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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!