Category Archives: Concerts

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.

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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?

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