#4: Nathaniel Rodwell

We continue our series of player perspectives with a view from the brass section. Nat Rodwell reflects on not just our last concert of the season, but his last ever concert as a trumpet player…

So there we have it: a fitting finale to SELO’s sixth season and to life as a trumpeter. 

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing the trumpet since primary school, but last year made the incredibly tough decision to hang up the mouthpiece and focus on trying to preserve my hearing as best as possible.

Unfortunately, my ears have never been in the best of shape – why take up the trumpet then I (just about) hear you ask?! – but I don’t think anyone (and certainly not me) could have predicted how much of my life was to be entangled in its brassy web (“he’ll grow bored of it”, “he just likes making noise”, “surely it’ll tire him out”) or indeed the joy that is music more generally. I still plan to indulge in less ‘ear-intensive’ forms of music making, if you will, such as singing with my local choral society, but the trumpet will always hold a special place in my heart and so, as I’m sure you can imagine, this summer’s concert was always going to be bittersweet.

 And yet; I genuinely couldn’t have wished for a better way to depart – with a wonderful orchestra, drenched in sunshine, and playing three superlative brass-heavy classics that included what so happens to be my favourite piece of all time, Shostakovich’s magnificent Symphony No. 5. Indeed, having toyed with the decision to stop playing the trumpet for a while, and always never quite being able to bring myself to do so, it felt like fate when the 2018 season was announced: I knew right from the moment I received the email from our ever-devoted Secretary (and very talented clarinettist) Charlotte that this was it. At least I’ve been able to go out on my own terms.

 As mentioned, I’ve had the pleasure of being a part of SELO since day 1, and to watch it grow since then – both in terms of personnel and audience (as well as cake!) – has been inspirational. I often think back to our first concert in September 2012, consisting of a Mozart overture, Weber’s Clarinet Concerto No. 2 and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1, and how we essentially debuted as SEL(Chamber)O in all but name; to build from there to where we are now, via Mendelssohn, Dvorak and Brahms, is a testament to the ambition shown and work put in by our committee, and of course our conductor, David Smith, who has been central to SELO’s success.

 I first played under Dave’s baton soon after finishing university, as part of Barnes Concert Band, and had no hesitation joining him in Beckenham when he mentioned that he and his friends were planning to start from scratch an orchestra in what was then his local area.

He has a happy knack of making sure we ‘come to the boil’ at the right time, and I’m sure my fellow players would agree that rehearsals are always carefully planned and provide real value; I arrive home on Thursday evenings feeling like I have not only learned something but have more to think about for the following week too!

I may have already referenced cake, but it is an important part of orchestra life (at least ours) and, while seemingly trivial, espouses a lot of what has made Thursday evenings (and Sunday afternoons) so enjoyable over the years: the chance to play world class music with a group of gifted and friendly people, united in their aim to deliver the best possible concert experience for their audience.

Music is something to be cherished every day, and the more people that can be exposed to its numerous life-enhancing qualities the better. It has certainly helped guide me over the years – and I fully intend to not let go of it just yet.

I very much look forward to listening to a SELO concert in the not too distant future as they no doubt develop further and start to tackle ever more fascinating repertoire for the benefit of the wider South East London area. I would ask just one favour: please don’t schedule Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 any time soon or you may well force me to have to come out of my self-imposed retirement! Never say never, I suppose…