LIVE @ Dawkes…Sunday June 19th – Big Band Gig

Sunday June 19th saw the birth of ‘LIVE @ Dawkes’…an ongoing commitment to live music in our community, here’s how we got there:

 We have set out on this musical mission to bring live performances, of all kinds W/Wind and Brass, into our community. With so many great players around we wanted to use what facilities we can offer to help people get to see more live music and hopefully inspire them to LISTEN and PLAY more.  We wanted to start with a bang!  Knowing Nick Blake personally as an ex colleague and co-player we knew he shared our passion for reaching out to new audiences and spreading the good word of live music. Running a Big Band like ‘Blakes Heaven’ is no easy task and it’s certainly not a profitable task! The hours of work that goes into arranging the music, organising band members for rehearsals and gigs is certainly a labour of love. But, knowing the band well (as an occasional dep), I knew they were the right group of players to kick us off.

We then had a lining up of the stars so to speak, our good friend Tevis Laukat from Cannonball Musical Instruments informed us he was going to be in Europe for part of June, we already had the band in the back of our mind for a gig and it just seemed to make sense that Tevis and Cannonball should be involved. As a pioneering company with fantastic products the Cannonball brand and owners share our passion for live music and we knew with Tevis and the band on board we already had a good start. Speaking regularly as we do to the Cannonball artists we mentioned to them that the gig was a possible, thankfully 3 of our top guys were available on the day and so the date was set.

Whilst this was a Cannonball event, it also was very much a Dawkes event…we had to work out a way to host a Big Band gig at reasonably short notice. We mulled over venues, some were expensive, some weren’t available and generally we didn’t get any great feelings about what was available. We wanted the shop to be at the core of this as it’s the place our loyal, regular customers know well and feel comfortable. You come here for your musical equipment and repairs, why not for some music! Also, this wasn’t going to be a one off, we want a series of gigs and musical performances here long into the future. So, we had to work out a way the shop could accommodate a big band, 4 superstar Sax players, and hopefully a healthy numbered audience…

Great help was found with our regular stand/display design company SD Displays of Maidenhead. Like us they’re up for a challenge and everything is possible. With some thought, design and inspired guesswork (based mostly on hope and desire) we came up with the idea of hosting the band inside the current sales desk. Of course, the first concern was safety, the stage had to be totally secure to take the weight of 16 grown adults and equipment. Much thought was given to this so that we could also use the stage into the future in different sizes and places.

The plan was made, the components were ordered and constructed, the promoting of the gig began, and the most asked question from puzzled customers was: “how are you going to get a big band in here!!”.  There were other considerations of course, where would the audience go, and how could we make sure everyone had an enjoyable time; customers and band members!

Although we had concerns over the actual volume of the band in the shop space we tried to make adjustments to help keep this to a minimum. The drums and bass were placed furthest from the audience with sound deadening material under where they were sat. No amplification was used except for the singer and soloists, even then this was through a modest PA and balanced so as to not blow anyone away. Clearly, if you were sat right at the front it would be loud, but way under levels in a pub with amateur rock bands, and clubs on a Friday/Saturday night etc. We also provided space outside to give a haven for refreshments and a break from the music if wanted.


On the day the band performed really well, the arrangements were weighted heavily to feature the guest soloists so of course it was a Sax heavy event. We had many comments from customers saying they liked the original style of the band, something Nick works very hard at. We were lucky and pleased to have Paul Jones (BBC Big Band) sitting in on lead Alto, complimented by Duncan Lamont (Multiple West End shows) on 2nd Alto,  Simon Spillett (BBC Jazz Awards winner) and Tevis Laukat (Cannonball CEO) took Tenor duties as guest soloists. Each player has their own style and this was hopefully reflected in the music chosen for them to feature in.

The day was topped off with a free prize draw, where the prizes included; a £50 Dawkes voucher, 2 x tickets to Ronnie Scotts Jazz Club and 1 x Lesson with a Cannonball Artist. We also decided it wouldn’t be a bad day to launch our biggest ever Sax Accessory Sale and some bargains were snapped up.

We’d like to publically thank all the guest Artists, and of course the band for giving us their time and skills. We’d also like to thank all the customers who made the effort to get out on Sunday to see the gig and support local LIVE music.



LIVE @ Dawkes…Sunday June 19th – Big Band Gig

Yamaha NEO YEP642SII Euphonium

[youtube][/youtube]Yamaha Neo Euphonium (YEP-642SII)

 “The new standard in Brass Band Instruments” – Yamaha’s tagline for the Neo range of instruments…  It rang true for the new neo tenor horn a couple of months ago; it also rings true to this new YEP642SII Neo Euphonium.

At first glance, the new Neo YEP642SII doesn’t seem to have changed much from the Yamaha Maestro. It does boast slightly wider tuning slide bows and a redesigned hand rest, the new emblem is clear on the flawless bright silver plate. It is available in both silver and lacquer and both look exceptionally beautiful, even without the “gold bits” on Yamaha’s Custom range.

When you stop ogling it and actually blow the Neo, it becomes apparent that Yamaha have been doing some quality work in the development room. It has a rich tone, warm and deep which blends remarkably well with the other lower brass instruments while being powerful enough when needed to sing over the top of the band. It is clear and precise across the entire range of the instrument, even in the pedal and “super” ranges. And tuning is as close to perfect as has yet been seen in a euphonium, even without a trigger. The range of dynamics possible is huge as it still speaks when playing at ppp and just starts to get “barky” and out of hand at a strong, accented fff.

Continuing the theme from the Neo YAH-803 Tenor Horn Yamaha chose to work with some of the most respected musicians in the brass band field. Conductor and Player Bill Millar (University of Salford) and Yamaha Brass Band consultant David King both had input amongst other top players who were consulted and used to test the various prototype models that Yamaha developed the Neo Euphonium from. Lengthy testing, moving of parts, changing of dimensions etc took place to ensure this was built from the ground up rather than being a re-make of the current Maestro.

Yamaha have created an instrument that will perform with good tuning and an excellent range at all levels of banding, It seems to “sing” like no other instrument and the clear and easy articulation at all dynamics makes it a serious contender to the Sovereign’s crown as the brass band euphonium of choice.



Steven Walsh (Principal Euphonium Brigstock and Rastrick Band):

“The Yamaha Neo Euphonium has an unrivalled depth in tone and accuracy of tuning throughout the whole range of the instrument. These attributes can be projected across any ensemble with consummate ease.
This newest addition to the Neo range allows a performer the opportunity to portray their musical ideas with absolute comfort, culminating in a classic British Euphonium sound.”

Bill Millar (Professor, University of Salford)

“When trying a new euphonium a number of things are for me of paramount importance.
The first thing I would consider would be the comfort of hold, the positioning of the lead pipe and the hand rest are of particular importance. In this respect, I found that these were positioned ideally on the Neo to provide a comfortable hold when adopting a correct upright posture.
Quality of sound is for me the single most important feature of any instrument. I would be looking for an instrument that has both a resonance and a clarity of tone.
With the Neo I found both of these qualities in abundance throughout the dynamic range.
The modern day repertoire for the euphonium covers a range of more than four octaves so players need an instrument that they know will perform well at the extremes of the range. Again the Neo exceeded my expectation in this regard, performing with ease at the highest and lowest extremes of the euphonium register. The valve action on the Neo is both smooth and solid, providing an ease of execution when playing rapid passages and a sense of security in slower music.
This is an instrument that combines depth and clarity of tone with great projection, responsiveness and character, it truly is a joy to play and I give it my highest possible recommendation.”

Matt – Brass Dept:

Yamaha NEO YEP642SII Euphonium