Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Notes from Musicians' Kitchens

British mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnston has launched a super initiative to help raise money for our crisis-stricken musicians and to inspire us in our cooking efforts too. Its name is Notes from Musicians' Kitchens. Jennifer writes:

Jennifer Johnston
photo: Helena Cooke
The musical world across all genres has been very seriously affected by the shutdown, and there are millions of musicians and music professionals worldwide who are out of work and fearing for both their futures and the future of the industry as a whole. It has now fallen to charities like Help Musicians U.K. to take up the slack, offering one-off hardship grants to those musicians affected by the crisis, but their £5million money pot will not last forever. 

It’s now time for creatives to be creative and so I have established Notes From Musicians Kitchens (www.notesfrommusicianskitchens.com), a subscription-only digital recipe resource, with a £10 one-off access fee, of which 100% goes to Help Musicians U.K. The aim is also to publish a cookbook which will hopefully be sold worldwide. 

Food is not just a universal need but also a universal link to our homes and communities, and a universal pleasure, just like music, and so, in the midst of this worldwide shutdown, I want food to bring us all together as a global community, and help to ensure that there is a music industry to return to after the shutdown, not leaving any of our colleagues and friends behind. 

Notes For Musicians’ Kitchens is a means of digitally breaking bread with each other, of sharing and appreciating our diverse food cultures, of creating new memories. Once lockdown is over, food will be used to celebrate our freedom and our ability to give each other hugs again, not to mention throw parties. 

The recipes are from all over the world, and all have a personal story attached, we all have our own stories to tell which are as important as the food. There’s also a section for those who don’t like to cook, or who are too busy and want an easy life, and there will be plenty of vegan / gluten-free / vegetarian / dairy-free / Keto recipes, so there should be something for everyone. 

We’re always accepting submissions, so if you’re a music professional, please think about it, The Rules are below. My thanks go to those who have submitted their recipes and told their stories so far, and to those who are helping me run this project behind the scenes, especially Madeleine Pierard, my right-hand woman who has designed the website. You can also follow this project on Instagram: @notesfrommusicianskitchens. 

The aim is to raise as much money as possible for musicians in need, and whilst the subscription to our site is a donation in itself, we also have a fundraising page, linked directly to Help Musicians, in the event you wish to donate more than £10: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/notesfrommusicianskitchens. Please give generously, and please help us to spread the work by telling everyone you know about the project.

I have asked musicians to tell me what food means to them: 

Food is culture
Food is habit
Food is nourishment
Food is health
Food is identity
Food is memories
Food is comfort
Food is family
Food is community
Food is universal
Food is life
Food is home
Food is LOVE

*recipe submissions will be accepted from music professionals only
*only one recipe per person will be accepted
*it must be your own recipe and free from copyright
*by submitting you agree to your recipe being donated and published without any payment
*not all recipes will be selected for the physical cookbook but all will be published on the website
*it would be enormously helpful if you could send us a photo of your finished dish with your recipe
*when you submit a recipe, please could you also identify yourself and any website you would liked listed with your submission

Please consider subscribing or, if you're a musician yourself, contributing a favourite recipe!

Monday, April 06, 2020

Karina takes the cake

There is some seriously good news this morning: actual progress in the upper echelons of a London orchestra. Karina Canellakis is announced today as the principal guest conductor of the London Philharmonic, the first woman (as far as I know) to hold this level of post among the capital's sort-of-self-governing symphony orchestras. I'm reliably informed that her concerts with them last season were rapturously received by players and audience alike and I look forward to many more when we are all up and running again. At present she is scheduled to conduct them in October in a programme of Adams, Bartók and Beethoven and a series of three concerts in April 21 in repertoire that includes both Brahms piano concerts with soloist Stephen Hough.

Brava Karina!

Karina Canellakis is the newly appointed Chief Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and Principal Guest Conductor of Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Berlin. Internationally acclaimed for her emotionally charged performances, technical command and interpretive depth, Canellakis has conducted many of the top orchestras in North America, Europe, and Australasia since winning the Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award in 2016. 

She makes several notable debuts in the 2019/20 season, including Philadelphia Orchestra, the symphony orchestras of San Francisco, Atlanta and Minnesota, London Symphony, Munich Philharmonic and NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra. With a strong presence at European summer festivals, Karina also makes debut appearances at St Denis Festival with Orchestre Philharmonique du Radio France and Edinburgh International Festival with BBC Scottish Symphony, and returns to Bregenz Festspiele with Wiener Symphoniker with a programme featuring the third act of Wagner’s Siegfried. Other notable re-invitations include the Orchestre de Paris, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, the Houston and Toronto symphonies and the LA Philharmonic for performances at Walt Disney Concert Hall. 

A sterling 2018/19 season saw Karina conduct the First Night of the Proms in London and the Nobel Prize Concert in Stockholm. Debuts included Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, St. Louis Symphony, Melbourne Symphony, London Philharmonic, Deutsches Symphonie-orchester Berlin, Dresdner Philharmoniker and Oslo Philharmonic. She returned to Swedish Radio Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the symphony orchestras of Cincinnati, Dallas, Detroit and Milwaukee. 

On the operatic stage, Karina returns this season to Opernhaus Zurich, where she will lead a fully staged production of Verdi’s Requiem. Last season she conducted critically acclaimed performances of Don Giovanni with the Curtis Opera Theater at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia. She has also conducted Die Zauberflötewith Opernhaus Zurich, Le nozze di Figaro with Curtis Opera Theatre, and gave the world premiere of David Lang’s opera The Loserat the Brooklyn Academy of Music. In 2017 Karina led Peter Maxwell Davies’s final opera The Hogboonwith Luxembourg Philharmonic. 

Already known to many in the classical music world for her virtuoso violin playing, Karina was initially encouraged to pursue conducting by Sir Simon Rattle while she was playing regularly in the Berlin Philharmonic for two years as a member of their Orchester-Akademie. In addition to appearing frequently as a soloist with various North American orchestras, she subsequently played regularly in the Chicago Symphony for over three years and appeared on several occasions as guest concertmaster of the Bergen Philharmonic in Norway. She also spent many summers performing at the Marlboro Music Festival. She plays a 1782 Mantegazza violin on generous loan from a private patron. Karina Canellakis previously served as Assistant Conductor of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. She is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music and The Juilliard School.

Friday, April 03, 2020

Off the wall in 10,000 steps

It's Friday, apparently - not that I'd have guessed. The days are measured out in porridge, coffee, soup, tea and job-lots of 10,000 steps and by 9.30pm I am knackered and ready for a good long sleep. How do I normally manage, out at 3 or so performances a week, back at 11pm or later, navigating busy trains and the throngs of central London?

The 10,000 steps is Tom's insistence (I'd be quite content sitting at my desk checking the book edits all day). Generally, I can't keep up. He is loving his time off with a passion. He does yoga, practises the violin all morning, goes to Waitrose a couple of times a week, puts on the washing, sometimes goes running or demands a good long walk in the park, and has been doing most of the cooking while I'm trapped in 1812 tussling with Luigi and Josephine. I've always known he has more energy than I do, and now I'm glad and grateful that someone has the oomph to mow the lawn.

And so to Immortal... The editing is going pretty well. The big issues are coming out in the wash, so to speak, and I am ever more impressed with the job that the doughty structural editor has done on my 135000 words: where she has made big cuts, I first of all stare with dismay, but then read the new version and think "ah, riiiight..." - because she has found ways of allowing certain things to speak for themselves, instead of being spelled out, which is something I should know but can't always spot from up close. Josephine's first husband's waxworks museum is a case in point. The book is haunted by his ghoulish image of King Ferdinand IV of Naples. The glass eyes of ETA Hoffmann's Dr Coppelius are never far away. But you will need to go and read Hoffmann to learn more about this.

I am continuing with daily (almost) readings from Ghost Variations as my personal Jessanory on my new Youtube channel. Each day I upload 13-17 mins of it around 5pm. The filming is done with PhotoBooth on my computer and it is pretty amateurish, not least because I can't be bothered getting glammed up and the cats may wander in in the background at any moment. Meanwhile, my evening reading is Anthony Trollope's The Warden, which is such a laser-sharp picture of small-town politics and fat-headed journalism that it could almost have been written this century. So with this mental mix, tempered by high anxiety, last night I had a nightmare: I had been filmed for a TV interview with Lang Lang and some other pundit and something went awfully wrong and the video of me was so terrible that some newspaper website ran it whole as a shaming exercise. I woke up shaking and relieved to discover that all I really have to deal with is a global pandemic. I might need to avoid Lang Lang's recordings for a few days.

And so we plough on. I have a few things to write and some of the concerts we had planned for this year are now going to take place next year instead (touchwood). All is not lost. It is still springtime and this weekend is going to be sunny. Enjoy it, and stay safe.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Wagner's Ring-Cyber?


Morning all!
So...it won't have escaped your notice that many musical organisations have been using the wonders of modern technology to arrange playing together at a socially-distanced distance, from many and disparate locations. But wait for it: is this the biggest one yet? How could it not be? It is...

Loge, from Arthur Rackham's Ring cycle illustrations
- a prequel of Jurowski's conducting?

The Ring cycle. Or in this case, the Ring-Cyber.

Putting on Wagner's Ring is no task for the faint-hearted. It requires years of planning, months of practice and weeks of rehearsal. And then, of course, days of playing and listening. So, really, you can't take risks with it, even at the best of times. The complete work has been in the 2020-21 diary of my orchestra-in-law, the LPO, for years: in some ways Vladimir Jurowski's farewell as he enters his last year as principal conductor before heading for the Bavarian State Opera, where he becomes music director later next year. Yet who knows when we will be able to return to life as "normal" used to be - with live concerts and operas to attend? Nothing is guaranteed.

And so they have devised the contingency plan to end all contingency plans.

The players will play from their homes, the singers will cyber-beam themselves in from all over the world, the anvils will have to be improvised from whatever metallic surfaces the percussionists have to hand, and the semi-staging will be in our imaginations only; but Vladimir, aided and abetted by the doughty leader Pieter Schoemann, will cue everyone in to perfection, having also conducted the rehearsals in similar remote mode. If he can't pull this off, nobody can. They know the first three backwards already; now it's only the small matter of nailing Götterdämmerung...

So, prepare to book your places at the computer and don't forget to tune in to this Ring-Cyber once-in-a-lifetime experience!

(PS: mezzo Jamie Barton, bass-baritone Ryan McKinny and pianist Katherine Kelly are already getting in shape: try this! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_ChqaZxLT4&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR0MHYOCqrg_xIniuthzP-yGUtiGFwqIlZWbR6pzjGEI_dp3SY4-SBZxv0w)

Sunday, March 29, 2020

A change of clock

A green parrot in the park, wondering why it's so quiet
It is a sign of our digital obsessions that I accidentally wrote that title as "A change of click" first. Ticking off the tock, "British summertime" begins today, so everything is an hour later than you think it is. This will be nice for the cats, who might be surprised to find they're agitating for feeding time on schedule instead of way in advance. But it remains dangerous for me as I have a computer-conference at 9.15am Brussels time tomorrow. At breakfast today Tom put on the first Brünnhilde-Siegfried scene from Götterdämmerung, and the Rhine journey, and if that doesn't wake me up, nothing will.

I should have been travelling to Brussels today - little more than two hours by train - and there meeting colleagues from all over Europe and having dinner with a wonderful violinist whom I know so far only through her playing and some Facebook messages. Anyway, here I am instead in my study, in my warmest winter pully and joggers, wishing I'd had my hair done, my piano tuned and a wine conditioner cabinet installed before all this mess blew up.

I'm amazed by the resourcefulness with which our locality is dealing with it. The supermarket was functioning sort of normally a week ago. Now they have put in place a supremely efficient queuing system. They calculated they have a capacity of 70 shoppers at a time. As one exits, one more is allowed to enter. Everyone queues outside, 2m apart. The deep trolleys have vanished and there is only a small supply of the shallow ones; an assistant is on hand with disinfectant wipes and cleans the trolley handle before passing it to the next person who comes in. There is no close queuing at the checkouts and the shelves seem relatively well stocked, although certain lines have been discontinued. They encourage people not to go in in couples to shop for one household, but they will help solitary shoppers to their cars with their bags. They have my applause for figuring all this out so fast and making it work so well.

The other day we took a government-approved-one-exercise-walk-per-day in Richmond Park (we are extremely lucky to live 10 mins stroll from it) and were fairly shocked by the behaviour of cyclists in there, out in their gear with rap blaring from wherever they keep it, riding several abreast, causing log-jams by the pedestrian gates and creating quite some hazard to families with young toddlers trotting along in front of them (in case you are reading this in a sensible country that has proper official divisions between cyclists, cars and pedestrians: we don't, and it's a problem, but nothing is ever done about it properly cos no magic money tree etc etc.) Police vans were out, observing, and that evening it was announced that cycles are now banned from the park. It is pedestrians only, unless you are a child under 12 in which case you can bring your little wheels. The place feels safer now. Whatever happened to the lycra lads?

Yesterday I watched a TV programme for the first time since the lockdown began - a documentary about the choreographer Kenneth MacMillan (highly recommended, btw). I think I'm finding it hard to watch or listen to anything that depends upon people being together, working together and creating together - which is virtually everything. I do not mind being solitary-with-husband-and-cats, and I like the peace and quiet, but my goodness, the situation shows us how much we take for granted the way we all interact simply because that is how human beings function, and how society functions. And if it is a small comfort that after this nobody will ever be able to say again "there is no such thing as society", it is a cold comfort too. Why does it take a pandemic to make people recognise this?

More cold comfort: we suspect we may have had the virus already. Tom was quite unwell with a terrible three-week dry cough immediately after our South African trip in late January; I caught it and had to drop out of attending the Immortal reward concert to which I was supposed to escort two patrons who had pledged for tickets (luckily they are friends and I can take them to something else, one this becomes possible). I hope that was it, because it would be one less thing to worry about. I know at least 10 people who have had all the symptoms and in some cases been downed for a week or two or more - and of course none of them have been tested for it, because here in dear old Blighty there are only tests if you are in hospital, so actually we have not the first clue how many people have really had this blasted thing, and no way of telling, other than that it is many, many more than the official figures show.

Meanwhile I am going one day at a time. It's all we can do. Today I am going to cook up a little JDCMB treat for 1 April.

Take care and keep well.