Wind Concert at St Leonard’s Church, Eynsham on Sat 11th May 2024 by WOC, WOL, WOCI and WOW 

You can’t beat live music! On Saturday evening it was a choice between the Eurovision Song Contest live-streamed from or a feast of musical styles played ‘live’ by West Oxfordshire’s wind ensembles, WOC, WOL WOCI and WOW. 

What a great opener – Humperdinck’s Overture to Hansel and Gretel. WOC (fifteen clarinets, including alto, bass and high Eb) really evoked that prayerful feeling and the dynamics were stunning, with middle parts particularly expressive. First clarinets gave us great articulation and shrill trills, in keeping with the drama of the piece and its magical sense of foreboding. Then on to Kurt Weill, with excellent dotted rhythms. But the next piece ‘Jubilation’ made all sit up and lean in through its rhythmic complexity, handled really well. The section finished with Dodge City where you could sense wagons rolling through town, while the percussion section denoted well those trotting horses. 

West Oxfordshire Learners (WOL) now take the stage. Conductor Wendy Marks has a reassuring careful attention to tuning and preparation – she has taught many here and inspires the players in developing a sense of musical autonomy – you can do it (‘I’ll create a part for you! I’ll rearrange the part so you can play’!) Lovely variety of musical styles now, including ET (good dynamics here, and players passing the tune back and forth between them). Then to Jeeves and Wooster, followed by New York, New York, where the saxes really shone. 

The second half of the concert brought us West Oxfordshire Clarinets Intermediate (WOCI), followed by West Oxfordshire Winds (WOW), who produce a broad palette of sonorous colour through the additional bank of flutes, cornets, oboes, saxophones, French horn and trombone. 

WOCI gave us some fine playing especially in the traditional tune, the Irish Washerwoman, with particularly well-articulated staccato passages. Great energy here. There was a lovely bass clarinet sonority played sensitively in the traditional Norwegian tune and with good attack in Grand Day Out. 

On to WOW, much bigger forces to coordinate and arrange. There’s palpable enthusiasm here and musical friendships. Everyone depends on each other, while carrying individual responsibility for being at the right place in the right time. It was refreshing to hear longer works – especially the Planets, the Glen Miller medley and Les Miserables. There was a good deal of characterful playing in the Glen Miller – trombone glissandi, and middle register instruments in Little Brown Jug doing a great job on the off beats to keep the momentum clearly driving forward. In Les Mis there was beautiful sustained playing from flutes and oboes, especially in ‘I Dreamed a Dream’, supported by lots of colour in the middle parts. ‘Do you hear the people sing’ always brings a tear to the eye, and this evening Wendy kept those dynamics really effective, with all eyes on her sound-guiding gestures. And finally all four groups joined together to play Pamela March. Reeds, mouthpieces, stands, sheet music, chairs, shining instruments all glittering and moving into position under the lights of St Leonard’s Church.  The stage management works smoothly and the church bursts into the rhythms of a marching band. And so with a spring in our steps we leave the concert. We sense Wendy’s boundless energy and enthusiasm and above all, the recognition of everyone present having fun through live music-making. Oh, and we get home in time to see the winning song of Eurovision 2024. But that’s another story… (Alison Street)

Summer Wind Concert at St Leonards Church, Saturday June 17th 2023


A very enjoyable evening was had by all at last Saturday’s concert by WOL, WOCI and WOC (West Oxfordshire Learners, West Oxfordshire Clarinets Intermediate and West Oxfordshire Clarinets) under the inspiring baton of local teacher and music impresario, Wendy Marks.


One of the lovely things about these concerts (apart from the dedication, hard work and enthusiasm of the amateur players of all ages) is that Wendy talks her audience through the pieces, and on this occasion had chosen to highlight the work of several women composers, including Debbie Wiseman, who has written for film and TV as well as recent royal celebrations. A member of WOL explained to the audience that Wiseman had written a piece called Together during Covid and waived her copyright, offering both a simple and a more advanced version of the tune for people to play alone (initially) and then together when they could; It had been requested that WOL perform it, and they played it (and a wide variety of other music) beautifully.  This piece, as well as many others, had been specially arranged by Wendy for the groups she teaches and conducts.


WOL, a predominantly adult group, includes wind players of different sized saxophones and clarinets, flutes, oboes and trombones with many players having only recently begun to perform. WOCI are slightly more experienced clarinet players, and WOC, the advanced group, includes FIVE different sizes of clarinet!


It was WOCI’s first public performance and they rose to the occasion admirably. They played a wide variety of music, including Handel, Haydn and Mozart, but I most enjoyed Smile (originally a tune by Charlie Chaplin) and Moon River. Both these pieces were difficult, involving slow, quiet passages, but were beautifully played. Hopefully we will be able to see these players progress and develop over future performances.


WOC played, amongst other pieces, Rossini’s William Tell Overture, keeping perfectly together, and some fine early music, including Byrd’s Earl of Salisbury’s Pavane. A Dvorak Wind Serenade, had been arranged by Wendy to showcase the bigger clarinets, and though ambitious, was nicely played. The band finished on a high with Reunion Rock, leaving us definitely wanting more.  (Julia Shay)

Freeland Orchestra & WOW concert at St Leonard's Church, Saturday May 20th 2023

The concert was a treat for all musical tastes, with both orchestra and wind band enthusiastically conducted by Wendy Marks. 

First on the programme was Haydn’s popular Clock Symphony, written during his 2nd visit to London in 1793. Haydn the pop star of his day! The ticking of the clock is heard in the second movement with bassoon and lower strings ticking nicely, taken over later by bassoon and flute. There was some accomplished playing from wind and brass throughout this piece which had a lively finish from the entire orchestra. 

This was followed by Soirées Musicales by Britten. There was assured playing from all sections of the orchestra with lovely flashes of colour from wind and brass, and a particularly lyrical violin solo in the Canzonetta, all brought to a close with a lilting Tarantella. 

The second half of the programme saw West Oxfordshire Winds, WOW for short, taking over the stage, where again Wendy brought an inspired choice of pieces together. Here we had Beethoven’s Turkish March, beginning on a pianissimo, managed confidently, leading on to a jolly Ragtime followed by a lovely American piece called Ashokan Farewell which featured a beautifully played saxophone solo. A medley of Elton John songs included some hand clapping from the middle of the band was next. They were having fun and so were we. This section of the evening finished with Best Years of your Life from Shrek. All in all, an eclectic mix where players and audience alike were clearly enjoying the rendition. ‘WOW’ indeed! 

Finally, a first for all concerned, both orchestra and wind band came together for a huge finale, the church seating still seemed packed with audience, so where had everyone been hiding? Dance of the Tumblers by Rimsky-Korsakov…wind, brass percussion and strings in one joyous bonanza.  (Chrissie Woodward)