in that culture and how that can be used on the saxophone both for himself and in France. All so for whatever country that he’s in. He’s become a very important important figure over the last 20 years.
Barry Cockcroft: 01:09:11 With the benefit of hindsight, could you give your younger self a piece of advice that you would like to have heard?
Richard Ingham: 01:09:18 Just the efficiency of practicing. Also maybe listen to older people a bit more, but I have no regrets about my career given the playing and the writing, so I wouldn’t change any of that. Just just to make it more efficient. But I don’t think my younger self would listen. I have done a lot of adult residential courses in my time and it’s just wonderful the focus amateur adults give because they realized the opportunity they are getting. They never doze off and they just concentrate all the time. They want to work hard. Something inside your head, says if only you could go and speak to say a class of 16 year olds maybe some of whom are not as focused as you’d like them to be in a general school or college situation. If only I could impart that so they’re not wasting the time. But that’s also probably a waste of time because the 16 year olds are not going to liste, plus the adult who very focused, is quite likely to have been an unfocussed 16 year old themselves at the time. Just listening to efficiency. But, I’ll just repeat, I’m not sure my younger self would want to be told by my old self.
Barry Cockcroft: 01:10:59 So in your 64 years of experience, what are some of the changes you’ve seen in the saxophone world and what are some of the things that haven’t changed that you thought might have changed?
Richard Ingham: 01:11:12 Well there seems to be work for saxophone players, so that’s great. The recognition and celebration of the classical saxophone tradition in the UK. One interesting thing that you alluded to was that there are scores of UK people who appear on the international stage and come to the congresses. I remember that for the first two or three that I went to, we were actually the only UK ensemble. I just thought if only more of you guys at home would come and listen to this, you know, it would inform our saxophone culture in such a deeper way. I guess with the upsurge of saxophone playing colleges, it happened and as you said there are a lot them. I think that’s very good. There is more classical playing in the UK and there it is visible and audible abroad. Just in general, the appreciation of one’s kind of music, one discipline of music for the other. So I’m thinking of the classical discipline and really admiring what’s happening in jazz and appreciating it to quite a high level and vice versa. And jazz discipline, admiring what’s happening in the classical discipline. More and more I write and play quite a lot of traditional music and that’s been a thrill to incorporate the saxophone as well. Maybe it’s great to see what’s happening more and more, is that what my very first teacher shared with me with actually showing me, we just did it over and over again. That’s the kind of Suziki technique, which he didn’t know anything about.
Richard Ingham: 01:13:48 That’s a ramble isn’t it?
Barry Cockcroft: 01:13:48 These are the rapid fire questions!
Richard Ingham: 01:13:48 Ask me another short one!
Barry Cockcroft: 01:13:54 Very good. Where can people find out more about what you do? Are you active on social media? Do you have a favorite website that you use? What do you like?
Richard Ingham: 01:14:07 I’m so active on social media… No I’m not on social media in any way. I have a website so you can find out about me online at my website, which is largomusic.co.uk.
Barry Cockcroft: 01:14:39 Finally, you’ve made an immense, incredible contribution to the saxophone. What do you see for you, what would you like to do into the future?
Richard Ingham: 01:14:58 Thank you for the kind comment there. I want to do a lot of writing over the next few years and continue playing.
Barry Cockcroft: 01:15:03 Sounds wonderful.
Richard Ingham: 01:15:04 It all remains very exciting Barry, which is great.
Barry Cockcroft: 01:15:09 Richard, I’d like to thank you for taking the time today to have this conversation.
Richard Ingham: 01:15:14 Thank you so much for this. It is always thought provoking and can I say thank you so much for all the work that you do for the saxophone.