Category Archives: Music

Strauss at the Musikverein

A week ago the Austrians celebrated their National Day. Daughter and I very accidentally happened to be in Vienna just then and – less accidentally – wanted to have a closer look at the Musikverein than you get from our sofa in front of the television on New Year’s Day. We discovered there was a Strauss concert on that very morning, so booked tickets to go.

It was all we had hoped. The concert hall really is that golden, and they really do cram in as many chairs as they can, wherever they can. We had good chairs on the side, quite close to the stage.

Musikverein

The Musikverein is housed in one of many elegant buildings in Vienna, and it was pretty much as I’d expected. The ushers speak English, and were most helpful. There are wardrobes for coats and larger bags, and there I learned – from the woman on my right (who, incidentally arrived long after me) – that you can say ‘bitte’ and be very very rude. She certainly wasn’t going to wait for anyone else to deposit their stuff, thank you very much! It pleased me no end to discover her halfway down a rather long queue for the ladies’ toilets later on. There are not enough toilets, but this is understandable in an older building.

Plenty of bars, however, and the audience indulged in eating and drinking. I’ve always wondered how they get the audience in and out on time when we see them on television. I’m still wondering that.

We enjoyed the concert. The Wiener Johann Strauss Orchester is no Wiener Philharmoniker, but that was fine. Likewise, conductor Johannes Wildner was no Karajan, but a chatty, bubbly chap who told jokes between numbers. At least I think he did. People laughed. My Austrian German wasn’t up to such detail.

We began with the Overture to Die Fledermaus, through lots of Strauss tunes, ending with Auf der Jagd and An der schönen blauen Donau. Much stomping and clapping rewarded us with another polka and the Radetzky March, enabling us to leave on a high. Daughter hadn’t quite dared hope for the latter, so was very happy.

They offer tours of the Musikverein, but I’d say go to a concert instead if you can. It doesn’t have to be the New Year’s Day one. After all, I don’t expect people can leave on January 1st and proceed to have coffee outside in the sunshine.

Or maybe they can. It’s Vienna, after all.

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Runrig farewell concert

When I read in the local paper last autumn that Runrig were going to play their farewell concert in Stirling, I thought nothing of it. Because I’d never heard of them.

It’s not as if stuff mentioned in the Stirling Observer tends to be world news, exactly. I simply saw that some unknown group were going to play here. Within days the concert sold out, which was surprising, but then maybe not. I could see that a few hundred or even a thousand people might be interested. Music is nice, after all.

Runrig, last concert

And now it seems that with a second concert added, we are doubling the town’s population for the weekend. 45 000 people are invading, some of them from Australia.

Once this fact had sunk in, I asked the Resident IT Consultant, who is not known for being cool, if he had heard of Runrig. Before all this broke lose, I mean. He had. Daughter had. And Son. So that just left me. It was suggested that living so long in England might be the reason, as the English aren’t fond of culture from north of the border.

I spent last night trying to ascertain who I should compare Runrig to, just to get a reliable measure of how famous they are. Not so much who else plays that kind of music, but simply the level of fame. I’m not sure we managed an answer to that, except a lot more famous than I’d thought.

Then asked what kind of music they play… So Daughter treated us to an impromptu Spotify concert on her phone.

Not bad, I suppose.

And we might not be one of the 45 000, but it appears we will be able to hear the concert if we open the windows. More, if we go for a short walk, but that would probably mean in the company of the rest of Stirling; the ones who don’t have tickets.

Here we go again

Mamma Mia! ten years on, or five if you consider the plot. We’re all ten years older, but we – mostly – don’t look it. Do we? And a person can always have a young self, like they do in the new Mamma Mia! film. I adored the young Harry especially.

So, Donna is dead. Maybe this was for the best, as it left all of us crying, and it meant there was for the most time only two almost identical young women to be confused by. Sophie, and her mother Donna as a young woman, and made more confusing by shifting quickly between the two. Now we know what it was like for Donna and Sophie’s three dads, even if some of the continuity might not actually work. Who cares?

It’s like a family party. You’re just so happy to see everyone again. This time there were fewer old ABBA hits, and possibly less music too, but you’re happy, crying both sad and happy tears, and a film has to be pretty good to achieve that, and I don’t care if the film critics are still a little sniffy about it. Although they learned their lesson ten years ago, and now take Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again much more seriously.

There were the expected cameos from Björn and Benny. I suppose many of the appearances were somewhat cameo-like, really. I love Cher, but am not sure she was the right grandmother for Sophie, even if great. And ABBA songs are less well suited to a deep voice.

Lots of laughter, quite a bit of crying, both from me and Pierce Brosnan, not to mention from Julie Walters. I could watch the film again tomorrow, if only life didn’t need me for other things.

And thanks to Daughter who saw the film in Pasadena 20 hours before me, I knew to stay for the scene after the credits. I waited and I waited and everyone else left and the cleaners came, giving me funny looks, but eventually, there it was; the extra scene. I took a chance on it!

McCartney at my dining table

How things change!

There I was, idly clicking the link to Paul McCartney singing in James Corden’s car. I thought it’d be a few minutes, but I was in a post-dinner lull, so could afford the 25 minutes required. It was a great programme, but that’s not really what I wanted to mention here.

It set me thinking about how it’s financed; how I am able to watch it via YouTube and not even sit through commercials. I don’t know. But I appreciate it. And I can watch it again, with no need for a video recorder and available space on a tape, or any other recording technique requiring forethought.

And on my phone, not even a computer needed. Yes, I know a phone is a computer, really. I meant no large machine needed. Just me and the quiet after dinner. I don’t even object to James Corden, and I’m someone who objects very easily to people. I’m thinking he’s saved by being a History Boy. Once a HB always a HB.

The quality of the recording, both sound and image, is almost like a miracle after the early days of wobbly YouTube or the old video recordings of thirty years ago.

If I’d known then that I’d be able to watch something like this on a tiny handheld contraption, I’d not have believed it.

Nor would Mother-of-witch, back in 1964, maybe, when she sacrificed herself and went to the cinema with the very young witch to see a Beatles film. Possibly A Hard Day’s Night. I don’t recall. It was the Beatles. That’s all that mattered. And all that screaming. The teenage girls must have thought they were at a Beatles concert, and not in a small provincial Swedish cinema.

Back then we definitely couldn’t watch again, at least not after the one – possibly two – weeks the film was on, to disappear and never be seen again. It certainly didn’t end up on television. If it had, then two or three decades later it would have been possible to record it, and watch again. Until the tape wore out.

And here I am, even more decades on, idly discovering a programme on my phone and simply allowing myself to sit there and enjoy. That’s progress. At least, I hope it is. There’s more to life than watching Paul McCartney, but in this day and age it might be best to take whatever good stuff comes our way. In case that’s all there is.

Eurovision 2018

Strobe lighting. Eurovision was better without it. I can close my eyes as well as the next witch. But when I do, and especially at this time of night, the inevitable becomes, well, inevitable, and I fall asleep.

Daughter was saying she liked the German entry, and I was puzzled, not having noticed it. I dozed off with Serbia and completely missed Germany.

So what do I think? I liked Ireland. Norway wasn’t bad, and Spain got better for each short repeat. I liked Slovenia’s hair, and Finland’s outfit. France was OK, and that’s something I don’t often say. The vampire needed an interpreter. Or did he?

Didn’t mind who won out of Cyprus and Israel. I disliked both. And Daughter was somewhat scandalised at my negative view of the Swedish entry. Well, it did nothing for me. And if the singer is who Daughter reported him to be, then he’s part of a dynasty, and as such is successful enough as it is.

It was fun to see Daniela Ruah not wrestling people to the ground, or shooting them, even if her first dress was rather ghastly. Although, where was Kensi when ‘our’ SuRie was attacked? A good wrestling to the floor would have been useful.

And Graham Norton is tiresomely not Terry Wogan.

Bye bye, Lill-Babs

Lill-Babs, aka Barbro Svensson, died this morning. She was 80 and had been one of the most popular singers in Sweden during all of my life, and she was still performing. I read an article about her only last year, about her and Lill Lindfors, another ‘old’ singer, and how they were still going strong. But even strong has to come to an end.

What I discovered in that article, was that in the 1950s as she was a rising star, she could finally afford a new better place to live; a two bedroom flat in Stockholm. She shared it with her mother, her daughter and her three brothers, because that’s how things were in those days. I was interested to read it, though, as it was the same street I lived in during my first year.

Maybe people were scandalised that Lill-Babs was a single mother at sixteen. Maybe not. I never was, as it seemed natural from my point of view.

She was a good performer with a good voice, very versatile, and she worked hard all her life. I believe we all thought of her as the girl next door.

Tack, och hej då!

He rocked on the left

And now he’s left us. Jerry Williams was – if not one of a kind – then definitely one of few. He might not have been Sweden’s answer to Elvis. Jerry – really Erik Fernström – who died on Sunday at the age of 75, rocked. But perhaps not that way. He was cooler. He was more your leather jacket and motorbike kind of man.

We have had a few of those. What made Jerry stand out was his political convictions, starting out as a communist, and remaining a communist all his life. Some people forget where they came from, once success finds them. From what I hear, Jerry stayed true and relatively unspoilt all his life.

Jerry Williams, Varberg

I only saw him in concert once, about twelve years ago, when he came to Societetsparken in Varberg. He was as great as I’d expected him to be, the children liked him, and everyone else I spoke to seemed to be big fans. Usually when you chat to people, you find some who don’t share your taste. Young and old, they all loved him.