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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Saeta, and our house

Today I got a large chunk of work done on my project setting Saeta for Howard Haigh. Hertfordshire Chorus are performing it next April, so I need to complete the vocal score by the end of the year to give them time to print it for the first choral rehearsal. I've now almost completed first drafts of three of the five movements, but there is still a lot of work to do on layout and proofing.

We're also trying to finish off some long-running projects on our house. Next week we're having an oak floor fitted in our dining room and also getting some dining furniture delivered that those nice people at Multiyork have been looking after for us for most of the summer. The shower in our loft conversion is on its last legs, so we're simultaneously trying to get the shower room gutted and refitted before the end of November.

I've also got a cellar-full of spring bulbs to plant which I don't intend to leave this year. Maybe next week... ho hum.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

What a stunning open rehearsal

Yesterday we had a fantastic open rehearsal at Crouch End Festival Chorus, on Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius. We had 27 guests along, many of whom are going to audition for membership. David Temple, our MD had brought along a selection of books about Elgar and the work, as well as some vintage recordings of the composer himself conducting it in the 1920s. He also read out some fascinating extracts about the piece. All in all, a super day.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Update on The Tension of Opposites

We had an excellent meeting yesterday evening to discuss Matthew Ferraro's The Tension of Opposites. It was our first opportunity to get the whole team together in one room: Matthew; Liz Sich, who is dealing with grants and fundraising; Phil Giggle, who designed the web site for Matthew; Stefan Henrix, who is Matthew's Sound Designer (and currently working on Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd); John Fulton-MacDonald, who is making a photojournalistic record of the project; and me. Things are moving on apace - we have a date for the performance (6th July 2008 at the Barbican Centre), and today we are video conferencing with an adviser in Los Angeles with a view to presenting a funding bid to a large corporation in the United States. Liz is also moving ahead with grant applications to the Arts Council, Awards for All and Youth Music.

We are also producing a short promotional film in two versions, one for the US market and one for here in Britain. We are continuing to sign up not-for-profit partners, and I have had initial discussions with two large national charities who may wish to benefit from the PR the premiere will attract. Later this summer the website will begin to host The Tension of Opposites Blog which will provide a mechanism for building a community and facilitating networking amongst the various organisations involved in the project. There is also a strong educational strand, so when we launch the main publicity for the concert early next year there will be an opportunity for school children and other learners to contribute materials to the blog. We're still generating lots of ideas, so watch this space.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A weekend in Cambridge and Twickenham (!)

Off to Cambridge last Friday for the second performance of Crouch End Festival Chorus's summer concert in the West Road Concert Hall. Rosemary and I stayed for the whole weekend and managed to take in a couple of the colleges, although Kings was just too crowded. Maybe we'll go back on a weekday when it's a bit quieter.

Then on Sunday we drove down to Twickenham to see Genesis, one of my favourite bands of all time, despite my growing suspicion that Phil Collins is a man of more talent than taste. Some of the songs he penned for the group in its later years would have been more suited to one of his solo albums (which I dislike almost without exception). However, they still have an exceptional back-catalogue, and it was great to hear them perform a couple of songs I'd never heard them do live, such as the exquisitely beautiful Ripples from A Trick of the Tail (which I'd told Rosemary only a couple of hours before that they wouldn't play when we were listening to it in the car on the way). I've seen the band four or five times now (although never with Gabriel), and I can safely say this was the best of their gigs I've seen.

A couple of videos from YouTube, the first from Twickenham, and the second (which is much higher quality) from an earlier gig in Paris:

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Beach Boys, Ives and other wacky stuff

IMG_3585Tara snapped this pic in The Flask after Crouch End Festival Chorus's amazing concert at St Michael's Church, Highgate on Sunday. We were fortunate to have local resident and founder of The Kinks, Ray Davies, in the audience. Our Musical Director, David Temple (also pictured), and the Chorus have worked with Ray before on some of his musical projects.

There was no Kinks music in the programme, but we did perform several arrangements of Beach Boys songs by David Bedford (who also attended). The arrangements were made for and dedicated to legendary bassist Herbie Flowers who also managed to come along.

In case you didn't make it and would like to catch the concert, we'll be performing the programme again at West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge at 7.30pm this Saturday, 7th July. The concert also includes music by Ives, Morten Lauridsen, Eric Whitacre, Barber and Copland.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Chatting for CEFC

I've just registered my Crouch End Festival Chorus email address as a Microsoft Live Passport, which means I can chat on Windows Live Messenger with anyone who cares to find me when I'm online. The next step is to set up presences on Facebook, Faceparty, MySpace and the other community and social networking sites. Hopefully it will lead to the Chorus being better known on the net, particularly to potential younger members and audiences.

So add me to MSN with the addy chair@cefc.org.uk, or email me if you don't know how to sign-up but would like to.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Avignon (Third post)

Monday 9th April

Easter Monday. Up early to catch a train to Orange, famous according to the Rough Guide for its Roman Theatre and the French National Front. We decided to pass on buying our black shirts, and instead went into the theatre, the only one in Europe with a complete stage wall. IMG_3206-3209

In fact, there are only two other such buildings remaining (of the several hundred built), one in Turkey and one in Syria. The seats are carved into the hillside behind, although much of the marble internal decoration of the stage has predictably been sacked over the centuries.

Coffee and a crepe chocolat followed by a flying visit to the town museum. It contains an eclectic series of exhibits in true country town style, although of quite decent quality. Roman remains include heads of gods and sphinxes taken from a mausoleum discovered to the north of the town, and marble work removed from the theatre, including friezes of centaurs engaged in country pursuits. Particularly important (I imagine) although not particularly interesting, are the remains of a first century land registry, a sort of giant stone Ordnance Survey map. The remainder of the ground floor is taken up with contemporary portraits of the counts (from 1178, princes) of Orange.

Upstairs on the first floor is a good selection of 18th century engravings of Orange's Roman remains. The Enlightenment certainly seemed to be more than a little interested in accurately recording Antiquity - perhaps there was a hint of premonition of the ravages to be wrought by the urbanisation of the coming Industrial Revolution.

Two minor families are also recorded on the first floor, the Gasparins who hailed from Corsica in the 16th century, and the Wetters, who founded a local cotton printing industry in the 18th century. Wall panels by Gabriel-Maria Rossetti show what is probably a much idealised view of life in the Wetter factory.

It is the top floor that perhaps contains the best of the museum, showing the late 19th and early 20th century works of two artists with a British connection. Frank Brangwyn was born in 1867 in Bruges. He decorated the façade of a new Art Nouveau gallery in Paris in 1895 and also worked in Leeds, the House of Lords and New York's Rockefeller Center. Particularly known for his watercolours, engravings and lithographs of work-related subjects. He died in 1956 in Ditchling, Sussex.

Albert de Belleroche, was born in Swansea and later travelled to Paris with his mother, who gave lavish society parties, entertaining Edward VII amongst others. He drew inspiration from John Singer-Sargent and also knew and associated with Zola, Wilde, Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec, whose portrait he painted in 1882. From 1890 he practised as an artist in the Montmartre. A friend of Brangwyn, he was admired by Renoir and obtained success at the 1904 Autumn Salon. He returned to Sussex and retirement, dying in Southwell, Nottinghamshire in 1944.

IMG_3237After lunch we strolled up to the top of the St-Eutrope hill, for a brief glance at the ruins of the château of the princes of Orange, demolished in a fit of pique by Louis XIV. Fortunately he rather liked the Roman theatre, so he left that untouched. The other significant monument in Orange is the triumphal arch, erected by Roman legionaries in thanks to Rome's conquests in Gaul. The remaining frieze-work on the arch seems somewhat rusticated when compared to that on the arches in Rome, although the deeply inscribed sinuous tracery provides a touch of uncharacteristic originality.

We made an early start back to Avignon for a short rest and shower, before going out for a relaxing cocktail and some nibbles.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Avignon (Second post)

In my last post I referred to an artist called Luis Alvarez, whose work was on display in the Philippe le Bel Tower in Villeneuve Lez Avignon.

I liked what I saw: Alvarez (who died in 1997) painted in a modernist style, strongly influenced by Cubism. Although most of his art was figurative, a few of his canvases evoked the Abstract Expressionism of Rothko, but with a distinctly Mediterranean palette. The centrepiece of the show was a stunning Maternité, in the fashion of a Madonna and Child: a young woman partially robed and showing one breast sits in an upright chair holding a baby dressed in white. The colour balance was exquisite, a pale cream background with luscious greens and blues in the woman's robe, who also wore a purple-brown skirt. I fell in love with the painting instantly and bought a print which I'll be framing and hanging somewhere at home.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Avignon (First post)

Orange SPV M3100As promised, I'm going to write about our holiday in Avignon over Easter, where the weather was as glorious as it apparently was in Britain. I've just bought a great new gadget - a Pocket PC which, as well as being a phone, allowed me to keep my blog going in OneNote Mobile which I could then synchronize back to our main PC once we got home from France. I didn't write anything for the first couple of days we were there, but on Easter Sunday I started to keep a fairly comprehensive journal of where we went and what we did.

Sunday 8th April

Villeneuve lez Avignon from the TowerEaster Sunday. Up early for breakfast in the hotel. Then off across the road bridge to Villeneuve lez Avignon. We visited the Philippe le Bel Tower, built by the King of France to stake his claim to the bridge (and disputed by the Count of Provence). As a result the original plan for the tower, which included a link to the French end of the bridge, was never completed. The exterior walls of the tower display some signs of the stonework which would have formed part of the full construction. The interior of the tower contains some well-preserved Gothic vaulting, with ribs descending onto consoles on which are carved leaves, animals and, in two cases, images of the king. The ground floor was taken up with an exhibition of art by Luis Alvarez (separately blogged here).

We walked on into Villeneuve and enjoyed coffee and hot chocolate in the main square.

Tomb of Innocent VIThen off to the old Chartreuse abbey, now partially derelict but still used as a retreat, this time for writers. Pope Innocent VI is buried here, and there is a fine chapel with remnants of frescoes by the 14th century Sienese artist Matteo Giovanetti, who also worked in the Palace of the Popes in nearby Avignon. Illustrating scenes from the life of John the Baptist, Giovanetti makes innovative use of the space made by a blind window recess, making a perspectival interior for the beheading of John and the presentation to Salome. Afterwards we walked back to the main square for a light lunch with the obligatory half litre of wine before walking back up the hill to the Saint André Fort.

Fresco by Matteo Giovanetti

The fort is large and straggling, unremarkable other then for the exceptional views it affords of the Rhône valley and Avignon. The fort encloses an abbey which we didn't have time to visit but which apparently has some splendid gardens.

Back down to the village for some ice cream and raspberries before a quick trip to the museum to see the two masterpieces of Villeneuve: a beautiful sculpture of the Virgin and Child (1320-30) by an unknown artist, previously installed in the church, and Enguerrand Quarton's glorious Coronation of the Virgin (1453-4), removed from the Chartreuse abbey. The sculpture is carved in ivory, with painted decoration, and displays a sinuous elegance, the Virgin leaning back to contemplate her child, who is playing engagingly with a braid of her gown, the latter almost entirely white, but picked out in gold brocade. The gown is either lined in blue, or reveals some sort of blue undergarment at her waist and around her legs.

Quarton is not an artist I had encountered before, but his Coronation stunned me. The Virgin sits serenely beneath the Trinity, her golden and red robe spreading out into a blue train edged with white. The realism of the folds and creases in the train are extraordinary for the period. Besides the archangels Gabriel and Michael, the principal figures are surrounded by two orders of angels, executed respectively in red and blue. One is struck by the regularity with which the wings of the red angels are folded neatly behind them, and the way in which Quarton has made all of the faces different in feature and expression.

The iconography at the bottom is arresting and spectacular. The Coronation floats above stylized representations of the cities of Rome and Jerusalem, but the real interest lies in the Dantaesque scenes of Purgatory and Hell in the lowest part of the panel. Angels can be seen helping the souls of the saved to rise up, and portions of the clouds are breaking off to form themselves into touching representations of the souls being born heavenwards by the angels. I found myself reminded of Cardinal Newman's Dream of Gerontius. It is also interesting that Quarton must have been aware that the only people to see these details would be the officiating priests. One of the ranked figures on the right of the panel is Catherine of Siena, who had visited Avignon less than a hundred years earlier as part of her efforts to heal the Great Schism.

École MontolivetWe finished our day in Villeneuve with a quick stop in the rather unimpressive church, then walked back to Avignon via the Tower where I wanted to buy a poster of Alvarez's Maternité. Incidentally, Villeneuve seems to have a huge art deco high school, the École Montolivet; goodness only knows where it gets its students!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Too, too busy

I've been so busy in the last few weeks, taking over as chair of Crouch End Festival Chorus, studying for my Open University degree, and cataloguing photos on Flickr, that I've had no time to even think about writing anything here.

There's a lot I want to say though, and hopefully I'll start to clear the backlog in the next few days:

  • our holiday over Easter in Avignon
  • latest developments at Crouch End Festival Chorus
  • my architectural photography project
  • that list of books I've been reading, and (hopefully) my first book review

Most likely I won't have as much time in the next week as I'd like to write here, but I do promise to at least write something!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Blogging and human rights

I've been meaning to write about this for a while now, but I'm ashamed to say that other things have kept distracting me.

A few months ago Amnesty International commenced a campaign to raise public awareness in the blogosphere about bloggers who have been persecuted because of their writings. According to Amnesty, "Iranian blogger Kianoosh Sanjari [is] just one example of the dangers that some online writers can face. Mr Sanjari was arrested in early October following his blogging about conflicts between the Iranian police and the supporters of Shia cleric Ayatollah Boroujerdi" (BBC News website, 27 October 2006).

Amnesty has launched a web campaign, where bloggers and other websites can pledge their support for efforts to protect free speech on the web. For the tech savvy, they also provide an HTML fragment that you can place on your blog or site which will include snippets of censored content each time your page is loaded. I'm going to add it to my site right away.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

All change at CEFC

I spent a pleasant couple of hours last night at Sosta's in Crouch End with Liz Sich (outgoing chair of Crouch End Festival Chorus) and Pinky Millward (incoming Deputy Chair). We pretty much completed the handover of jobs from Liz, and also discussed responsibilities on the chorus's Management Committee in some detail. The idea is to tighten up our procedures this year and make every activity performed in support of the chorus the responsibility of one (and only one) member of the committee. There have always been one or two things that seem to have fallen down the cracks, so hopefully the changes should help us to appear even more streamlined and professional to our members and external partners.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Elijah

On Saturday night I joined Hertfordshire Chorus to sing one of my favourite 19th century oratorios - Mendelssohn's Elijah at St Alban's abbey. Mendelssohn was a great admirer of Bach, and applied the structural and stylistic example of the Bach Passions to this Old Testament story. Unlike much of the turgid large-scale choral music of the period, Mendelssohn's work is alive with vibrancy and passion, and the sheer inventiveness of the music is sometimes simply unbelievable. The chorus was fortunate to have an excellent line-up of soloists, led by Graeme Danby in the title role, along with Nick Turner's London Orchestra da Camera. The concert was conducted by David Temple, who also directs Crouch End Festival Chorus.

I had a great time, and the chorus made me feel very welcome - I had a wonderful lunch with a dozen or so of them in Zizzi's in St Alban's between the rehearsal and the concert. The evening itself went very well, Hertfordshire Chorus rising to the occasion and the stunning venue with some truly breath-taking singing.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

A new patron

I'm very pleased to report than Ennio Morricone has agreed to become Crouch End Festival Chorus's newest patron.

Tension of Opposites

I've blogged a couple of times here about a major commission project which Crouch End Festival Chorus is planning for 2008. The piece is Tension of Opposites by Matthew Ferraro, a film composer whose credits include Tom Cruise's Minority Report and Futurama. 'Tension of Opposites' is a phrase coined by Karl Jung, and refers to the inherent conflict between opposing forces within the human psyche, which can lead either to development and growth or to self-destruction. The work deals with oppositions such as those between faith and belief, old and young, man and the environment, and is scored for large chorus, orchestra and a collection of pre-recorded tracks which include readings from more than 30 texts of the world's major religions, and interviews with eye witnesses and fire-fighters on 9/11.

CEFC is planning to give the world premiere of the work sometime in 2008. As well as the concert itself, the intention is to work with an educational organisation to develop a multimedia tool (to include a recording of the first performance) that can be used to engage with young people and communities in the UK and America. We are also pursuing the possibility of the chorus giving the American premiere, possibly in New York.

On Thursday last week, David Temple, Matthew Ferraro, Andy Beer (a sound engineer who sings in the chorus) and I met up at a sound studio in London's West End to listen to some of the pre-recorded material. We are priveledged to be working with a couple of the world's leading film and TV sound engineers, one of whom designed the sound installation for Bruce Nauman's Raw Materials installation in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern. It was very exciting to get our first impressions of what just one component of the finished work might sound like. The material was still very 'raw': over the next couple of weeks Matthew will be working with his engineers to remix and 'sweeten' the recordings so that they will blend seamlessly with the chorus and orchestra.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Saeta

Yesterday I finally completed setting movements II and III of Saeta, a Crouch End Festival Chorus commission from 1990. I've sent a PDF of the score to the composer, Howard Haigh, and it will be interesting to get his comments back.

Meanwhile, a member of the chorus tells me that a friend of hers is working on a book about 20th century musical notation systems. She's recommended that I look at Berio's Sequenza and Ligeti's Aventure and Nouvelle aventure, as they use some interesting notations for vocal techniques. A trip to the library is called for, I think.

Monday, January 29, 2007

John Adams at the Barbican

I've been a bit quiet here recently. The last couple of weeks have been pretty hectic with the build-up to my choir's AGM. Regular and eagle-eyed readers will have noted that I've now taken over as Chair of the chorus - a prospect that simultaneously fills me with fear and excitement.

Last night, we did manage to get out: to the Barbican Centre for a London Symphony Orchestra concert of music by John Adams, conducted by the composer. Adams is one of my idols, yet the main piece of the evening, On the Transmigration of Souls, remains something of a bête noir for me. It has always left me a little cold, so I was looking forward to finding out whether my first live experience of the work would change my mind.

The first of the half of the concert included two works: The Dharma at Big Sur for electric violin and orchestra, and Slonimsky's Earbox, neither of which I was familiar with. Earbox is obviously a significant work for the composer, lending its name to his official website and self-avowedly marking an important turning point in his music. In it, Adams looks towards Russian musical influences, primarily to Stravinsky, but also to a friend from his early years on the West Coast, Nicholas Slonimsky, author of a thesaurus of musical motifs and patterns. It proved to be a good choice to open the concert, its overture-like character and lightness of feeling easing the packed hall into Adams's characteristic Californian groove. This was the first time I'd heard Adams conduct the LSO, and they responded to his direction with the slick virtuosity which is the orchestra's hallmark.

The Dharma at Big Sur is a work on an altogether larger scale. Effectively a concerto in form, it mixes eastern and western musical ideas, especially in its subversion of the classical European 12-note scale, with heavy use of slides, portamento and microtones, particularly in the solo part. Leila Josefowicz stunned the audience by playing this fiendishly difficult score entirely from memory on her 6-stringed instrument, which looked rather like a futuristic prop from Star Trek, even if the amplification and mixing of the sound stage became occasionally rather overblown and muddied.

After this high-energy first half I was unfortunately vindicated in my opinion of Transmigration. Written for the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, but commissioned and composed much closer to the events that it commemorates, I still feel that Adams was a victim of his own success: there had to be a commemoration piece, and there was really only one composer in the US who could be asked to write it. Adams maintains that the piece is about love, not anger (instructing the chorus at rehearsals to downplay any darker emotions), yet for me its emotional impact seems clouded and distant, maybe because of Adams's decision to use actors and reported speech for the words of the bereaved rather than face-to-face interview material. I was left feeling perplexed about the point, despite excellent performances from the London Symphony Chorus and a small but flawlessly-dictioned group from the New London Children's Choir.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Wikipedia

I've just started to get in to Wikipedia: in the last couple of week's I've created an article on Crouch End Festival Chorus (which you can find here), and also begun to get involved in a couple of WikiProjects to improve the quality of content in the world's biggest online encyclopedia.

Anyone can get involved in the Wikepedia experience, the motto of which is "Be bold!"

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Today's concert

Today, Crouch End Festival Chorus is performing Tippett's A Child of our Time and Britten's Spring Symphony at the Barbican Centre in London. I'm blogging this from the promoter's office backstage, after the afternoon rehearsal. The rehearsal went very well: in addition to the chorus and the Forest Philharmonic Orchestra, we are working with Finchley Children's Music Group who have provided a large choir for the Britten and a chamber choir for the Tippett to sing along with the spirituals, which makes them feel much more congregational and inclusive.

We had a few teething problems with platform arrangements, but thanks to the Barbican's excellent stage crew we've made some adjustments since the rehearsal finished, so that everyone will be able to see the conductor.

I've already blogged about how much I love the Tippett, so I'm looking forward to the concert immensely. We haven't put any balcony tickets on sale, so it looks like it will be a fairly full house in the stalls and circle.

Tonight's concert is being given in association with TreeHouse - the national charity for autism education. Even if you can't make it to the concert, they are a worthy charity providing a unique service to children with autism and their families, and I'm sure they would appreciate any donations you could make.

After the concert we'll be off to the Indian Ocean (the one in Holloway Road, not the one just the left of the Pacific...) for a well-earned curry and a few bottles of beer!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Art of the Twentieth Century

I've just started my next Open University course, AA318: Art of the Twentieth Century. I'm mighty peeved, though, that I still haven't received my course material, so I can't get ahead as much as I had hoped. Judging by the chat on the course conference, London students seem to be amongst the last to get their materials, so hopefully something will arrive today or tomorrow. Fortunately, there is an excellent course web site, and I've already bought the set books, so I'm making a start on some of the reading.

More books (again)

Another 10 books I've read from the list of 1001:

J. D. Salinger: The Catcher in the Rye
Isaac Azimov: Foundation
John Wyndham: The Day of the Triffids
William Golding: The Lord of the Flies
J. R. R. Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings
Nevil Shute: A Town Like Alice
Truman Capote: Breakfast at Tiffany's
Harper Lee: To Kill a Mockingbird
J. G. Ballard: The Drowned World
John Fowles: The Collector

Saturday's concert

Last night's orchestral rehearsal for Crouch End Festival Chorus's concert at the Barbican Centre this Saturday was a strange affair. Half of the orchestra and choir were late arriving because of transport problems caused by the storms, so David Temple had to do some impromptu restructuring of the rehearsal. A few years ago the choir would have been completely thrown by the lack of certain key entries caused by missing orchestral players, but last night rose to the occasion superbly.

I'm looking forward to the concert immensely. The Tippett (A Child of our Time) in particular is a favourite of mine. Working on it for this concert reminded me of his mastery of counterpoint, both in the choral lines and also some of the exquisite orchestral writing, particularly for the woodwind. It will also be a real pleasure to sing Britten's Spring Symphony in a great concert hall. The last time we performed it was in a church in north London, the acoustic of which did no favours for the clarity of the performance.

I've just created an entry in Wikipedia about the chorus, which you can read here.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

More books

It's been a while since I posted any more of the 1001 books I should have read (and in fact have) before I die, so here goes:

Margaret Atwood: Alias Grace
Pat Barker: The Ghost Road
Arundhati Roy: The God of Small Things
J. M. Coetzee: Disgrace
Zadie Smith: White Teeth
Yann Martel: Life of Pi
Albert Camus: The Plague
George Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-Four
Isaac Azimov: I, Robot
Mervyn Peake: Gormenghast

Once I've caught up on listing my backlog in a couple of days, I'll start posting my own impressions and reviews of books I'm reading now, which should make things a little more interesting.

Monday, January 15, 2007

24

We've started to watch 24 Day 5. Since the series moved to Sky (which we don't have), we've taken to buying it on DVD and watching it in 2 or 3 episode chunks over the course of a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, the level of tension means that by the time we get to bed, it's almost impossible to sleep...

Anyway, I need to open a socket to my blog and download this to your screen...

Sunday, January 14, 2007

New members' party

Yesterday afternoon we held a party for people who have joined Crouch End Festival Chorus in the last 15 months or so. We've held these events before, but this was the first time I'd been able to go along myself. The party was at our Musical Director, David Temple's house, and was an enjoyable occasion at which we got to know so of the newer members of the chorus, particularly those who don't always go along to the pub after rehearsals on Friday evenings! I took a few photos, which I'll post on Flickr, but as my policy is to keep photos of individuals private to friends only, I'm afraid you'll only be able to see them if you are on my Flickr friends list.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Another YouTube gem

Now, if only Crouch End Festival Chorus could reach new audiences like this! The first guy is the same age as my dad...

The swan

I often think that Crouch End Festival Chorus is rather like a swan - elegant and smooth on the surface, but with a lot of feverish paddling going on below the water-line to keep everything running smoothly. January is one of those times of year when the behind-the-scenes activity is at a peak. The AGM is coming up on 26th January, and everyone on the committee is involved in getting ready. Each committee member has to write a report on their activities for the year, and the finance team are busy finishing off the accounts.

Today and tomorrow are particularly important days. Members of the chorus will know that a couple of years ago we made the decision to turn the choir into a limited company - things had just grown to be too large and complicated to continue to be best served by the informal unincorporated association which had sufficed over the last 20 years. We finally made the cutover to the new organization (which is nevertheless still a charity) on 1st January 2006. If you do the maths, this means we have not one, but two sets of accounts to deal with for the last financial year (which ended on 31st August 2006). Tonight there are 3 meetings happening (in succession). The first is of the trustees of the old charity (and the original Crouch End Festival Chorus), to approve its final set of accounts before we apply to the Charity Commission to have it struck off the register. The second meeting is a normal Management Committee meeting where we discuss the real nitty-gritty of running the Chorus: music, concerts, fundraising events and future commissions (we will be undertaking our biggest ever in 2008). The final meeting of the evening will be to approve the accounts for the new charity. Then I will be delivering both sets to the auditor tomorrow morning so that he has time to examine them and report before the AGM.

Why is all this so important? Well, I firmly believe that good governance, communication and accountability is the foundation of a successful organization. If the basics are right you can spend more time on the important stuff like furthering the artistic aims of the chorus. The AGM is a real opportunity for the trustees to communicate properly with the chorus membership, and for the members to feed back their own thoughts and feelings. This year we are looking at ways of making the financial performance of the chorus clearer for its members, and also trying to address concerns and issues that have surfaced over the last 12 months. I'm hoping that we can encourage as many members as possible to attend.

Once the AGM is out of the way, planning will continue in earnest for the next season. We've already got a pretty good idea of how the season will start in October, but I'm looking forward to discussing the remaining concerts with our Musical Director, David Temple, in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Remind Me

I just had to post this. The graphics are simply amazing...

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

A glut of art

I got back from Christmas and New Year to realise that a bunch of exhibitions I wanted to see were all finishing on January 7th. Fortunately we are Friends of the V&A and the Tate, so Rosemary and I set off on Sunday morning to see the excellent Holbein exhibition at the Tate Britain. He really was an excellent draughtsman and had an unprecedented ability to get inside the personalities of his subjects, although I still don't think he had got the hang of doing hands!

I went off by myself to see the Leonardo drawings show at the V&A. It was good to see some of the material that featured in my Leonardo OU course last year, although I still had to queue for an hour to get in. Whilst there, I discovered that there was a Renaissance exhibition on which also finished on Sunday, which gave me probably my only chance to see Sophonisba Anguissola's Sisters Playing Chess, which also featured in one of my courses last year. It was on loan from a gallery in Poland, so was not to be missed.

After a brief stroll around the Sixties fashion exhibition (I had no idea that there was a craze for paper dresses which only ended because so many customers wouldn't believe they were made of paper and ripped the hems in the stores to find out for themselves!) it was on to the National Gallery to see a crowded but rewarding exhibition of Cezanne's art drawn from public and private collections in England. Finally I ended up at the British Museum to take in the second installment of an excellent selection of French drawings, ranging from Watteau through to Seurat. I was fortunate enough to see his Grande Jatte on a visit to Chicago a few years ago, so it was very exciting to find a couple of his preparatory sketches for the painting in the exhibition.

I certainly won't be trying to visit so many exhibitions in one day again. It was a real effort in terms of concentration and extremely tiring, so I'll have to organize myself better in future!