Festival of Percussion


“Festival of Percussion” at the CIT Cork School of Music, Saturday 3rd & Sunday 4th of November, 2018. 

Saturday 3rd November

3pm – 4:15pm Masterclass in Orchestral Percussion with Principal Percussionist of the CBSO Adrian Spillet

4:30pm – 5:30pm Concert featuring Millennial Percussion & the CSM Junior Percussion Ensemble

Sunday 4th November

2pm Masterclass in Cuban Percussion with Sophie Hastings

3:30pm Masterclass in Bodhran & Folk Percussion with Cormac Byrne

The CIT Cork School of Music percussion department are proud to collaborate for the first time with the percussion ensemble “Millennial Percussion” from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and its artistic director Adrian Spillet (principal percussionist with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra), and the conservatoire’s percussion lecturers Sophie Hastings and Cormac Byrne. 

Three masterclasses and a concert will be held in the state of the art Curtis Auditorium in the CIT Cork School of Music, Union Quay, Cork. All events are open to the general public and admission is free. 

Organised by CIT CSM lecturer Stephen Kelly, Millennial Percussion will be joining forces with the Cork School of Music Percussion Ensemble for a weekend of percussion in the CIT Cork School of Music, with three  masterclasses and a concert.

On Saturday the 3rd of November at 3pm Adrian Spillett, head of the percussion department at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire will give a masterclass in orchestral percussion. Adrian has been the principal percussionist of the world famous City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra since 2011, and was the first percussionist to win the BBC Young Musician of the Year in 1998. 

This will be followed by a concert at 4:30pm – 5:30pm featuring Millennial Percussion & the Cork School of Music Percussion Ensemble, featuring music that will show off a plethora of percussion instruments in a show that will suit all ages. 

On Sunday 4th at 2pm percussionist Sophie Hastings will be giving a masterclass in the percussion instruments and rhythms of Cuba. The class will cover the technical aspects of playing cuban percussion as well as showcasing the incredibly funky sounds of Rumba Columbia, Comparsa, Mozambique, Guarapachangeo and the even funkier Bata Toques from Matanzas. Come and enjoy the intensity of cuban music stripped down to its essentials rhythm and the drum.

This will be followed at 3:30pm by Waterford’s own Cormac Byrne giving a class on Bodhran and Folk percussion. Cormac is one of Ireland’s finest musical experts, and its an honour to welcome in to the CIT Cork School of Music where he will demonstrate his incredible bodhran technique, with an emphasis on its use in current folk music trends. Cormac will also be showing how to incorporate other percussion instruments into a folk music setting. 

Stephen Kelly is lecturer in percussion at the CIT Cork School of Music, and is the Associate Principal Percussionist in the RTE Concert Orchestra, with whom he has played with many of the top national and international stars in the music business, including the recent successful collaboration with DJ Jenny Greene https://youtu.be/30C0skgB93c

He also rates trashing a piano with metal chains as one of the musical highlights of his illustrious career. https://youtu.be/lCkoIMrLcqY

Millennial Percussion

Artistic Director Adrian Spillett


Millennial Percussion is made up of students from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Percussion Department.  The department aims to offer the most versatile training with employability being the main focus of the course. The department offers an immensely broad and thorough percussive education, with over a dozen highly acclaimed specialist tutors including Alexej Gerassimez, Adrian Spillett, Sophie Hastings, Owen Gunnell, Cormac Byrne, Maraca2 Percussion Duo & Paul Turner.

Recent years has seen students travel on a learning exchange programme in Brazil with the Bahia Orchestra Project (Neojiba) and the world-famous traditional Samba School, GRES Portela.Lastyear, four students won 3rd prize in the Taiwan International Percussion Convention Competition. Other performances include Steve Reich’s DrummingMusic for Mallets, Voices & OrganSix Marimbas, Xenakis’ Persephassa, Ishii’s Concertante at the prestigious CBSO Centre Stage Series platform.

2018 saw the group perform in new exciting residency in Digbeth’s Centrala, featuring music for percussion with microphones and lighting in addition to Festival Ibérico de Música de Badajoz, Spain.

Adrian Spillett is the Section Leader Percussionist with the world renowned City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and works regularly with the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, the Graham Fitkin Band, the Colin Currie Group and the John Wilson Orchestra.

Recent performances include Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians at the Glastonbury Festival with London Sinfonietta, the BBC Proms with the World Orchestra for Peace and Stewart Copeland’s Percussion Quartet Concerto, Poltroons in Paradise in China with the RLPO.

As a soloist, Adrian has performed with the Royal Liverpool, BBC Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic and Irish Chamber orchestras. 

His concerto performances include Macmillan’s Veni, Veni, Emmanuel, Keiko Abe’s Prism Rhapsody II, Joseph Schwantner’s Percussion Concerto, and the world premiere of Dinuk Wijeratne’s Percussion Concerto. 

Sophie Hastings studied at the RNCM in Manchester and graduated in 1998. Since then, she has performed with many professional orchestras, TV and touring shows playing drum kit, Latin and orchestral percussion.

The orchestras include the City Of Birmingham Symphony, BBC Philharmonic, Hallé, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Royal Northern Sinfonia, Opera North, English National Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Northern Ballet, Royal Scottish National and Scottish Chamber. Touring shows include The Producers, Oklahoma, The Lion King, Never Forget, Dirty Dancing, SHOUT!, Saturday Night Fever, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Beauty And The Beast and Footloose. TV credits include performances for Gary Barlow, Ice T, Emma Bunton, John Barrowman, Lulu, Mel B, Big Brovaz and Misteeq. Shows include Katherine Jenkins, Jane Macdonald, Leslie Garrett, Antony Costa, Jonathan Wilkes, Joe Longthorne and Kiri Te Kanawa. http://www.bcu.ac.uk/conservatoire/music/departments/percussion/key-staff/sophie-hastings

Cormac Byrne is a bodhrán player and percussionist from Waterford, Ireland and is now based in the UK. He has received many awards for his work including The BBC Young Folk Award and was winner of the BBC Fame Academy Education Bursary in 2006.

Cormac has appeared at numerous festivals around the world and has toured extensively. Primarily playing with Mercury Music Prize Nominee, Seth Lakeman, he was also a founder member of BBC award winning band, Uiscedwr. His versatility has seen him in much demand across many genres, both live and in the studio, from Traditional Irish, Folk &World Music. 

Grady Tate with Oliver Nelson

Grady Tate with Oliver Nelson

“A veritable inferno of creative energy.”- Kenny Berger on drummer Grady Tate, Liner notes to “Oliver Nelson, the Argo, Verve & Impulse Big Band Sessions” (Mosaic).

I first was introduced to Grady Tate’s big band drumming a few years ago when I bought the Oliver Nelson big band box set from Mosaic records. http://www.mosaicrecords.com/The-Oliver-Nelson-Verve_Impulse-Big-Band-Sessions-233/productinfo/233-MD-CD/

I had only heard him play in small band settings previously, and I was blown away by what a fantastic big band drummer he is. He swings hard, possesses superb time, and has a great sound.

I love his playing on these Oliver Nelson Big Band sessions, and I got a lot out of listening to them. He has a spark & crispness in his playing, he swings and is a great “tailor” – he stitches together the various parts of the arrangement beautifully. Bearing in mind, as these are recording sessions I presume there was little or no rehearsal prior to getting the chart down on tape, so the creative energy he brought to these recordings was very much in the moment.

Time playing.

A great example of Tate’s musicianship can be found on Nelson’s arrangement of “St Louis Blues”.

It has a sparse four bar introduction, one chorus of the melody with light instrumental backing, another chorus where the backing is fuller in texture and then the trumpet solo begins. Grady plays ride cymbal for the intro, adds a rim click for the first chorus and then plays a slightly busier groove for the second chorus. (click on image to see full transcription).

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As the texture of the music thickens by the growing number of musicians playing the accompaniment, Grady adds notes to his pattern, but his changes are so subtle and very tasteful. (Lovely use of a gentle hihat “splash” on the downbeats in the second chorus.) Oliver Nelson wrote a fantastic, simple yet effective arrangement, but having a drummer like Grady Tate is essential in making it work. Grady has fast ears! He is completely “in” the music, and every move he makes has purpose.

Also, listen out for bass player Ron Carter during the trumpet solo. What great playing! He builds his accompaniment from the ground up, adding notes and rhythms, playing over the bar line, all of which builds both tension & interest. Grady is with him all the way, isn’t phased by Carter’s stretching out. This is a great example of a bassist & drummer listening to each other & locking in. The release as they wind down at the end of the trumpet solo is like the baby bears’ porridge; just right!


Grady Tate is a tasty soloist! Check out the 16 bar solo on “Three plus One”.

It’s a lovely solo statement, which borrows rhythmic ideas from the melody of Nelson’s composition. Grady takes his inspiration from the melody – instead of reeling off a bunch of pre-worked “licks”. The interplay between unison hands and bass drum is great. Spirited, hip drumming of the highest order.

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Ensemble Phrasing.

Listen to the head of “Lined with a Groove” from the album “Ultimate Ray Brown”

Now that’s tailoring! (Especially the bass drum catch on the “&” of 2, bar 10 of the head, very tidy). Talk about making it all fit together – perfect phrasing and sound choices (he has the hard earned ability to use the right part of the kit at the right time.)

Hear also how he plays with Ray Brown. Ray plays right on top of the beat, & Grady holds it down, it just swings real hard.

What strikes me the most about Grady’s playing is that it is happening in “real-time”. The music is put in front of him, he plays it, magic happens. Now, that’s something.

What I found as I listened to the tunes that Grady plays on in this collection was how adaptable his drumming is, he could lay down a solid groove but also loosen up his playing when needed. The head of “Milestones” which Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery recorded with an arrangement by Oliver Nelson is a good example of this, solid time on the ride cymbal with a rim click on 4 in a the A section, then he plays a more floating feel in the B section, implying ¾ against the “2 feel” in the band.

For me, Grady is right up there with the very best of big band drummers – he never plays anything other than exactly what’s required, and always with great time, feel and swing. What will consistently bowl me over is how creative he can be without ever taking from the music. It’s not about the drums, it’s always about the music.


P.S. – Be sure to check out Grady’s singing too, I’m particularly fond of his appearance on Piano Jazz with Marion McPartland. To be able to drum and sing like he does, that’s some serious talent!


The Steve Kelly Big Band plays the Music of Buddy Rich



The SugerClub Tuesday 26th February 2013 / €10 / 8.30pm