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If it’s not ‘Baroque’………..

Allegro Optical musician Philip Sutcliffe Violas De Gamba wears musicians glasses

Don’t fix it

As we musicians, experience is something we grow in throughout our careers. With experience comes a broader sound and often a very individual musical persona.   However, as we gain experience so at some point seeing the music on the stand becomes an issue. It doesn’t matter what instrument you play. Eventually, for most of us seeing the music on the stand or the conductor will become a challenge. At Allegro Optical, the musician’s optician, we see many keyboard players, string players, percussionists, brass and woodwind players. We’ve even been consulted by the odd bagpiper. However, it is always a pleasure to be presented with something a little different. I have to admit I do have a bit of a penchant for medieval instruments. There is something about those Rebec’s, Dulcimers and Viols which really excites me. So it is little surprise that when I first met ‘Viola da Gamba’ player Philip Sutcliffe in early 2018 I was quite excited. 

What is a Viola de Gamba

The Viola da Gamba is a mid to late 15th-century instrument which was popular in the Renaissance and Baroque (1600–1750) periods. The Viola da Gamba or Viol for short, is played with a bow and is held on the lap or between the musician’s legs. It is a  stringed musical instrument with six strings, but unlike most modern bowed instruments it has frets. Philip Sutcliffe - Viola de gamba - The musician's Optician Violas da gamba come in seven sizes: the “pardessus de viole” (which is quite rare, exclusively French and didn’t exist before the 18th century). The treble (in French dessus), the alto, the tenor (in French taille), the bass, and two sizes of contrabass (also known as a violone). The smaller bass is tuned an octave below the tenor bass (violone in G, sometimes called great bass or in French grande basse) and the larger one tuned an octave below the bass (violone in D).

Keeping everything sharp

Philip, like most enthusiasts, has quite a collection of Violas da gamba and it was my pleasure to get to see some of them. Philip returned to Allegro Optical for his bi-annual appointment just before lockdown in March 2020. Optometrist Sara Ackroyd tested Philip’s vision and found it to be very stable, but Philip fancied a change and took advantage of his stable prescription and updated both his varifocals and his specialist musician’s glasses. Having an amblyopic prescription Philip copes quite well with the image size difference between his two eyes. Amblyopia is sometimes called “lazy eye,” it is a condition that occurs in children. It occurs when one eye has poorer vision than the other. However, Philip is more troubled by his advancing presbyopia than the amblyopia. With a reading addition of 2.25 seeing the music has become a challenge in later life. Music teacher Philip also plays the keyboards and often accompanies many local musical groups. These groups include; the Millhouse Green Male voice choir, All Souls’ Amateur Operatic Society, The Halifax Gilbert and Sullivan Society and the Huddersfield Gilbert and Sullivan Society for his bi-annual appointment Sara checked Philips vision at all his working distances. After an extensive examination she was able to prescribe a correction for all his working distances. Philip opted for Power addition lenses (PAL’s) or varifocals for his everyday wear. But for music-making, he opted for our Sessione lenses. These lenses provide an unrestricted field of vision, perfect for when working in a recording studio or orchestra pit.

All framed 

Philip chose two frames, for his PAL’s he chose the Jaguar 36808 Jaguar 36808 6100and for his specialist musician’s glasses he chose the ever-popular round crystal frames Inspired by and designed in London, Hook LDN, a British company that specialises in creating high quality, style-led designs. Hook LDN HKS003 clear When Philip collected his glasses a few weeks later he was delighted and treated us all to an impromptu recital. When we asked Philip how he liked his new glasses he said: “They’re great! They are so comfortable I hardly know I’ve got them on. And now I can see my music so clearly I’ve got no excuse for all the wrong notes I play!” Philip Sutcliffe - Piano

Why do musicians come to Allegro Optical?

As an independent family run business, we are gaining an international reputation. Both for professional excellence and an inventive approach to meeting customer needs. Now known internationally as the ‘Musician’s Opticians’ we are attracting many clients from across Europe and further afield. Our groundbreaking work with performers, players and conductors have resulted in Allegro Optical becoming the first and only opticians to gain registration with the British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM). We treat each client as an individual because they are. It is true that no two musicians are the same, so why should their vision correction be? We enjoy creating unique lenses to meet a musician’s particular needs. As musicians ourselves we can ask the right questions and interpret the answers accordingly.

Award-winning eye-care

We’ve been pretty successful in helping performers to #SeeTheMusic. In fact, in the last twelve months alone we have scooped no less than five national and regional awards for our work in this field. These awards include the National ‘Best New Arts & Entertainment Business of the Year at a gala event in London. Managing Director Sheryl Doe was awarded the 2019 Dispensing Optician of the Year and she was a finalist in the AOP Dispensing Optician of the year 2020. She has also reached the finals of the  National Business Women’s Awards, for the Business Owner of the Year category.  Allegro Optical’s cutting edge approach to dispensing and their musical experience has led to the team being shortlisted for the prestigious Opticians Awards, Optical Assistant team of the year 2020 During March 2019, Allegro Optical was awarded the Scale-Up Business of the Year, at the regional finals of the Federation of Small Business awards in York. They then went on to receive the FSB Chairman’s award at the national finals in May. Finally winning the FBU Yorkshire family business of the year. Allegro Optical has been featured in many national publications including The Times, 4BarsRest, The British Bandsman and Music Teacher Magazine. If you are a musician who is struggling with their vision and making music no longer the enjoyable experience it once was, give us a call at either Greenfield on 01457 353100 or Meltham on 01484 907090.
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Now Conductor Mark Peacock can #SeeTheMusic

Conductor-Mark-Peacock-in-Greenfield wears musicians glasses

It’s music to Marks eyes and ears

Coming from a large brass banding family, Mark Peacock MA, BA. (Hons), PGCE picked up the cornet at an early age. In his formative years, Mark played in the local Salvation Army band before moving onto flugelhorn and joining the Tyldesley Band. Mark first crossed paths with Allegro Optical Managing Director and professional conductor Stephen Tighe, in the early 1990s when he joined Bedford Leigh Band. Steve had been conducting the band since 1989 and he happily welcomed such a talented young player. 

Conductor Mark Peacock can now see the music musicians eye test musicians visionMark went on to study music at Salford University. He became the first “brass bander” to graduate with a 1st class honours degree. Mark then returned in 2007 to complete his Masters. Whilst at university he was invited to join the newly formed Yorkshire Building Society Band, now Hammonds Saltaire Band. It was at this point that Steve and Mark went their separate ways, but certainly didn’t become strangers.  In 1996 Mark fulfilled his lifelong ambition and joined the ranks of the Fairey Band cornet section, enjoying a great deal of concert and contest successes.

A bright future

With such an excellent pedigree it is no surprise that Mark has had a very successful Head of Music / Head of Year / Head of Faculty in a Cheshire comprehensive school for 17 years. He is now a self-employed musician with Wigan Music Service, an examiner and an associate lecturer for Manchester Metropolitan University. Marks conducting career began in 2003, when he was appointed Music Director of the Pemberton Old Band. Here he had a string of successful concert and contest outings, the highlight of which was the bands’ victory in the 2004 1st Section National Championships, thereby returning the band to the championship section. Since then Mark has been the resident conductor of Wingates and The Fairey Band. 

Musicians vision restored bad eye sight poor vision can't see the music

In 2010 Mark was asked to take The Longridge Band to the North West Area Contest and then on a more permanent basis.

Mark has always been blessed with good vision and has always been able to read a conductor’s score with ease. However, Mark was becoming increasingly frustrated as he was struggling to focus on the music on his stand. He had tried reading glasses but these were only really any good for reading music from the lyre. Unable to find a satisfactory solution, Mark often enlarged the score to make it more comfortable. He realised that he needed to see the score and the band clearly. Brian Law Musician tuba player Longridge Band see the music musicians optician varifocal spectacles

On the recommendation of  Bb Bass player Brian Law,  Mark came to visit us at Allegro Optical in Saddleworth.

Seeing the light

Our Optometrist and Flautist Amy Ogden, conducted a thorough eye examination and measured all Marks working distances. Amy found Mark is slightly myopic with bilateral  oblique astigmatism and he also requires a moderate reading addition. In short, Mark was experiencing the early symptoms of presbyopia. 

Following his eye examination, Mark and Dispensing Optician Sheryl Doe worked together to create the perfect spectacles for Marks needs. He has so many specific working distances. So single-vision spectacles, bifocals or occupational lenses, were not a viable solution. A standard varifocal wasn’t really an answer either, as he needs such a wide field of view. Mark has to be able to scan a large conductors score while still being able to see all the musicians he is conducting. Usually about 30 people. Conductors’ scores are usually 60cm wide by 21cm high and on a stand which often Mark varies the height. This changes according to the ensemble he is working with and the type of music being played. Mark needs to be able to see every musician’s part clearly so any area of distortion would be unacceptable. 

Mark chose a lovely Evatik supra frame in blue. The choice of a supra frame works well for anyone in Mark’s profession, as the frame provides a clear view right to the bottom of the lens, with no distracting bottom rim. Sheryl extended the depth of the lenses to give Mark a much deeper field of view that enables him to see the score on the conductor’s stand, no matter how low he has it set. Once they had chosen the frame Sheryl set about dispensing the lenses. She based Mark’s lens design on our Performers OV lens , but adapted it to provide Mark with clear distance vision as well as providing him with the best possible vision when working. The Performers OV lens provides musicians with a wide visual field and gives relaxed vision in this case up to 100 metres or more. 

Testing times

Mark collected his glasses quite a few weeks later as the Coronavirus lockdown caused quite a few delays. Like at many businesses, our surfacing and glazing lab had to place the majority of their staff on furlough. They have worked with a skeleton staff to fulfil orders while maintaining social distancing. 

Conductor Mark Peacock in Allegro Optical Opticians Greenfield

Never before have our lens lab colleagues had to reshape and adapt so quickly. To protect the team members who suddenly found themselves working under the most difficult and potentially hazardous circumstances. Operating with a minimal team, they were able to complete most orders, but it did take much longer than usual, but we are very grateful for their efforts. 

Seeing is believing

When he collected his glasses Mark commented on the improvement they made. He said; “I’m absolutely delighted with the glasses that Allegro Opticians prescribed for me. They fully understood my requirements and took great care and concern that my needs were met. As a conductor, having a clear view of both the music and ensemble, without any lack of clarity was impossible before, but now both key elements have been addressed. I cannot praise the service and help I received from Sheryl and her team. They are knowledgeable, approachable and understanding. A first class company who I recommend to any musician. Thank you so much!”

Why do musicians come to Allegro Optical?

As an independent family run business, we are gaining an international reputation for professional excellence and an inventive approach to meeting customer needs.

Now known internationally as the ‘Musician’s Opticians’ we are attracting many clients from across Europe and further afield. Our groundbreaking work with performers, players and conductors has resulted in Allegro Optical becoming the first and only opticians to gain registration with the British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM).

We treat each client as an individual because they are. It is true that no two musicians are the same, so why should their vision correction be? We enjoy creating unique lenses to meet a musician’s particular needs. As musicians ourselves we can ask the right questions and interpret the answers accordingly.

Award-winning eye-care

We’ve been pretty successful in helping performers to #SeeTheMusic. In fact, in the last twelve months alone we have scooped no less than five national and regional awards for our work in this field. These awards include the National ‘Best New Arts & Entertainment Business of the Yearat a gala event in London. Managing Director Sheryl Doe was awarded the 2019Dispensing Optician of the Year and she was a finalist in the AOP Dispensing Optician of the year 2020.  Allegro Optical’s cutting edge approach to dispensing and their musical experience has led to the team being shortlisted for the prestigious Opticians Awards, Optical Assistant team of the year 2020 which again due to Coronavirus has been postponed

During March 2019, Allegro Optical was awarded the ‘Scale-Up Business of the Year‘, at the regional finals of the Federation of Small Business awards in York. They then went on to receive the FSB Chairman’s award at the national finals in May. Finally winning the FBU Yorkshire family business of the year.

Allegro Optical has been featured in many national publications including The Times, 4BarsRest, The British Bandsman and Music Teacher Magazine.

If you are a musician who is struggling with their vision and making music no longer the enjoyable experience it once was, give us a call at either Greenfield on 01457 353100 or Meltham on 01484 907090.

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About Allegro Music News

Under the Boardwalk, Uppermill Band’s tribute to key workers

Lesley and Jeremy Lewis

Josie Dawson looks back over a long and happy friendship

Like everyone else, the residents of Saddleworth have all been staying at home and social distancing. For most of us, life has completely transformed since lockdown began on 24th March. We used to rush off to work on a Monday morning and brave the rush hour. Now we sit at our screens and work from home, it’s all very strange. In fact, that is exactly what I am doing now. Our social lives have changed too and many of us have had to curtail certain activities we took for granted. For our musical team members, this has been very hard. Musicians including Brass Bands all over the world, have ceased their regular weekly rehearsals. I know our Managing Director and Kippax Band Music Director hasn’t been to a band practice since mid-March.  Sheryl said he is getting a little tetchy as a result.

Music and technology

Like our James, some bands are using technology to help them continue making music together. Our good friends in Uppermill Band are no exception, as they’ve put together a wonderful tribute to key workers from the comfort of their own homes. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology they have created this fabulous rendition of ‘Under the Boardwalk’. It was arranged by Philip Harper and features our good friend John Whittle on FlugelHorn. The whole thing was  conducted by Dean Redfern (I’ve no idea how!)

A special relationship

Uppermill band and Allegro Optical go back a long way. MD Stephen is old friends with band Chairman John Ward and Trombonist Jeremy Lewis was our 1000th customer back in July 2018, you can see the article below. The story actually made it into the newspapers. Jeremy’s wife Lesley, recommended Allegro Optical to Jeremy after she had visited us for some marching glasses, they have been firm friends ever since. Uppermill 40th Anniversary concert   Some members of our team were there at Uppermill Bands’s 40th-anniversary concert which featured guest stars, Helen and Glyn Williams, also good friends of Allegro Optical. They were even able to help when one of the band’s players had a spectacle disaster onstage. In 2019 Uppermill band and MD Stephen Tighe’s band Kippax shared a hotel when they both played at the National Brass Band Championships. A good time was had by all and Uppermill band did exceptionally well and won the third section competition. The band has already secured promotion to the second section and the win was the icing on the cake. 

Blackpool

Our James caught up with the band again at the North West Area Championships in Blackpool in March when they achieved a clean sweep of the Second section prizes. Uppermill band bass players Neil Bartel, David Mansfield, Howard Taylor and Andrew Jordan scooped the prize for best bass section; for the third consecutive year the Uppermill Band percussion section, Jenny Ward, Graham Gillespie, Katie and Andrew Woodward, were awarded the best percussion section.  Soprano Cornet player Mark Wears was awarded the best Soprano in the section and the Band as a whole had won the North West Area Second Section and would be invited to compete in the National Finals in Cheltenham in September. We will have to wait to see if that goes ahead or is postponed due to the Coronavirus. Uppermill-Band National win   We are delighted to share this video and support Uppermill Band in all their endeavours. Fingers crossed that we will be able to join them for their post-contest concert in September. We also hope that Steve, Sheryl and the team will get to catch up with them at the National finals. Jeremy Lewis Allegro Optical's 1000th customer