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!

Monday, 12 June 2017

Et in Arcadia ego… (part I)

Introduction
Surprise ballot results are all the rage, it seems: deflating arrogance; defying expectation; demonstrating the real power of real people. Being at the heart of “the Shires”, huge local majorities for Brexit and a part-time, non-resident Tory MP (more interested in property and anti-environmental, non-executive, share-bearing, board positions) are givens… – however, as with last week’s General Election, seeing (what is now called) The Neighbourhood Development Plan – rather amusingly (as it covers the years 2011–2031) entitled TYSOE – A village for the 21st Century and Beyond – through to implementation (whatever that means) may not be so simple or predictable.

A few days ago, a piece of paper entitled “Save Upper Tysoe” fell through our letterbox. Yes – another campaign against another invidious building scheme: proposing another dense housing development in another unsuitable place. No – not by one of the accustomed large property developers or house-builders… – but as outlined by that aforementioned Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP).

Yes – really.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

And the courage never to submit or yield…

The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell
Pain, it appears, has no appointed programme; nor consequent sleep any scheduled assignation. Alive (afterwards) to the fact that I had spent too much of my day in writing – itself a diversion from the devouring distress of a deepening migraine, gnawing at my left eyeball like some resolute rodent after rotting fruit – it was, however, the subsequent clumsiness – born of fading concentration; my proprioception misty and maladroit (even at the best of times) – that was the crucial moment’s mainspring: an instant unwinding, a lightning strike cascading through my stricken, confounded limbs; rapidly unfurling its coercion, before reconvening all its clout, condensed, at the accustomed spot, speck… the spike where my circuits were sabotaged so very long ago.

What hath night to do with sleep?
No manner of oscitant opioid, lethargic anxiolytic, or torpid tricyclic would rid me of my wretchedness and wakefulness: an expected early night failing fast; successive struggles satisfying me that the only remedy – however short-lived – should be yet more distraction: my boots, recuperating by the front door, cajoling me, inveigling exercise and exploration; demanding to get back on my feet.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Aqui está encerrada el alma de .....

Yesterday was Elgar’s 160th birthday; and I was in need of a big dose of some of the big man’s big music. Fortunately (despite my friend Paolo – probably rightfully… – jokingly calling me a “traitor” for deserting the Orchestra of the Swan, serenading the so-called summer, at Armscote Manor…), the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) were at Malvern, celebrating, too!

Only his Violin Concerto had been listed originally; but the concert opened with a gem-like example of his ‘smaller’ music: the wonderfully enchanting Serenade for Strings. Just a tad uncertain, to begin with – despite a perfect opening entry from the violas – this soon gathered momentum, and the required relaxation, to become a rather lovely, and involving, performance. I had forgotten – despite experiencing the CSO’s magical renditions so frequently – how thick and rich symphonic strings can sound (on their own); and was momentarily flabbergasted. (To be honest, I prefer the sparseness and openness of the OOTS string sound – which I think is more suited to this work.) But the CBSO delivered the requisite amount of charm and affection – conductor Michael Seal gently and amiably swaying in time – to put a huge ear-troubling smile on my face! It also achieved its objective of immersing us flawlessly in an Elgarian soundscape and mood… – although nothing can really prepare you for the soul-plumbing depths of his most masterly masterpiece (see below).

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Windmill Hill revelation…

The village yet damped-down beneath the oil of night; the only report, the high-pitched, mock-bark fracas of fox-cub. In the nucleus of nautical dawn, all is grey: green-grey grass; mauve-grey cloud; brown-grey stone; black-grey horizon – the world the colour of mallard, wood-pigeon, blackbird, and rook.

Leaving the Shipston road, the burble of an old valve radio being spun between stations grows with the wheat. My footsteps and stick-falls are silent, here: but still that splashing of song sooner turns trickle; soon turns stream; turns river; turns waterfall – drenching me in an incessancy of resonant comfort; drowned merry in a sea of skylarks. To my right, a crisp rustle of stalk. Then muffle of noiselessness. Only as I move on, the blades once more immobile, threat dissipated or dissolved, does the torrent of Matins restart.