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Thursday, December 14, 2006

iTunes scripting, MIDI, books and studying

More years ago than I care to remember, I used to cut a lot of code in Visual Basic. I'm currently dusting off my skills to write some configuration scripts for iTunes and my iPod. Anyone who uses iTunes seriously for classical music will know its limitations (some of which arise from the software itself, and others from the woefully inaccurate CD data on CDDB). I'm trying to write some scripts that will clean up the data and also automatically create some sensible Smart Playlists.

If I have any success I'll post the results here, and maybe make the scripts available for download.

In the last few days I've also been experimenting with MIDI files created in Sibelius and played back via our wonderful new Yamaha Portable Grand Piano, which probably goes someway to explaining why I haven't blogged for a few days.

I'll finish up today by posting another ten of those books I've read from the 1001 you (apparently) need to have read before you die, otherwise your life will have been miserably unfulfilled:

Mervyn Peake: Titus Groan
Thomas Mann: Death in Venice
John Buchan: The Thirty-Nine Steps
Henry James: The Portrait of a Lady
Robert Louis Stevenson: Treasure Island
H. Rider Haggard: King Solomon's Mines
Oscar Wilde: The Picture of Dorian Gray
Thomas Hardy: Tess of the Durbervilles, Jude the Obscure
Arnold Bennett: Old Wives' Tale

Oh, and I just got the result of my Open University course in art history - I passed!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Yet more Morricone

A few more snippets from our weekend with Ennio Morricone...

As promised last week, I have a few more photos from our piano rehearsal with Ennio in Muswell Hill. The full set of photos can be seen on Flickr here.

Carlo Romano, the oboist who played the Gabriel's Oboe solo from The Mission, kindly sent me this photo of the orchestra and chorus on stage at the second performance.

And finally, a few reviews of the concerts:

Times Online
This is London (London Evening Standard)
The Guardian
Andy Brouwer's blog review

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Morricone concert 2

We woke up yesterday morning to find that Jonathan Ross had given the Morricone gigs a huge plug on his Radio 2 show, which you can listen to again here for the next seven days. He discussed the concerts with Lesley Garrett (another of our many fans) about 1 hour 15 minutes into the show. The promoter, Barry Hogan of All Tomorrow's Parties, reckoned that it resulted in another 300 or so ticket sales in the afternoon. He also told me that Morricone had been particularly complimentary about the choir at the after-show party on Friday evening, which was good to hear.

We stopped off to buy a card for Maestro Morricone on the way the Apollo. One of our two Italians in the choir wrote a lovely message inside, including a compliment from the sopranos and altos on the beauty and elegance of his hands! Most of the choir managed to sign it, and David delivered it to Ennio before the start of the show.

A quick warm-up at 6.15pm left time for a coffee in the main shopping centre. I don't think I've ever seen a Costa coffee bar stuffed full with so many Italians - most of the orchestra seemed to be there as well!

The show started at 8.15pm, with the maestro in relaxed mood. According to David he was cracking jokes off-stage for most of the evening, especially when he left the stage at the end of the concert between each of the three encores. Last night's audience took a little longer to warm-up, possibly because they did not have Jonathan Ross (who couldn't make it) to introduce Ennio, but by the end of the evening they were cheering and standing in the aisles to applaud Morricone's stunning music. Personally, I thought that the concert was even better than Friday's, with Morricone's tempi in the Sergio Leone medley a little more relaxed and laid back, the strings playing with silky smoothness (particularly in the Casualties of War number), and the choir even more polished than on the first night. We even thought that Ennio may do an unscheduled encore, as he did not remove his music from the podium following Abolison as he had on Friday, but perhaps he had second thoughts at the last moment, as there was unfortunately no more to come.

After the gig, a dozen or so of us popped around the corner to the Spice of India restaurant for a well-earned curry (and a few beers), along with some of the orchestra as well.

Hopefully Ennio will feel up to returning here in a couple of years time - it would be great to work with him again. Opportunities like this don't come along very often.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The first Morricone concert

Well, last night was the first of our two gigs (at the Hammersmith Apollo) with Ennio Morricone.

We arrived at the theatre for a 3pm rehearsal, but unsurprisingly the stage was not yet fully rigged, and the orchestra's plane from Rome had been delayed. The rehearsal eventually started at about 4.30pm, but most of the first hour was spent on annoying (and feedback-ridden) soundchecks with different sections of the orchestra. However, we finally got underway with Maestro Morricone and waltzed through the choral numbers, finishing the rehearsal only slightly late at 6.15pm. All was set for a memorable gig in the evening, and Rosemary was sounding stunning in her Casualties of War solo.

That gave us a couple of hours to kill before curtain up, but none of us had realised how difficult it would be to find a decent place to eat in Hammersmith. Felicity, Brooke, Rosemary and I eventually ended up in a pizza restaurant I'm too ashamed to name! Mind you, the pizza's were fresh, hot and pretty good.

Back at the Apollo the concert was introduced by Jonathan Ross (presumably because of his Film 2006 credentials). When we saw him back stage afterwards Rosemary remarked on what perfect skin and hair he had! The audience of 3,500 went mad when Morricone walked out onto stage, and at several points in the programme (most notably after the Sergio Leone medley and The Mission) gave standing ovations. The whole event, and the sheer noise from the crowd, reminded me of when a few of us took part in the Royal Variety Performance at the Dominion Theatre in 2000. By the end of the evening, the maestro looked tired but exhilarated (he knows how to milk a crowd for applause), but still had enough energy left for three encores.

And the best thing is, we all have the opportunity to do it again this evening!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Rehearsal with Maestro Morricone

Tonight was the big one! Our humble rehearsal hall in Muswell Hill was graced with the presence of Ennio Morricone, possibly the world's greatest living film composer. He seemed more at ease and jovial than he has on previous occasions we have worked with him, perhaps because he now know the choir and David well enough to trust us to deliver on the night.

We ran through most of the music first with David, whilst the maestro listened, then he took over and skated through all of the numbers to make sure everything was in place. He has made a few changes to the choral arrangements since the last gig we did in the Royal Albert Hall, most notably in Victims of War which now calls for a short solo soprano line in the chorus. He seemed very happy and stayed on until the end of the rehearsal.

I borrowed a digital SLR from Tara to take some pictures at the rehearsal, and hopefully I'll get the photos from her in the next few days. When I do I'll post them up on Flickr, but in the meantime here's a not very good image I took with my own compact digital (the flash is nowhere near powerful enough, so sorry about the dodgy quality).

I'll defer anymore books until next week.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Morricone I

Monday evening was the first rehearsal for our Morricone gigs at the Hammersmith Apollo on Friday and Saturday. We're very familiar with this music now, as we've sung with Morricone on the previous two occasions he came to the UK. The exhilaration and excitement gained from his music is extraordinary, particularly in his scores for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and The Mission. Every bar of music is part of a journey through classic cinematic history.

There still seems to be some confusion about the running order for the concert. David has been in touch with the Italian team putting the concert together, but what with difficulties of language and time delays it's proved difficult to find out exactly what we are singing. Still, we have rehearsed most of the possibilites, and we will be ready for the piano rehearsal with Maestro Morricone on Thursday evening. I'm hoping to take some photos at the rehearsal, which I will blog here and post on Flickr as well.

Today's ten books I've read from the 1001:

John Steinbeck: Of Mice and Men, Cannery Row
Graham Greene: Brighton Rock
Daphne du Maurier: Rebecca
Aldous Huxley: Crome Yellow
Virginia Woolf: To the Lighthouse, Orlando
Evelyn Waugh: Decline and Fall, Brideshead Revisited
George Orwell: Animal Farm

Monday, November 27, 2006

Roses, bulbs and books

Yesterday I planted three standard roses in the garden - we're laying out a rose bed and last month we ordered a dozen or so plants off the internet. Hopefully the rest of them will arrive early next month and we can finish the bed off before Christmas. The weather is so shitty at the moment though, and it's difficult to do anything without getting caught in a rain shower. It would be nice to get the 200 or so bulbs we bought last month in the ground so that we get a nice spring showing.

Today's ten books from the 1001:

Michael Ondaatje: The English Patient
Donna Tartt: The Secret History
Margaret Atwood: The Robber Bride
Sebastian Faulks: Birdsong
Louis de Bernieres: Captain Corelli's Mandolin
Evelyn Waugh: Vile Bodies, A Handful of Dust
Aldous Huxley: Brave New World
Vera Brittain: Testament of Youth
J.R.R Tolkien: The Hobbit

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Crouch End Festival Chorus news, and yet more books

Yesterday evening was a rehearsal for A Child of our Time and the Spring Symphony. The first of these is solidly in CEFC's repertoire - we've sung it several times, including the premiere performance in Poland at the Wratislavia Cantans festival in 1994. The Britten is less familiar: we've performed it once, and I'm very much looking forward to the concert on 20th January in the Barbican Centre. The choir is singing stunningly well at the moment, so I'd highly recommend coming along.

This week we also received confirmation of a concert for the BBC in November 2008 which will probably be broadcast - more news when contracts have been agreed. There is also the possibility of a TV advert recording sometime in the next few weeks.

Plans are progressing for the major event I mentioned in my blog on 7th October. This will be a world premiere performance of a major new choral work, with another contemporary work receiving its second ever performance in the first half of the concert. We're aiming for two performances in central London in the summer of 2008, followed by a commercial recording of both pieces. Over the next few weeks we will be meeting some of the larger charitable trusts and grant-making bodies to try to secure seed funding, and also identifying an educational or multi-cultural charity to work alongside us on an education project based around the concert and the recording. If all goes according to plan this will be launched in the UK and the USA later in 2008. Keep watching this space, and if you are a chorus member you will learn more about the project at the AGM on 26th January.

Another 10 books from the 1001 that I've read and enjoyed:

Lewis Carroll: Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass
Émile Zola: Thérèse Raquin
Louisa May Alcott: Little Women
Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace
Thomas Hardy: Return of the Native
Peter Carey: Oscar and Lucinda
Pat Barker: Regeneration
Bret Easton Ellis: American Psycho
Jung Chang: Wild Swans

Tomorrow I'll be blogging about the first rehearsal for our concerts with Ennio Morricone next weekend.

Right! I'm off now to Caron's party...

Friday, November 24, 2006

Genesis, more books and Morricone

I've been a Genesis fan, or more strictly a fan of "Genesis-before-1980", ever since a relative introduced me to their music when I was about 15. I've always enjoyed their material from the Peter Gabriel era, and some of the earlier albums with Phil Collins as front man, but I became increasingly disillusioned with the more "poppy" flavour he started to introduce later in the band's history. I've seen them several times in concert, so I was thrilled when they recently announced their reunion tour. This morning I managed to book a couple of tickets for their gig at Twickenham Stadium, which is the day after Crouch End Festival Chorus's summer concert in Cambridge. Hopefully they'll slip in a few more of the early songs than they did when they last toured in the mid-1990s.

CEFC is preparing for its next exciting gig performing the music of Ennio Morricone at the Hammersmith Apollo on 1st and 2nd December. This has been a long time coming - the earlier planned gigs in the summer were cancelled at the last moment, but it looks as though everything will go as planned this time around. This will be the third time we've played with Morricone in the UK, and I was lucky enough to be able to meet and chat with the maestro when the choir first worked with him. Hopefully I'll be able to get a few good photos this time which I promise to blog.

Another 10 books from the 1001 today:

Charlotte Brontë: Jane Eyre, Villette
Anne Brontë: Agnes Grey
Emily Brontë: Wuthering Heights
Elizabeth Gaskell: Mary Barton
Charles Dickens: Bleak House, Hard Times, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations
George Eliot: The Mill on the Floss

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Daily blog

As of today, I shall be adding something to my blog every day.

I've recently bought a fantastic book called "1001 books to read before you die". I've discovered that I've read around a hundred of them in my life, so I've obviously still got a way to go. Here are the first ten I've read:

Jane Austen: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Persuasion, Northanger Abbey
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley: Frankenstein
Charles Dickens: Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, A Chrstmas Carol

I'll list a few every day for the next few days, then hopefully keep the blog updated as I read more.

Monday, October 30, 2006

A day in the life of a concert VI

As promised, here is a selection of photos taken at yesterday's Crouch End Festival Chorus concert. You can find the full set here.

Rehearsal Rehearsal

Backstage monitor

Bouquets ready for presentation Backstage after the performance

Backstage after the performance

Sunday, October 29, 2006

A day in the life of a concert V


All over, and what a fantastic concert! David (our conductor) was over the moon, saying that everything was "under control from start to finish" and that the audience "gave the warmest applause he had ever heard" for a piece which has such a difficult ending. On to A Child of Our Time and Spring Symphony.

But first a well-earned drink...

I'll put the photos up later tonight or tomorrow.

A day in the life of a concert IV


Rehearsal over (3 minutes early so it must have been good!). It's going to be a stunner. A mad rush to the balcony bistro for a bite before the concert (too bad they've run out of bread - seems a bit odd just before a concert). That just leaves enough time to get changed and make the warm-up. We're starting the concert about 10 minutes late as there's no convenient time for late-comers to be admitted, but all should be over bar the accolades by 9 o'clock. I'll try to post a few words before rushing off to the bar.

There are still a few tickets to spare, so if you live near the Barbican it's not too late!

A day in the life of a concert III


20 minute break and all going stunningly well. We've fully rehearsed the Kyrie and Gloria, and have just run the Credo, including the fastest-ever, most-difficult two pages of choral music in the repertoire (experienced choristers will know what I mean)! Liz (our chair) is sitting next to me eating a Twix, and telling me we are getting close to full, so if you really want a treat get down to the Barbican and buy your tickets quickly!

A day in the life of a concert II


Alas, insufficient privileges to post any pictures, so they'll have to wait until tomorrow (I suspect I'll be too knackered/plastered after the post-concert curry in the Indian Ocean in Holloway).

The first half of the rehearsal has gone well - the Kyrie and Gloria - with the choir as usual holding back, but it promises to be a magical evening. The soloists (Lynda Russell, Sue Bickley, Ben Hulett and Tim Mirfin) are top-notch and well-blended with one another, and Nick Turner's London Orchestra da Camera have put out a great team of players.

Our newest audience member, Ryan Perry (aged 5!) managed to stay the whole half hour as well, so we must be doing something right!

More later.

A day in the life of a concert I


Arrived at the Barbican Centre for today's Crouch End Festival Chorus concert of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, despite getting stuck in traffic around Trafalgar Square where there is a student demonstration against tuition fees. Just about managed to get to the centre in time to deliver the soloists' water to Tara (our magnificent stage manager) before the rehearsal starts at 14.30. This part of the day is tremendously exciting - the first few minutes of a rehearsal are critical to gauging what the performance will be like, although I'm absolutely confident that this will be the best ever Missa Solemnis given by CEFC (a few tickets still available for anyone who wants to come along tonight).

I'll try and blog some photos at the break if I can get the orchestra manager PC to recognize my camera.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Crouch End Festival Chorus Update

Last week the Chorus took part in a performance at the Barbican Hall celebrating the music of Serge Gainsbourg, which received informative and interesting reviews in The Independent and the Evening Standard's thisisLondon entertainment guide. Amongst the stars taking part were Jarvis Cocker (pictured left).

The Chorus will be back at the Barbican again this Sunday for a performance of Beethoven's stunning Missa Solemnis, which for me is one of the greatest symphonic choral pieces in the repertoire. Tickets are selling fast, and can be booked online from the Barbican web site.

Friday, October 13, 2006


I make no editorial statements about this at all...

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Space Shuttle meteorite damage

Space Shuttle missions don't get much press these days, but last month's launch was significant in that it was the first mission following the loss of Columbia to get back to the job of constructing the International Space Station (the two other missions since the disaster were focused on testing shuttle safety systems and the ability to perform repairs to the orbiter's heat shield). There is some extraordinary footage on the NASA website of the crew unfurling a huge solar array which will provide one third of the power for the station when it is completed. Post-mission maintenance discovered a hole in the cargo bay (pictured here) which was probably caused by a meteorite. The impact was not noticed during the mission and caused no danger to the crew nor the safe return of the shuttle to earth.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Exams over

I've just arrived home shattered after completing my Open University exam this afternoon. Now I'm sitting slumped in front of the PC with a glass of wine wondering how I had all that energy when I was 16 to take several exams in one week. Ho hum...

Saturday, October 07, 2006

That sculpture at the V&A

A couple of days ago I posted a photo I had taken of a sculpture in the V&A courtyard. Being the completist I'm known to be, it's been bugging me that I failed to identify it as Diamond (Pink) by Jeff Koons, which was on temporary loan to the museum. It's a highly polished chromium stainless steel construction which entertained me most with its interesting reflections of the surrounding buildings. It was a gloriously sunny day, which also helped show the piece to best effect. I'm not sure I would have liked it anywhere nearly as much had it been placed in a "white cube" gallery space.

Here are a few more shots I took which illustrate its "reflective" aspect, and also one I'm quite proud of which I'll just call "Pink" (it's a sort of postmodern minimalist pastiche).

IMG_1516 IMG_1518IMG_1517 IMG_1510

How to get notified of postings automatically

If you are sufficiently interested in my blog to want to get automatic notification of any updates (which I can't imagine anyone would be!), and you don't use one of the newfangled, trendy web browsers like Firefox, you might want to download and install the latest test version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer*. Alternatively, the final version will be released later this month and available via Microsoft's Automatic Update service.

*entirely at your own risk - this is test software and unsupported by Microsoft or me!

Crouch End Festival Chorus Update

Last night's rehearsal for the Beethoven Missa Solemnis was excellent. It was one of those evenings where everything seems to come together and gel at once - the enthusiasm of our MD, David Temple, the chorus being in excellent voice, and concentration levels at a peak. Chatting to David afterwards in the pub, he said he was looking forward to the opportunity to spend the final couple of rehearsals working on the meaning of the piece (which for me is tied in with Beethoven's disillusionment at the end of the Napoleonic era in Europe - it was written in 1818) and his own interpretation, rather than still being in "learning mode".

The committee and various other members of the choir are starting to work on the planning for a major event that is scheduled to take place in early 2008. I can't say much more about it at the moment, as discussions and negotiations with sponsors, venues and the composer are still at a very early stage, but suffice it to say that it will make a "splash" in the true spirit of CEFC's position at the forefront of the avant-garde in large-scale choral music. You will have to keep reading my blog if you want to learn more as time progresses!

Radio 4 - Frank Zappa

I have just been listening to an excellent programme on Radio 4 about that genius of rock and crossover, Frank Zappa. So far, I have never really gone out of my way to engage with his music, but the programme made me realise what I had been missing.

It was amusing to hear his views on classical orchestral players, and in particular his story about the London Symphony Orchestra and the Barbican Artists' Bar at a concert of his music.

I had never realised how dedicated and phenomenally talented he was as both a performer and composer. He held strong views on creativity in music (firmly believing that it was the composer who created , rather than the performer, who for him always remained a professionally-skilled technician). Amongst his many evangelists was the composer and conductor Pierre Boulez, who has performed and recorded his orchestral music with great sensitivity and understanding.

I would strongly urge anyone who missed the programme to catch it on the Radio 4 website within the next 7 days (after which it will no longer be available).

Friday, October 06, 2006

Back again

IMG_1512It's been a long while since I've posted anything here, which is mainly due to a bloody-minded determination not to post anything until I had got Windows Live Writer up and running with the Flickr plugin, which allows me to include images (like the one here) directly from my, or anyone else's, Flickr account. As you can see that problem is now resolved - I took this picture of an extraordinary sculpture in the central courtyard at the V&A, and it re-inaugurates my blog.

From now on I intend to post on a semi-regular basis, and to cente each of my posts around a single theme which I will tag to make it easier for people to follow topics that interest them.

Farther up and farther in...

Friday, September 15, 2006

The first person to post a comment...

...gets a mystery prize.

More stuff

I wonder if I'd write twice as much if I had two blogs instead of one?


Sitting here thinking, God it's been ages since I wrote anything on my blog, but what the hell shall I write about?

Nothing ever happens to me. What about you?

Monday, September 04, 2006

Country towns and rural landscapes (Part III)

I'm rather out of date on my posts but hopefully in the next couple of days I'll catch up.

On the way home from Rye we stopped off at Sissinghurst, the Kent home of the Vita Sackville-West and her husband Sir Harold Nicolson. The gardens, which were designed by Vita, are amongst the most beautiful managed by the National Trust, although the celebrated White Garden is at its best earlier in the summer. It was nevertheless still very pleasant to spend the day there and take in both lunch and tea!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Country towns and rural landscapes (Part II)

After Winchelsea, we drove on into Rye, which we had spent a night in a couple of years ago. We had chosen a B&B in the centre of the town, the Durrant House Hotel, which was very pleasant, peaceful and relaxing. Rye, too, is unspoilt and very rural in its atmosphere, many of its buildings constructed in the familiar red brick and tile facades of East Sussex. One of the oldest buildings in the town, the Old Grammar School, now houses a specialist LP dealer which boasts an extremely noisy device for cleaning up old second hand records!

We were surprised and a little disappointed that an artist from whom we had bought a couple of prints on our last visit (Stan Rosenthal), had moved to nearby Hastings. Much of the rest of the art in the town is by no means as original as his work, and I can heartily recommend his book to anyone who likes the type of modern representational art in which shape and colour are the primary drivers of the artist's inspiration. Talking of books, the town boasts several excellent second hand and antiquarian booksellers. I managed to pick up a couple of useful art history books - Linda Nochlin's Realism and an interesting reader on theories of modern art - at bargain prices.

On Sunday we took a drive out to Dungeness, a desolate tract of shingle and scrub in southern Kent which houses one of Britain's nuclear power stations. It is also home to a community of delightfully eccentric shack dwellers and a couple of light houses, one of which has some interesting former keeper's dwellings, although, as with all Britain's lighthouses, it is now automated and unmanned. Nowadays the peninsula is probably most famous for Derek Jarman's garden.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Country towns and rural landscapes (Part I)

Last Friday through to Tuesday we got away from London down to Sussex. Friday was the Eastbourne air show, which finished with an excellent display by the formidable Red Arrows. The precision of their flying is incredible, but these days it seems more difficult to enjoy watching them without thinking about the military machine that makes them possible. I realised for the first time the propaganda value derived from these sorts of displays.

On Saturday we took a leisurely drive along the coast, stopping off in Bexhill-on-sea for coffee and to look at the De La Warr Pavilion, a Modernist arts centre designed by architects Erich Mendelsohn and Serge Chermayeff in 1935. The recent renovation has restored the sleek magnificence of the building, the low, simple form of which is accentuated by the promenade and beach at Bexhill. Strangely, it does not look out of place against the Victorian sea front cottages next door. The pavilion now contains a theatre and two art galleries, one of which was hosting a thought-provoking exhibition by former Turner Prize-winner Jeremy Deller.

On the way into Rye we stopped off in Winchelsea, which claims to be the smallest town in Britain. It certainly is picturesque and unspoilt, its houses, pub (the town once claimed four), and community shop clustered around a large churchyard. Winchelsea has an excellent tea room, which, for anyone who knows Rosemary and me, was obviously not to be avoided!

Friday, August 18, 2006


I've just begun a new project to produce a Sibelius engraved score of Howard Haigh's Saeta. The piece was commissioned by Crouch End Festival Chorus in 1990 and re-performed at the Barbican Centre in 2004. It is scored for large chorus, soprano soloist and chamber orchestra, and is an eclectic mix of Spanish influences and avant garde performance techniques (including "body music" improvised by the singers!). Tremendously original and exciting to perform. Howard recently wrote a Spanish flamenco piece called Land of Light for chorus and his band, Lava (commissioned by Hertfordshire Chorus), which CEFC performed at the Barbican in July.

A big challenge with Saeta is the unconventional notation used in the score, so it's a great piece to cut my Sibelius teeth on. I'll keep you posted on progress here.

We're off to Rye for a long weekend later today, so no more posts until Tuesday or Wednesday next week.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Carpet crawling

Sitting down to supper on Sunday evening I managed to spill an entire glass of rather nice red wine on our honey-coloured carpet in the sitting room, so I've spent the last day or so on my hands and knees spraying, mopping and dabbing with various bottles and cans of carpet cleaner. One of them has a lethal smell and I'm convinced that the 'flu-like symptoms I'm now suffering from are a result of the noxious cocktail of fumes I've been inhaling. It is working though - the stain is almost completely gone, which I would never have thought was possible.

I forgot to mention on Friday that I had been at the British Museum for most of the day. Apart from doing some work on my essay, I also spent some time in the Africa Galleries and two excellent (and free) temporary exhibitions in the Prints and Drawings Gallery devoted to Rembrandt and early French prints and drawings. Rembrandt really was a stunning draughtsman and observer of the nuances of human expression: the character and psychological power of expression in his drawings and sketches is in some cases just as compelling as in his finished canvases. The French drawings were interesting as this phase of the exhibition covered the early academic period, in which there were some fine examples of work by Le Brun (one of the founders of the Academie royale) and Poussin, as well as later works by Claude Lorrain. Later in the year the exhibition will cover drawings for the period to 1900.

iPod music today (mostly at the gym) - Sam Brown and Rickie Lee Jones (who I never tire of).

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Music and essays

The panic is over: I submitted my essay at midnight last night. Boy, was it tedious. Most of my course focuses on western art history, but the last block was about non-western art. The essay was supposed to be about colonial and post-colonial art in India and China (which was never a colonial country in any case, although subject to western influences). The problem was that the course material provided by the OU was (a) sketchy and (b) confusing, which made the construction of a coherent argument a touch tricky. Something tells me this won't be one of the blocks I choose to revise for the exam in October. Still, I'll be happy if I get over 60% for the essay, which is much lower than the marks I've had for the others in the course.

Tonight we're off to Robert Hugill's house to sing through some of his new choral settings. It's been a while since we've sung anything of his, so it will be interesting to hear whether there has been any change in his style over the last couple of years. More on this later...

iPod music over the last few days - Peter Gabriel, various early punk songs courtesy of MOJO magazine, The Libertines, a superb compilation of the best of Weather Report, Blondie's early Plastic Letters album, Supertramp's Breakfast in America (which was one of the first albums I ever bought as a kid), Sinead O'Connor, The Beatles' Blue Album of greatest hits, Kate Bush, The Divine Comedy, Eric Clapton, Green Day, Pink Floyd, and Nirvana.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Two to speak of: I’ve just acquired Sibelius 4 as I want to do some choral score setting. Anyone who has used Sibelius will know that it works best if you use the keyboard for most input (rather than the mouse), which involves getting a USB number pad to work with my notebook. Little did I know that not all number pads emulate the numeric keypad (which Sibelius is picky about...), and of course I bought one that was unsuitable. My second niggle is with this blog. I’m experimenting with Word 2007 beta to generate and post my blogs, and the help in the beta is, to say the least, sketchy. I’m sure I’ll work it out eventually, but in the time things are a bit slow and cranky.

Day 1

Lots to do this week – the summer is an ideal opportunity to catch up with all of the CEFC admin that gets pushed to the bottom of the list during the singing year. We’ve also got a break from the BBC Proms this year, so all-in-all August is looking like a quiet month. Mind you, I do have an essay to complete on Indian and Chinese art by Friday (for my excellent Open University Art and its Histories course), so panic is starting to set in. Help!