Doing the new reed dance

I don’t tend to post about this on my blog, but I’m a saxophonist. Sure, I’m a saxophonist who works mainly as a copywriter and does creative writing when she can, but I have a performance diploma from the ABRSM and I have a small teaching practice.

So I was delighted when I was offered some free reeds from D’Addario. Delighted because reeds are good (do I risk sounding like the Shamen there?) and costly and always useful, delighted just to have been asked at all, but mostly delighted because I don’t have a favourite reed at the moment. I’d equate that to not having a favourite notebook or favourite pen for writing followers. It’s the sort of thing that can really put you off.

I’ve been using the same reeds since I was 13 and my second teacher just took one look and said you can’t use those (inferior brand in her tone), you must use these. The change paid off, mind, and I was hooked. Everyone I knew was using just about the same set up and strength. Eventually I got the mouthpiece everyone was using too. Then the ligature. I just had that brand, 2.5 strength, and that was it. I’ve even done the ‘you can’t use those’ to my students.

I had tried what I think was an earlier incarnation of the D’Addario Reserve a few years back and it didn’t do it for me, but this time was different. I found them instantly agreeable, though had to move them on the mouthpiece to up the resistance a little. I was impressed with the low notes, as I had previously been thinking I had a leak. I still need to get my sax checked out with a repairer but I found the lower notes generally came out easier than with my usual sort.

And I put this new reed through its paces. I tested it with some overtones playing: this is something I am working on but they were very responsive still. Playing the altissimo notes was a dream. I got up to a top d sharp using Sigurd Rascher’s fingerings. There seemed to be lots of extra possibilities altissimo-wise using the reed.

I then tested the reed with an impromptu classical tune, and a bit of jazz. Yes. Still doing it for me. Tried it again the next day. (I looked forward to that). Yes. I managed a lovely bit of improvisation with my new reed. So I am currently doing the *I have a new reed dance* and very pleased to Tom at D’Addario for setting me off on this new adventure.

You can generally find me talking about my saxophone playing at

This is almost like a guest post from my other self!

©Rebecca Deans 2015




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You are my life, my completeness

This love is my weakness.

You’re my before and my after

The absence of laughter.

I’m held. You’re my holder.

My future is stuck in your folder.

My strength is this:

To shred the paper without looking,

To walk into the silence.

@Becky Deans 2015

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How on earth have I avoided the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists for so long?

As a student of English literature in the  1990s at the University of East Anglia, I thought I’d come across all the ‘classics’ I would ever want to or not want to read. But now I have come across the most brilliant book that would have fitted right into my studies. I picked many courses with a social history bias, so how did I miss Robert Tressell’s great work?

I have devoured the 742 pages in three days and now feel compelled to join the society and pass the book on it’s that good. And this is coming from someone who has avoided anything too ‘complicated’ or ‘taxing’ in the past few years. Life sometimes affects your reading choices.

Through the lives of a group of painters working in Hastings in the late 19th or early 20th century it tells the story of socialism. Through the discussions of the workers, and I did not feel this was forced, it explains the concepts. It’s very cleverly done. It also explains the lives of these painters without pity or over-emotion. The poverty of their uncertain futures.

And although the book was published just over 100 years ago, there are many parallels to be drawn with today. The uncertainties of work, with no contracts or employment legislation, is not too dissimilar in a way to the lives of those on zero hours contracts. Foreigners are blamed for the lack of work, rather in the way that UKIP would tell us now. And the way that charity is used to paper over the cracks in the system (shoddily like the rest of the hurried papering in this book) just as our improving economy has led to the increase in food banks.

The phrase ‘living wage’ is used, but none of the philanthropists, working for the man, have any hope of getting one. The people in the crowd are so conditioned to believe the way of things they feel justified in assaulting those who tell them any different. There’s even an election scene at the end.

Robert Tressell’s died in a pauper’s grave before the book was published and yet he has achieved something I have never found in literature of this age. He is describing the lives of working class people using his knowledge and skill. You may say that DH Lawrence also has this knowledge and does this well but I sometimes detect a kind of shame and over romanticism in his writing. EM Forster doesn’t even pretend to be concerned about the lives of the very poor in Howards End and sometimes resorts to Dickens. Ahhh. Yes. I guess Dickens manages it in his way, but this is somehow more real.

So if you are interested in socialism, read this book. If you are interested in early 20th century writing, read this book. And if you just like really good writing, read this book, you won’t be disappointed.

 (C) Rebecca Deans 2015

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A fragment of a folk song

I really am the queen of not getting on with writing. Though things are so interesting – and I like to be involved – and I’m not good at giving anything up. And I know sometimes things will result in writing at some point. One such topic is the Pentrich Rising, one of the last armed uprisings in the country, which happened in 1817. Last October I was asked to set up a Twitter account for the group planning the bicentenary commemorations, and I can never resist a call to Twitter. You can find out more if you follow us at @pentrichrevolt (when I’m not being @beckydeans @beckydeans1 or indeed @codnorcommon!)

This is fascinating secret history that probably directly involved my ancestors, who were living in the area at the time. Egged on by a government provocateur, called William Oliver, and led by passionate advocates for change, including Jeremiah Brandreth, a march was arranged for 9 June 1817, starting in this part of Derbyshire, through Ripley, Codnor, Langley Mill, Eastwood and on to Nottingham. Oliver told them a larger army of revolutionaries would join then in Nottingham.

Last night I went to see Lucy Ward play a fantastic concert at the National Forest Folk Club in Moira. And then it was writers’ group this morning. So I had the idea we should write folk songs – and that the subject might be the Pentrich Rising. Members of the group decided this would be a fascinating project ongoing, but wanted to do their research first, which seemed fair. But in the warm up, I came up with this. I thought I would share it with you, as it is so long since I have written this blog. And it might inspire you to come up with something better. Could you write a song to commemorate this hunger march?

And then came young Oliver

With hope in his sails

He talked of great thousands

In tune with his tales.

These people would meet us

In fair Nottingham

We pledged at that meeting

And so it began.

Then he just left us

But the seed had been sown

The only thing growing

In Derbyshire that June.

(C) Becky Deans 2015

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Resolutions, resolutions

So many years I have had the Writers’ and Artists’ Handbook poised at new year, thinking, say 2003, is going to be my year…. It wasn’t, though there’s a lot to look back on and edit.
This year I am going to put myself under zero pressure because pressure never got any short story finished. Pressure never researched magazines to send poetry to. Pressure doesn’t make you read your work out loud again after 16 years.
I always seemed to do better as part of a bunch of nice people so that’s what I’m trying to do. I’ve set up a writers’ group in Ripley, my local town, and It was failing but I have resurrected it from the dead for 2015 (with help from Derbyshire CC). I’ve also made friends with other writers and we’re going to write together.
I am not going to join some critiquing group run by a ‘published’ author and rip others’ work to shreds. I’m going to pull out the positives. And although I’d dearly love to do a PhD, my son is too young, and anyway I need to learn how to be a writer outside academia.
And maybe if I do stick to my New Year’s resolution: more yomping, something will happen. After all, I never meant to buy and learn the flute last year….
Happy new year!

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Merry Christmas or whatever you are celebrating

Just a big thank you to everyone who stopped in to have a read of my work this year. After having a little break from creative writing, and definitely from the weekly criticism sessions at university, it means so much that you had a look, liked, shared….
Hope you have a lovely break and maybe get some time to do some writing. I am of course still copywriting (see for more on that one).
Best wishes

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Hoar Frost

It was an icy morning. Cold hung on everything
You gave me tea and toast, but that was all
When I stepped into the cold, you asked if I had a scraper
Then hid round the back of the double-glazed door as I worked to clear the car
Were you watching me leave or checking I’d gone?

(c) Becky Deans 2014

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