Sunday, September 11, 2005

Last Night blues

This is really a response to John's comments on the 'Still Here' post. I started writing it as a Comments reply, but it was getting too long!

John, please don't worry AT ALL about thinking of New Orleans, as I've been thinking of it very much myself, as have we all in the UK. Something I find upsetting from this distance, though, is that we don't know what is really going on, or why. We rely entirely on news reports that may give an accurate picture, but equally well may not. Clive Davis (see link in blogroll) has some interesting remarks on this subject. Personally, I find it sobering to think that if the disaster in New Orleans had been the result of a terrorist attack, not a hurricane, the administration's response might have been very different...

Last Night of the Proms 2001 was a total washout. Sadly, it's also the only one I've ever been to!! I don't know what else they could have done at the time; the shock waves hadn't even begun to die down and the conductor was American (Leonard Slatkin). I didn't find the event itself either appropriate or memorable - I can't even remember what they played, except the Barber Adagio, and it was only four years ago. Still, nobody was in the mood for the usual sing-song, that's for sure. Yesterday, though, when Paul Daniel remarked that the season had begun at 'a difficult time for London' - ie, just after the Tube bombing - the Last Night was, ironically enough, what we needed in order to start feeling positive once again about who we, collectively, are.

We're not as good at that here in the UK as you are in America. We mostly accept, and value, all the official stuff about diversity - 'our strength is our diversity', and such like - and there is a great deal in this (it beats the hell out of its opposite!). For the most part, we're a successful multicultural society, at least here in London. But actually our strength is not our diversity. It's the unity formed by our diversity, which is slightly different. There aren't a great many traditions to celebrate this. Normally I run a mile from 'jingoism' - one reason I've never been to a Last Night of the Proms except for 2001. But yesterday, I enjoyed it without cringeing, probably for the first time ever.

A few Last Night confessions:
I don't know the words to Land of Hope and Glory, or the second verse of the National Anthem;
I DO know the words to Jerusalem, but mainly because I love the film 'Chariots of Fire' so much;
These days I get a lump in my throat watching 6000 people loving every moment of a piece by Elgar;
I slightly object to all the local folk-song sing-songs that have sprung up as a recent addition via rainy open-air events - why not 'On Ilkey Moor B'at' 'at', 'London Pride' and 'The Keel Row' while we're about it? Where will it end?!?
I feel sad watching it, but that's mainly because it means it's the end of summer;
I normally loathe counter-tenors, but yesterday I thought that Andreas Scholl was the Best Thing Ever On Earth!
Last but not least, I missed the Korngold and the Lambert because I was finishing the first draft of Novel No.2. Yes!! It's done! Now the REAL work on it will begin...

Quote of the day

------- Gordon Brown, Chancello of the Exchequer, interviewed on BBCTV's Sunday Morning by Andrew Marr

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Still here....

I'm still here, kind of, but frazzled in the midst of a lot of diffferent trips. Lucerne last week. Rome this week, to interview another wonderful singer. Then home for four days, during which time I have to interview Yet Another Singer - what's going on with all these singers?!? I'll have met something like six of the best, so to speak. And I am trying frantically to finish the first draft of Novel No.2 before going on holiday to France the week after. So please forgive lack of blogging at the moment...

...and don't forget to tune in to the Last Night of the Proms tonight - it will feature KORNGOLD, no less, with the second half beginning with the suite from The Sea Hawk. Oh yes! Yes! Yes! About time too. Also, watch out for wonderful Paul Lewis playing Lambert's The Rio Grande, something one doesn't hear every day (though after reading Meredith Daneman's fantastic biography of Margot Fonteyn and seeing Tony Palmer's South Bank Show two-parter about her a few weeks back, I'll never view Lambert in quite the same way again...).

Saturday, September 03, 2005

That cat...

A nice surprise yesterday, when BBC Radio Ulster invited me to be interviewed by phone on their 'Sounds Classical' programme with John Teale. They wanted to trail next weekend's Proms in the Park - there's a good big event in Belfast - and someone had stumbled across my Indy article on the nightmares musicians experience during outdoor performances.

So at a quarter to eight John phoned, we chatted over some Venezuelan guitar music and then the interview began. It was just long enough to bring out the story about the harpist and the birdshit and to explain what can happen to valuable musical instruments in extreme temperatures; and long enough, too, for Solti the cat to decide that since he's the resident conductor, he ought to be included. Solti has a miaow loud enough to be heard through the piano and violin being played together, so if he's in the room while I'm on the phone, winding round my ankles and protesting at full volume, everybody gets to know about it. I think that yesterday evening, the whole of Belfast met Solti.

So, any musicians who have trouble with birds at open-air concerts should stop and reflect: it could be worse. It could be cats.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Ciao tutto...

My blog stat measurer tells me that we've had a mysterious rush of hits in Italy, all looking at the photo of the Vuillaume Octobass.

Che cosa sta accadendo?

I hope that's correct. I got it from altavista's Babelfish translator...just wanted to ask what's going on?

Not that my stat counter is particularly reliable. It's under the opinion that Zakinthos is in the UK, that Hyderabad is in Italy, that anyone using AOL is in America even when they're in Europe and that I live in York (north of Watford? Moi?!). Still, it's enjoyable to do the detective work: pondering why some total stranger would be musing over Faure's quoted thought, who's looking for me in the BBC (a phone call solved that one) and how disappointed certain seekers will be when their search on a famous musician's name and the word 'gay' returns them a "no" somewhere from cyberspace.