Meet our players – Alan Braunton, bassoonist

Player profile: Alan Braunton, bassoonist, woodwind instrument repairer and malt lover

Alan Braunton is one of the NWSO’s bassoonists and has been with the orchestra since 2014. We wanted to find out a bit more about him – from what made him choose this difficult-to-play instrument to whether he prefers wine or beer (neither, it turns out…).

Can you tell us a bit about your musical career up to now?

I first played the bassoon at school in the upper sixth – there was one in the cupboard and no-one else would play it – and since I already sang and played clarinet/ piano/ organ/ recorders, it was another different instrument.

When we moved to Poole in 1975, we joined the Bournemouth Symphony chorus (or Municipal Choir as it was then), and we still sing with them now. I also used to sing with the Bournemouth Bach choir, and various other groups. Bassoon playing started again in 1992 or thereabouts (one of the local orchestras had a bassoon lying idle), and I played in various orchestras, wind bands and chamber groups in the Poole area. I took up woodwind instrument repair about 10 years ago, primarily because there was no good bassoon repairer in the Poole area – and still repair today.

What do you like about the bassoon and what is the most difficult bit of learning how to play it?

The sound is unlike anything else, and I like the challenge of the fingering system. The most difficult part is finding good reeds!

How did you become involved with the NWSO and what do you enjoy most about playing in an orchestra? 

We moved to Devizes in June 2014, and I was lucky enough to find the 2nd bassoon seat was vacant, so I allowed to join the following September.

The best part is the feeling when it all goes right.

Do you have any highlight concerts that you’ve been part of over the years?
There have been many – including the first ever performance of Verdi’s Requiem in Mumbai, India, with the Symphony Chorus.

Has there ever been a catastrophic concert – either with the NWSO or any other orchestras/ groups you are part of?

A few – but I would rather not remember them!
Do you have a bucket list of pieces that you would like to play – and if so, what are the top three?

There are too many works I have never played – anything new is always interesting.

If you could learn to play any other instrument, what would it be? 

Currently I’m still getting to grips with the contra-bassoon. I was lucky enough to buy my own two years ago.

What music do you like to listen to (apart from classical)?

Miles Davis, Fairport Convention, Floyd, Jools Holland, trad jazz.

Who would you say has inspired you most as a musician?

No one person – many friends along the way.

Any top tips for aspiring musicians (in particular bassoonists…)?

Don’t give up – it’s a hard instrument to play well, and make sure it’s been serviced well.

And a few quick questions:

Favourite piece of music?

It’s a toss up between the Poulenc Organ Concerto and Mis’ry and the Blues as performed by Jack Teagarden.

Most disliked instrument?

Has to be the bagpipes

Beer or wine?

Neither – a good malt is best.

Starter or dessert?


Famous person you’d most like to meet?

There are too many to list…