Thursday, 13 July 2017

That band who so vauntingly swore…

I wrote (almost exactly twenty-four hours ago – although the two days cushioning this period have somehow become concatenated; or even coalesced, commingled…) that…

This is not the chamber OOTS you thought you knew; this is an overwhelming, resonant army of talented and mighty musical soldiers shocking-and-awing, marching to magnificence…

…one of my reasons for saying so not just being the “lot more chairs laid out… than perhaps was usual” consideration, but what had precipitated that augmentation – the orchestra playing outside its normal repertoire (almost as if they were in their away strip on a strangely sloping ground only the home team was supposed to have grokked; but which actually gave the proficient and passionate visitors some preternatural advantage). The conclusion, therefore, being that they should do more such things: maybe a chamber version of Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony (not my idea – but this post’s dedicatee’s) or Gurre-Lieder (although I may have had a partial – and temporary – lingual gena intercalation when suggesting this to artistic director David Curtis…)?!

There is a serious point to be made here, though: and that is – whatever the size of the OOTS ‘team’ on any given day; and whatever the scores laid before them – two truths will be self-evident: firstly, that every single player will be continually giving their utmost (an OOTS trademark that surpasses all other such ensembles); secondly, that you will be able to hear every single player doing so – their melodic, harmonic, leading, or supporting, lines of notes – continually. It doesn’t matter if it is a blaring fortississimo final chord, or a passage of finger-to-the-Curtis-lip, hushed pianississimo melancholy: you can guarantee that every single line of the stave dotted with notes at that time will be impeccably balanced and astoundingly audible. Just so.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

In full glory reflected now shines in the stream…

The first thing that would have struck you on entering Stratford ArtsHouse, last night, was that there were a lot more chairs laid out for the Orchestra of the Swan than perhaps was usual. This was to be a big concert in many ways: but the maximum volume output was perhaps the most noticeable – although David Curtis’ smile, conducting the first movement of Copland’s Four Dance Episodes from RodeoBuckaroo Holiday – wasn’t that far off from matching it. (And neither were some of his more demonstrative gestures!)

What a great piece of music to pull you away from the miserable grey wetness of a Warwickshire evening: especially when played with such verve – and truly astonishing precision! We were now on the far side of The Pond (in a ‘wild west’ where it never rains); and we would not leave America all evening – the second Rodeo movement, Corral Nocturne, truly pulling us in (if not lulling us into lovelorn dreams of our own).

Saturday Night Waltz – a self-styled “Texas minuet” – after its shockingly rude awakening – is just as beautiful (if not more so): the violins (under leader Fenella Humphreys) getting a chance to shine, before the woodwind dominate the central trio – slower and more luscious; and just as romantic.

The final movement, Hoe-Down, starts as it means to go on, though; and marks the birth of every ‘Western’ movie soundtrack ever produced. It is a thing of unmitigated joie de vivre and controlled ‘rough-and-readyness’ (albeit requiring a huge amount of concentration from its players). [“This is about cowboys,” laughed David. “It’s not sophisticated stuff!” (Neither was the too-early “bravo!” from Yours Truly: so deeply immersed in the music that I had forgotten the movement’s heffalump trap. David and OOTS – God bless them all – just grinned, and carried on. Consummate professionals all.)] And we were thus rewarded with the ride of our lives! (It’s a good job the piano had to be moved: giving us a chance to get our breath back; and me to lose some of the colour from my blushing face….)

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Et in Arcadia ego… (part III)

Over the past four years – commencing with the huge amount of research I carried out to produce the Sustainable Tysoe? briefing paper (against the proposed Gladman development on Oxhill Road) – I have collated a large (digital) stack of documents dealing with various aspects of planning (specifically, neighbourhood planning) and development (not only of buildings, but of communities, of individuals, of neighbourhood resources). I have also contributed to this pile with the articles I have posted on my blog – The Bard of Tysoe – at least fifteen of which are responses to (mostly direct; although some do, admittedly, take a rather sideways glance at…) our parish’s various attempts to produce something resembling a neighbourhood (development) plan (NDP).

Great planning does not mean either “most restrictive” or “most laissez-faire”. It means creating the conditions for growth and change while maintaining a vision of the common good. It balances competing interests. It includes a grasp of the cumulative effect of individual decisions…. It can protect long-term benefits against damage from short-term profit. It has the ability to spot problems before they become crises and find a way to address them. It can review alternative approaches to an issue, such as population growth, and promote the best ones. It has clarity and consistency, so everyone knows where they stand. It has the ability to review the results of its own decisions, and learn from them. It is informed by knowledge, not guesswork. It is the result of genuine and transparent public debate.
– Rowan Moore: Boris, we agree London is a great city…

In my latest post on the subject – as it finally looked like there might be a version of the NDP submitted for examination (although not without a large amount of revision, and late-night cramming…) – I simply linked to these previous writings: as they (sadly, in the case of the ones offering constructive criticism) are still vitally relevant and pertinent (even those written three years ago). However, having all been ignored or denounced – and then summarily removed from the trail of documentary evidence that is needed to explain the evolution of the ideas captured within the Plan (as well as those so discounted) – I feel now is the time to collate (and, where needs be, summarize) their ideas in one place: not just to demonstrate how my prescience has, sadly, come to pass; but to use the inherent research and reasoning to explain, more thoroughly:

  • why I think the latest version of the NDP only narrowly fits that sobriquet or description;
  • why I (therefore) oppose it; and
  • how – had my writings (and, I suspect, others’) been heeded – residents could have contributed effectively to something more wide-ranging, more nuanced, more relevant, more complete, more useful (rather than – as with so much of the content – being paid lip-service).

Monday, 26 June 2017

Et in Arcadia ego… (part II)

As I pointed out in my previous post on the proposed Tysoe Neighbourhood Development Plan, my request for copies of the Representation Form in alternate formats for those of us who are disabled not only fell on fallow ground, but were deliberately deleted from the Tysoe Parish & Community website. As I cannot complete either the online form, or the paper one, I am therefore asserting my right – under the Equality Act 2010 – to provide my Pre-Submission Regulation 14 Consultation feedback in an alternate format – namely by way of this blog post, and all the other blog posts I have written on the subject, listed below:

Please note that should all these comments once more vanish into the ether, and not be appended as “evidence” to the version of the Neighbourhood Development Plan submitted for inspection, I shall ensure – through whatever channels are available to me – that they are put forward to the relevant bodies both as proof of long-term opposition to the Plan’s approval, methodologies and non-democratic nature; and as testimony to the fallacy of the supposed “consultation” that has been falsely promoted within the Plan itself (as most villagers would concur).

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

In equal scale weighing delight…

Sometimes, rehearsals are even (or certainly seem, at the time, to be) more exciting than the actual subsequent concert: especially when they begin with a run-through of a new work you have become rather attached to – for its occasionally quirky, but heartfelt beauty; its extremely perceptive use of the chosen source material (and thus inspiration); and its composer’s utter belief in the almost supernatural talents of its commissioners – the transcendent Orchestra of the Swan – for whom no challenge seems insurmountable: no matter how complex it appears (at first, second, and third, glance) on paper. Not only do your not-quite-set ideas about the piece quickly gel; but unsuspected textures and emphases, themes and rhythmic conjunctions, emerge – especially with the insightful oversight of David Curtis: conjuring clarity and structure from what could easily be imagined as overwhelming and difficult. (You can hear all the extended time and major hard work he has spent in preparation emerging in the thoughtful instructions and discussions; can observe his willingness to listen and assimilate others’ needs and wants and ideas; you can almost grasp his ability to comfort and reassure.)

If there had been any disquiet or nerves beforehand, not only were they (almost) invisible, they must have soon evaporated, such was the apparent aplomb – and audible wonderment – building from the first bars, rapidly, into that trademark transparency and crispness (not to mention the resulting deeply-affecting emotions). As a result, queries were resolved in an instant; enthusiasm was piled upon contagious enthusiasm; balance was sought, and then quickly found; and (for lack of better words) the music caught fire!