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Markus was wearing his troubled face when he was playing his Double Bass

Markus Van Horn is a very busy professional Double Bassist, specialising in Baroque, classical, and contemporary music. Markus plays with ensembles including the, City of London Sinfonia, London Sinfonietta, Orchestra of St John’s, London Mozart Players, Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, English National Opera, English National Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Britten Sinfonia, Opera 80, London City Ballet, Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. He has also played in principal roles with Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Opera North.

 

A full-time varifocal wearer, Markus began experiencing problems focusing at music stand distance. He mentioned this to his local optician when he went for his regular eye examination. His opticians prescribed an additional pair of single vision spectacles for music stand distance. A musician not only needs to see the music stand. He also needs to see the conductor clearly and his fellow performers. Markus contacted Allegro Optical Opticians, as the spectacles prescribed failed to provide him with clear vision at all the working distances he needed during his work.

Allegro came to the rescue

The team invited Markus up to Meltham in Holmfirth for a consultation. Then plotted a performers lens designed to take into account all his working distances. We also measured and plotted the area and angle of his visual field at each distance. Once that was complete we adapted the music stand distance to give Markus as wide a field at the stand distance to enable him to see two full pages of sheet music, thus making it easier for him to concentrate on playing rather than seeing. As Markus lives in London we posted his new glasses to him a couple of weeks later, Just before Christmas.

Double Bassist Markus Van Horn buys his Spectacles from Allegro Optical the musicians optician

Markus took a few weeks for his eyes to fully adjust to the new lenses. Learning exactly where each area is and developing his muscle memory. Markus now says  “The new lenses have really helped make the music clearer on the page and are of immense benefit when the lighting is poor. I am very pleased with them

Conclusion

Musicians can present an optometrist or dispensing optician with a great many challenges. Mainly because of their working distances and the varying positions of their visual field. As musicians ourselves, we’re able to ask the musicians the right questions, and to interpret their answers. Using our combined optical and musical skills we are able to address and resolve the many visual problems encountered by older musicians.

As a specialist optician, our team at Allegro Optical are able to produce individual solutions to suit many musician’s needs. This service is not available anywhere else. We approach the problem in a completely different way, looking at it from the musician’s perspective. Our unique design of lenses which will solve their individual unique problems. We have built up a considerable following among musicians and performers as a result.

It’s been less than twelve months since we opened our brand new practice in Meltham and we’re already getting noticed. Not only has the Allegro Optical Opticians been shortlisted for the Yorkshire and Humberside Federation of Small Businesses, Celebrating Small Business Awards, for the Start-up Business of the Year category. Our Co-founder and Dispensing Optician Sheryl Doe has also been named as a finalist in this year’s Optician Awards, Dispensing Optician of the year award.

At Allegro Optical we are passionate about helping to correct the specific visual problems faced by musicians and performers. Providing a range of tailor-made solutions and services including on-site vision assessments. Using specialist optical technology for those affected by reduced visual clarity. The team have built up a broad client base, from professional classical musicians to members of well-known brass bands and many keen amateurs. We have also helped music teachers, performers, TV presenters and many keen amateur musicians of all genres. We love helping musicians to see their music again and extending their playing careers.

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It’s “All About That Bass”

Helping Ruth see the music

Just think about it, you’ve had perfect vision all your life, then things start to go wrong. Slowly at first and nothing to serious, but over time your vision starts to deteriorate. It happens to most of us, those under 40 will find out in due course. We all adapt by using reading glasses from the opticians or varifocals or bifocals or some of us resort to using off the shelf ready readers, or magnifiers. But most people find a solution of sorts.

 

However, it isn’t that easy if you are a musician who relies on their sight to read and play music for a living. String Bassist Ruth Ker was experiencing these symptoms of presbyopia and it was really beginning to get in the way of her playing. Ruth was becoming very frustrated at not being able to see. A Cellist colleague Fiona Mayo recommended that she contact us at Allegro Optical Opticians.  Allegro Optical Opticians are specialist musicians’ opticians based in Meltham, near Holmfirth, Huddersfield and Saddleworth, arguably one of the most musical parts of the country. Ruth and Fiona play together quite often and Fiona had recently got some musicians glasses from us and was delighted with them. Ruth said she had  “gone from having brilliant eyesight to completely rubbish”! Ruth explained to us that she plays the double bass and would be interested to get some glasses from us.

Focusing on the music stand and the conductor

So we arranged a consultation with Ruth, does have very good vision with no refractive error for the distance at all. She did, however, struggle to see the music on the music stand. Music for large bass instruments does tend to be fairly large and that had been her saving grace up to now. All bass players tend to have their music stand a good 120cm in front of them so the print needs to be quite large. Ruth was managing by moving the stand away, but there is a limit to how far away you can move it without it interfering with playing.

Ruth plays with both orchestral groups and Jazz so her working distances are quite varied and this gave us some challenges when designing her lenses. We dispensed Ruth with a pair of adapted multifocal lenses, as even freeform digital varifocals would not have met her positional requirements. Ruth didn’t take to her new lenses straight away, and she is the first to admit that “They took some getting used to”.  We’ve had quite a few tweaks and frame adjustments to get them how Ruth liked them and there has been a prolonged period of retraining Ruth’s eyes. Now she has adjusted to wearing glasses Ruth is using them every day and finds they are really helping.

A musician’s opinion

When asked about her glasses Ruth said “I hate having to wear glasses, however, my new glasses are vastly better than anything my usual optician had been able to make for me. Sheryl has been incredibly patient and persistent.” There are a great many Musicians who experience focusing problems. They struggle with all the different distances required of their profession and are unaware that there is a solution to the problem. Many optometrists or opticians either prescribe and dispense single vision lenses for the music stand, leaving everything else blurred. Or they suggest varifocals which often exacerbate the problems due to the narrow corridor, or they recommend office lenses which give a reduced working distance.

Understanding a musician’s visual needs

At Allegro Optical Opticians we understand the many visual requirements placed on different musicians. As a result we prescribe a variety of our own lenses designed specifically to suit their needs. We either adapt existing lens designs or we will create a lens design especially for the client to create a perfect optical solution. We understand the variety of dispensing challenges that practitioners may face when a musician presents in practice, but as musicians ourselves we are able to meet their individual needs perfectly.

If you are a musician who has problems seeing the music give us a call at Allegro Optical Opticians on 01484 907090 for advice or to book a consultation.

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The spectacle that is Brass in Concert

By Stephen Tighe from the Sage in Gateshead, featuring the fabulous Eikanger Bjiorsvik Band.

Every third weekend in November, Sage Gateshead hosts the spectacle that is Brass in Concert (BiC). At this time of year the venue comes alive with the sound of brass. Some of the finest bands in the world compete in this brass entertainment contest. Allegro Optical Opticians at Brass in Concert in Gateshead The line-up for the 41st Brass in Concert included some very familiar bands such as Flowers who started the proceedings. Cory, our local Brighouse and Rastrick, Tredegar and our old friends from Leyland all took part. The contest also saw performances from Eikanger-Bjørsvik Musikklag fifteen times winner of the Norwegian National brass band championships. Fountain City from the United States, winner of the 2015 North American Brass Band Championships and 2015 US Open Brass Band Champions. Also playing was Paris Brass band the 2015 French national brass band champions. Well, what a weekend it was. The triumphant Norwegians won yet another major prize. Eikanger Bjiorsvik Band is now Brass in Concert champions for 2017. I confess that they have been my favourite brass band for many years. Innovative, experimental and just fantastic musicians. They stormed the event, made history and created many happy memories for themselves and their supporters. This makes them Norwegian National Champions, Siddis Champions, European Champions and BiC Champions in 2017. Allegro Optical Opticians at the Sage in Gateshead Brass in Concert            

Allegro Optical goes on tour

Allegro Optical took the opportunity of introducing our products and services in person for the first time in the form of a trade stand to the hundreds of bandsmen and women attending. It was a first for us, having invested in displays and printed material to help tell our story. We met lots of really interesting people, caught up with old friends, and made new ones. It also confirmed that our unique service is in demand and needed desperately by older presbyopic musicians who are juggling 2 or 3 pairs of glasses unnecessarily to help them operate effectively when playing and performing at all different levels.

Music for all ages

We witnessed an excellent performance by Wardle Youth Band on the concourse on Saturday. Many musicians, irrespective of discipline are quietly aware of the problems caused by presbyopia, a condition which affects a performer’s ability to focus at different working distances. Symptoms are problems with focusing caused by a reduction in the flexibility of the eye’s crystalline lens and ciliary muscle. Often musicians experiencing these problems go to their opticians, looking for a solution. Many opticians have the solution to non-specialist problems but are unaware of how to use their knowledge to fix the problem for musicians and simply do not fully understand the problem. At Allegro Optical we are opticians who are also music performers, we play many different instruments in different ensembles, so we understand the many optical challenges musicians face and we specialise in solving those problems. Allegro Optical at the Brass in Concert workshop at the Sage in Gateshead   We have developed a range of unique lenses and an algorithmic formula to solve these optical problems. We have the Product, knowledge, skill and ability to improve the mature musician’s lot. We’ve had a great weekend enjoying some fabulous music, catching up with old friends, meeting new ones and witnessing history in the making as Eikanger-Bjørsvik scooped the first prize, becoming the first International band to win the contest. Adrian Bird Trombone Leyland band We are looking forward to attending the area contests in Huddersfield and Blackpool next year. We continue to help musicians throughout the year, so if you need help, don’t worry, just ring 01484 90 70 90 and speak to one of our professional team.