Category Archives: Concerts

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?

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A last kettle

There was a slight disadvantage to sitting on row five when they used their large water ‘pistol’ from the stage. It reached. Very well, too. Although I didn’t do what many parents did, which was to hold their children in front of them as shields. Some parents they turned out to be!

The Singing Kettle at Stirling Albert Halls

I – on the other hand – was an exemplary parent and brought my baby girl to what has been advertised as the last tour for The Singing Kettle. She probably hadn’t been since the millennium concert at the Albert Halls in Stirling, which means it had been a 15 year gap. Contrary to what Daughter thought, you can actually go to these shows as an adult. Neither of us fell over, bumped our heads and cried, nor did we require help to go to the toilet.

It was good. Apart – possibly – from the water and the fact that The Singing Kettle will be no more. It was a tonic, on a Monday morning after Christmas, with plenty of grinning and laughing, not to mention singing. I did draw the line at rocking my poor head from left to right and forwards and back, going over the Irish Sea.

The Singing Kettle mug

Despite there being no Artie and Cilla anymore, Kevin and Anya did a great job, ably assisted by the still baby-faced Gary and his purple trombone. Anya is testament to the strength of the brand, having herself been one of the audience participants, being invited onto the stage. (She clearly never left, which was something I did think about as parents blithely let their offspring wander off with these strangers, in order to perform on stage with them. Did they see them again? ‘The tiniest ever’ Diddle in the first half was the smallest, cutest participant I have ever seen. A little confused maybe, but so keen, and later seen trying to return on stage again.)

We knew some of the songs (because back then we were pros) and some not, as they were possibly using new material as well as recycling old songs forever. Daughter had forgotten Bunny Fou Fou, but not I. And you have to love Music Man (even without Cilla…).

The preparing and cooking (and subsequent burning) of the turkey made an impression on the younger part of the audience, especially cleaning it with a toilet brush. The snowman who sneezed all over and the galloping reindeer, not to mention the adorable yellow ducks (including tiny Diddle) helped make this a very visual show.

But we weren’t allowed to take pictures (if I’d been Diddle’s mother, I’d have taken a photo of him in his duck costume anyway!) so we don’t have much to show you. Daughter did hit the merchandise stall as soon as we arrived, however. It might be her last opportunity.

The Singing Kettle mug

There was some Hokey Cokey at the end, and a fitting finale of pushing Granny off the bus. (As if we would…)

If you’ve never seen The Singing Kettle live, I feel sorry for you. We used to travel across half the country for them, whereas now it was a mere walk away.

At Waverley

I could hear them as I came down the escalator at Waverley station yesterday evening. It wasn’t piped music at high volume, it was a real carol concert in the waitingroom area. Whereas I had intended to sit anyway – spending my spare half hour reading a book and eating my sandwich – I sat down where I could see and hear better.

And I wasn’t the only one. It’s not every dark December eve you have the Scottish Chamber Orchestra Chorus serenading commuters on their way home. Personally I’d be willing to miss my train for this kind of thing. Luckily, I didn’t have to make that decision, as I wasn’t travelling right then. I was able to just sit and enjoy.

There were mince pies on offer. The singers were warmly wrapped against the storm, rather like the von Trapp family. There was the 17.26 to Dunblane from platform ten to contend with, but they sang on, almost drowning out the announcements for departing trains.

I was sitting there thinking ‘if only I had a camera’ when I realised that I did in fact have a camera, because I was on my way to a cultural event.

Scottish Chamber Orchestra Chorus

It’s not only that choirs of this kind sing better than most; it’s that they have had the services of someone who knows how to arrange even the simplest of songs. True, most of the carols were from the more serious end of the seasonal repertoire, but I have never heard We Wish You A Merry Christmas sound like that. It’s a song that makes me roll my eyes when 10-year-old boys come to the door, hoping for money for a halfheartedly performed version.

The Resident IT Consultant thinks I’m a fool for not minding hanging around railway stations. Even when all I get is a seat, my own sandwich and my book, I’m satisfied. Having a professional choral concert offered like this is sheer bliss.

Scottish Chamber Orchestra Chorus

A bit of Lyy on the fringe

Never having heard of Lyy until two weeks ago, I nevertheless decided to take the Resident IT Consultant and go and hear them. Seeing as they are Swedish, and seeing as they were coming to Stirling (after a weirdly coincidental concert at the Nordic church in Liverpool earlier in the week), I felt it’d be wrong not to. Didn’t even properly realise Stirling had a fringe, nor that it’s pretty new.

Lyy

Before them we listened to the Jailhoose Trio, a very newly founded local band. Unless I misheard, this was their first gig. I reckon there will be more, as they were pretty good, with some nice tunes and their singer had a fine voice.

(Even before them, we actually listened to all the technical stuff, which went on a little longer than expected, and we tired of waiting outside Cowane’s Hospital, even though it was a beautiful September evening at the top of town.)

There was a reasonable number of people in the audience. And one dog.

I hadn’t been in for 22 years, since the Resident IT Consultant’s cousin got married there. Somehow it had shrunk, or else my memories of it had made it bigger than it was. Still nice.

So, it was a good place for a Swedish folk group to play. Being old, I’d say folk with some pop, as it was louder and less folksy than what we had in the olden days. Very nice, though.

Lyy

The songs were all about love, in one form or other. And the one about sleeping, standing up. Their guitarist went through strings like there’s no tomorrow. Their singer almost went through the floor, or at least her high heels made more contact with the holey stage floor than she had expected.

The audience loved them, and we got two encores before we were encouraged to buy the CDs. They needed space for whisky on their return journey, or so they said. I bought a CD. There were download codes for £5, but at my age you need a proper disc.

Lyy

Find them on Facebook, and/or go and listen to them if you get the opportunity.

Saturday night

I have held back on saying anything about the new Doctor Who. Not the man himself; I reckon Peter Capaldi will do as well as most of the others. And Clara remains Clara, whatever we think of her. But I’ve not been 100% sold on the first couple of episodes. OK if you want to watch something, but not stirring stuff.

Not that Doctor Who has to be all that special. It’s only a television programme, after all. But occasionally they start off with a gem, getting viewers excited, before it fizzles out. This time it took three tries before they got anywhere at all, but looking at social media I see most people found last night not terribly good.

Oh, well. We can’t all be the same.

Which brings me to the serendipitous moment we finished with the Doctor and ended up with Last Night of the Proms, Glasgow version. We joined just as Katherine Jenkins sang about a union, before going on to sing it was time to say goodbye. Both excellent songs. Neither of them on the programme by mistake, I imagine.

Ever the turncoat, I stayed on for the second half from Albert Hall, although reading a book at the same time, so as not to pay too much attention to south of the border. I do actually like those ‘contentious’ pieces of music, traditionally played at the end. Not because of what they supposedly stand for. They just sound good.

You can hijack anything for any purpose. I first heard Land of Hope and Glory on a television programme about the Empire, many years ago. I loved it. I had no idea what it stood for, and thought it was something they had arranged for the programme. I think that’s the thing about coming fresh to stuff. You have none of the emotional baggage people who were born to it do.

So I like Elgar, and not for any empire or union or political party or anything else. Nor do I believe Holst would have wanted to support the Yes campaign, but I see no reason not to use his music. It’s a wonderful piece, and the ‘coincidence’ was quite amusing.

As was Sakari Oramo as conductor. I thought this supposedly silent Finn would never stop talking! But his outfit was nice. And so was his smile at the end, as he watched his audience sing Auld Lang Syne.

Besides, Doctor Who is Scottish. And he’s not the first one, either.

Eurovision 2014

Well, let’ see how long I last ‘live blogging’ this year’s Eurovision. No promises that I will reach the end.

It looked promising at first. After ten minutes all 26 countries had marched onto the stage and off again. That was the quickest of all. But it appears they expect to actually sing, as well.

So far I’ve noticed the bearded lady and the baking ladies, and am not impressed by either. What’s wrong with a plain singing a song contest?

But at least we have ‘Kasper’ to entertain us. Except the presenters don’t come into their own until the dreaded chat with all of ‘Europe.’

Number three looks nice enough, but is showing a lot of bottom where her dress ends prematurely. The Resident IT Consultant enjoyed seeing a view from Iceland that he’d actually visited. (I hasten to add I didn’t mean the lady’s behind.) Glad there was something for him too. Graham Norton is clearly not enjoying himself. Again.

Man number five looks the same as number two. Belarus, Norway, what’s the difference? Why have the green room in front of the audience? Green rooms are for participants to relax, go to the toilet, and so on. It’d be my worst nightmare to green room it in front of everyone.

Receiving flak on facebook for not liking this enough. Surely it used to be more fun? Or am I simply growing old?

Spectacular Polish hair. Spectacular other assets too. And I don’t care what anyone says, but I don’t like bearded ladies. Song is OK. And the audience appreciation managed to drown out Graham Norton’s voice. Do that again, please. Thank you Nikolaj Koppel. You may speak and silence GN.

The Grandmother is sorting her drugs, but I can still hear the Swedish song above the crackling blister packs. Not bad. Sweden knows how to song contest.

Practical joke played on the Russian twins. Someone tied their hair together. Or not. Do I have time to go empty the dishwasher? Yes. All done. The good thing about stopping watching is that you can just listen to the songs. On that basis I liked the Finnish entry.

The rain from Spain… Cute Swiss guy. Just saying. The Resident IT Consultant has just gone out for a walk. I suppose he watches better from a distance too.

Why the surprise that Malta could be any good? GN? Small is good. And the official website collapsed. Denmark, hmm. Their flag was better than the song. Dutch singers very retro. GN likes their song. So do I.

San Marino is unusual, at least. Smaller than small. Which just leaves British Molly. (The Resident IT Consultant wondered if people would vote for a free Scottish entry, next year.) Nice double deckers. The song isn’t an embarrassment, which must be a first for many years.

Pilou insults GN. Thank you, Kasper! Tak!

Now we have Mozart up a ladder… Singing hosts. Whatever next? Results would be good. Preferably instant ones. Mini Maltese junior winner. They can sing in Malta.

Curly wurly cake? Honestly.

Votes. Booing? Really? Need to remind the Europe correspondents not to make speeches. Hilversum. Reminds me of my old radio. It’s getting exciting. I don’t believe Sweden needs another win. Let’s give it to Austria.

Was going to ask if anyone actually still speaks French. The French do. Most of the other people speak several languages. They sing the votes. Austria doing well. La la la.

I suppose it’ll be Austria or the Netherlands. Conchita wins. Congratulations to her. Him. Both of them. Just goes to show we all love a beard. (Within reason.)

Too old to insure

Happy 78th Birthday to Roger Whittaker!

Roger Whittaker

The closer I get to being 70, the younger it strikes me as an age you could be. There was finally another newsletter from Natalie Whittaker earlier this month, which ‘as usual’ was full of illness, operations and housing disasters. The Whittakers certainly know how to live a life full of stuff happening.

Apparently Roger completed his ‘farewell’ tour last year while in dire need of an operation, and he did it because he’s too old to be insured for the cancellation of concerts. Mrs W now reckons he will not tour again. I suspect she’s right. Sensible, definitely.