Fanfare for St Cecilia’s Hall played by Sonic Pi

Last week my Wife and I had the privilege of attending the official opening ceremony of St. Cecilia’s Hall in Edinburgh. This music hall, the oldest in Scotland, was purchased by Edinburgh University on 1959, and my Father, who was then Professor of Music at the Univerisity was instrumental (forgive the pun) i negotiating the housing of a collection of early musical keyboard instruments made by Raymond Russell. The Hall was opened in 1968 following this refurbishment.Since then the number of instruments in the Collection has increased, most notably by the acquisition of the Rodger Mirrey Collection of Early Keyboard Instruments. In January 2004 the decision was taken to add the Reid Concert Hall Museum of Instruments (the John Donaldson Collection of Musical Instruments).belonging to the University, and  major refurbishment program was started to give a fitting new home for all of the instruments. This took three years to complete, and the Hall was closed for over two years whilst the changes took place. It was opened again for use earlier this year, and last week was officially opened in a ceremony by H.R.H. The Princess Royal.

As part of that ceremony a musical Fanfare composed by Andrew Blair, Masters Student in Composition at the Reid School of Music in the University. He graciously gave me permission to take the score and transcribe the music for Sonic Pi to play. I typed the notes in by hand, as printed for two Bb trumpets, and applied a transposition of -2 semitones to give the correct concert pitch, and first produced a version using the built in :tri synth on Sonic Pi. With the addition of some reverb this produced a very acceptable performance. However in an effort to make it sound more authentic, I then tried using the trumpet samples from the Sonatina Symphonic Orchestra, for which I had previously written code which I have used extensively to produce sample based instruments for Sonic Pi. However in this case, I found that the samples didn’t work very well, particularly on some of the lower notes. I did some experimentation using the music program MuseScore 2. First I modified the Sonic Pi code to use midi commands instead of play commands, and I fed the output into MuseScore 2 setting up two instrument tracks with trumpet instruments. This gave a much better rendition, but was rather unwieldy.

I decided to generate my own trumpet samples from MuseScore 2. To do this, I chose the same notes as for the samples in the Sonatina Symphonic Library, namely
a#3,a#4,a#5,c#3,c#4,c#5,c#6,e3,e4,e5,e6,g3,g4,g5 (all concert pitch)
From these all other notes are produced by playing samples more slowly or faster. Using these pitches, I could use the samples with my existing code to handle the Sonatina Symphonic Samples. I set up a “score” to play single long notes for each of these pitches, with rests in between, and then played them in MuseScore 2, recording the output in Audacity. I then diced them up in audacity, producing individual .wav files for each of the pitches, and normalising them before saving the files. I tried the resulting samples with my Sonatina code and it worked perfectly.
So I produced the second version, using these samples which sounds very realistic.

You can download the code for both versions from my gist site here

You can hear what they sound like on soundcloud here

The opening of the Hall was a very moving experience for me, and ti was enhanced with Andrew’s brass fanfare, and with other music played on a Virginal from the collection, made by Stephen Keene in London in 1668

Two of the early keyboard instruments in the collection (plus my Wife in the distance!)

If you like musical instruments, and are visiting Edinburgh, I would encourage you to visit the Hall and the Museum. Their website is There is also an app which lets you explore the collection of instruments Apple version      Android version

You can read about the history of the hall on this site (It also contains pictures from the first refurbishment of the Hall in the 1960s).


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