Category Archives: Concerts

Music en route

The bad thing about the Edinburgh festival season during August is that travelling turns into a nightmare. I find myself choosing not to go to events at times or days of the week when I suspect travelling will undo any good the event might offer.

So yesterday my trusted photographer and I picked a train earlier than we had to, just so we could go on the King’s Cross train, with four or five times as many coaches as the local one. It was even worth waiting for it as it ran late, just not to get squashed on the little train.

As the Resident IT Consultant dropped us off it was mayhem by the station entrance. There was an interview being conducted on the pavement, complete with BBC camera and everything. Loads of people wearing t-shirts or hoodies with Stirling Orchestra on the back, and an unusual number of double basses for a railway station. Even in August.

I remembered reading something in the local paper about the orchestra; they had been chosen for something special. My photographer googled as we waited and could tell me they were going to London to take part in All Together Now: The Great Orchestra Challenge, a ‘four-part series, which will celebrate the breadth and quality of amateur orchestral playing across the UK, will follow five orchestras as they compete for a place in the Grand Final. It will begin on BBC Four at the end of August, with the final episode to be broadcast on BBC Two.’

That’s pretty good, and I’m sufficiently pleased for them that I didn’t even mind the squeeze on the train. The double basses and the stools, etc, got stowed elsewhere, and it was only the smaller instruments that were all over the place, along with the BBC crew’s junk, carefully blocking the Edinburgh exit door…

Now, if they could only have whipped out their instruments and serenaded us as we went!

Encounters

Over a meal out the other week we got talking about what famous people we had come across in the wild. Apparently meeting them through ‘work’ like blogging, did not qualify. You had to just happen upon them.

Various semi-famous people were mentioned, but the discussion felt a bit lacklustre. What’s a Jeremy Paxman in Blackwell’s or an Alistair Darling at airport security? I mean, really? The best Son came up with was flying with Gordon Brown. Daughter didn’t even think to mention her own flying with Pilou Asbæk.

I felt I had something to add, but it took me a while to remember Agnetha Fältskog at Heathrow (as we have a flying theme). Jan Malmsjö in the post office might not count, as I worked there. But Daughter found someone from one of those shows I never watch at our former post office. Or was it the greengrocer’s?

We came to the conclusion that the winner was the Resident IT Consultant’s cousin who volunteered the fact that she had danced with John Travolta.

(The niggling feeling that I was forgetting someone, finally matured when I remembered my Cliff Richard and Cilla Black encounter at the theatre. But they don’t beat Travolta, since I didn’t dance with either of them.)

Happy 80th, Roger!

Roger Whittaker is 80 today. There is a new best of CD available. Not very many new tracks, just a new compilation of his greatest songs (in German).

Roger Whittaker, Alles Roger Alles Hits

I had wanted to offer you a short interview, but his agent is turning down all requests, saying Roger has fully retired and is living happily in France. And this is obviously right. Roger has earned his rest and I am grateful he toured for as long as he did.

Thank you!

We have all those albums to listen to, and the memories.

Roger Whittaker

Wishing you many happy returns, Roger.

The deathlist

It is hard keeping track of who has died when you’re living in exile. There are two categories of people I’d know about if I hadn’t left the country of my birth; famous people [but not so famous that their deaths are reported internationally] and local people [to me] that any remaining friends I have would know that I’d want to hear about.

The Retired Children’s Librarian has done a sterling job over the years by keeping a deathlist. In between our phone calls, she writes down who has died, and when we have spoken, she rattles off the dead ones. Some I will know about, because they made it into a British newspaper. Others I won’t, and I’m grateful to be told. She also has a fairly good grip on who I’m most likely to be interested in.

Dead local ordinary people is the hardest. Mother-of-witch would tell me the names of those she knew, but of course, there are always names that wouldn’t have meant anything to her. And it is quite hard to find out if someone is still alive, once you’ve tried the phone directory [which tends no longer to be very effective].

My reason for talking about deathlists here is that today I read a Swedish magazine article about someone famous and long dead. There had been a television programme about her, in which ‘the late’ Alice Babs had taken part. That was the first inkling I had that Alice Babs is dead. Not surprising, though. She died two years ago at the age of 90, which is pretty good going. And when I searched, I found that she made it into the New York Times, but that was probably mainly the Duke Ellington effect.

I have blogged about Alice once before. I still maintain that her Swe-Danes album is one of the best ones I own.

The girls from primary school

We all looked the same, if slightly more adult. Usually people have school reunions from the last year at school, whereas on Saturday night I attended a small, select meeting of eight primary school girls. Actually, no I didn’t. One of us had not been part of that school, but with people coming and going, it seemed as if everyone belonged. We all claimed to have been in the same class as each other, except we couldn’t have, and I was right. Obviously.

So, 47 years on, we are still very young. It was especially nice for us to see Lena Andersson, who is over from Phoenix to launch her new CD, and who’s appeared in every newspaper and magazine imaginable, as well as on television. I was intrigued when my stats shot up a week ago, but presumably all who saw her interview then googled her and found the CultureWitch interview (and in English) from a few years ago.

Our reunion happened at Heagård, which is a large farm owned by another ‘girl’ in the group. There was a Rock & Blues Festival on last night, so we retired indoors for our dinner, or we wouldn’t have been able to hear ourselves speak. But it was nice with all that music. Two nights earlier Lena had performed on the same stage, which I’d had to miss. Wish I hadn’t now.

Heagård

But as I said, we haven’t changed a bit. We gossiped. Laughed at the same ridiculous boy, and that was even without my story of the drinks lorry. We remembered those who have died. The grandchildren were discussed (as the youngest I don’t have any). And just as people felt some boys should have been invited (why?), one turned up out of the blue.

As Mikael Rickfors, pop star from back when, started singing, we decided it was time to leave. We had enjoyed Andrea Dawson’s music earlier, but for primary school girls the time comes when they need their beds.

Eurovision 2015

Eurovision was strange this year. It was quite clear from the start that three songs were the absolute favourites, and they remained the top three throughout, and I happened to agree that they were the best ones. I don’t think that’s ever happened before.

Was it just me, or did the Russian girl cheer up and calm down when she knew she wasn’t winning? She looked worse than anyone I’ve seen; ready to fall apart at the mere thought of things going well.

The Italian boys were both cute and had a good song. And the less said about some of the other countries the better. It was mostly mainstream Eurovision stuff, but those who stood out really stood out.

Måns Zelmerlöw

I hope Sweden can afford to host another contest so soon again. Usually we hope that Sweden will win – for obvious reasons – but this year it was more than a little weird. Daughter’s favourite, Måns Zelmerlöw, didn’t just sing for Sweden, but he won. I don’t believe that’s ever happened to me. I’ve liked singers, and I’ve liked songs. But not like this.

Thought I’d fall asleep around song no. 13 but got up and walked about a little and consumed caffeine to wake me up. I was puzzled by all the warnings that there would be fishing images, but eventually there really was some fishing. So it all was good.

Good conduct

Is it just me, or do all the major music conductors in the world look the same?

There I was, enjoying the 2015 New Year’s concert from Vienna, with the excellent Zubin Mehta. He has what I have come to call ‘the conductor’s face.’ So do virtually all the men who you get to stare in the face as they bring another New Year to the world. It’s something about their noses.

Lorin Maazel more than most. Von Karajan. And in a surprising way Mariss Jansons and Seiji Ozawa are rather like each other, too, despite coming from such diverse countries.

Is there something about conducting orchestras that makes them ‘exercise’ their faces in a particular way, which in turn could explain these perceived facial similarities? Life style?

It could obviously be that I am a little crazy. But I’m not, am I?