Category: music

If you have a spare few minutes you might like to listen to this:

9th Ode / Easter Canon.

It’s raining again – at least it was when I last looked out of the window. The “April showers” look set to continue into May at least. A couple of days ago we had some welcome sunshine, a break from the rain and a chance to go outside without getting wet any time soon. That’s not the case everywhere where there has been flooding and, as one reporter put it, “the wettest drought on record”. The fact is that apparently we’d need several months of rain like this to replenish the ground water and when it runs off the surface or backs up the drains it isn’t really helping.

Meanwhile, when the sun came out a fragment of verse came to mind: “after the sun the rain, after the rain the sun, this be our way of life, till our work be done” or something like that. It comes from a song I mentioned before (last year) and is copied below. The sentiment is true, I suppose, and it reminds me of the story of the man who was phoned by his son who was in a bit of a state.

“Dad, everything’s gone wrong,” complained the son. “What do you mean?” asked the father. “Well, work is boring, the kids are behaving terribly, my wife and I keep having rows and to cap it all the dog is sick. Life is awful and I hate it,” came the tearful reply. “Don’t worry,” replied the father, “these things happen. It will pass, it will pass.”

A few weeks later they were on the phone again. “How’s it going?” enquired the father. “Great!” his son replied. “My work is good, the kids are fine, my wife and I are getting on famously and the dog is fully recovered.” So the father said, “Don’t worry, it will pass, it will pass.”

Glad that I live am I;
That the sky is blue;
Glad for the country lanes,
And the fall of dew.

After the sun the rain,
After the rain, the sun,
This is the way of life,
Till the work be done.

All that we need to do,
Be we low or high,
Is to see that we grow
Nearer the sky.

Lizette Woodworth Reese (1856-1935)

The Nutcracker – at the London Coliseum

December 2011

It was many years since I had been to the ballet, and longer since I’d seen a production of The Nutcracker. It is one of my favourites partly because it was the first ballet I saw when I was very nearly 8 years old and I have fond associations with the music by Tchaikovsky.

We went to see the production of The Nutcracker at the London Coliseum and I enjoyed our day out overall – partly because I enjoyed wandering round familiar sights in London with my family; partly because of going to the ballet.

The production was quite good but I’m sorry to say that even a non-expert could see that it was not perfect. Perhaps they were coming towards the end of their run and were beginning to tire.

For technical expertise I would probably give 2 or 3 stars, that’s 5 or 6/10. For instance, the part of Clara was played by an understudy. She was good, but not perfect, not excellent. Given that she was not originally going to perform that evening, she did very well. However, she was one of at least two other performers who finished a piece early and had to wait for the orchestra to catch up – or may be the orchestra was behind, who knows?

Meanwhile, the chorus were not entirely in synch – sometimes they were late to take their places. If the effectiveness of a chorus is doing things in the same way at the same time, well, here they didn’t all do so. It was minor stuff, the odd arm placed differently here or placed a fraction of a second behind or before the rest of the chorus. It spoilt the overall effect. If they hadn’t worn identical costumes the differences would not have been so obvious.

As far as I can tell the music was played OK – there were no obvious glitches apart from being out-of-synch with the dancers occasionally and I don’t know whose fault that was.

I did enjoy the music and I found the interpretation of the story interesting (although I’m more of a traditionalist). I don’t know where the idea for the hot air balloon came from. It did sort of work as a motif – introduced obliquely as a toy during act one and last seen floating away in the distance at the end. The Arabian dance with its harem/slavery theme was new – no hint of coffee there. The Russian dance, I’m afraid, got out of step.

These were clearly skilled performers – you’ll never find me doing point work – and the set pieces (e.g. the pas do deux) were generally OK. It’s just that it all felt a little jaded.  They seemed to be ready for a rest.

Overall 3 stars, or 7/10 because, although I noticed the rough edges, I did enjoy myself.

“Forever Autumn …”

…’cause you’re not here”.

The cassette tapes are beginning to stretch and convenient, portable players are hard to come by, so I saved up my pennies and bought the CD set of Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of “The War of the Worlds”. It sounded different – the sound was less ’rounded’ at the edges. To put it another way, with the CD it sounded sharper – ‘crisper’ if you want to be more complimentary about it. I’m not sure I liked the ‘better’ quality but I’m sure it’s as much a matter of taste as technical standards.

Having not heard this for a long time, I put the CDs on and listened all the way through (even through one mealtime which is against our normal rule but at least everyone was able to hear it – loudspeakers, not headphones). It got a more favourable reception than I had expected.

Once you accept that this is a version of H G Wells’ classic and original science fiction you needn’t fret about how faithful it is. In both this and film versions I lament that there is no mention of where I grew up, whereas the book does make a fleeting mention of it.

This is not the genre of music I would usually subscribe to (think Vaughn Williams, Tchaikovsky, Elgar, Katelby and, perhaps, The Wombles) and was first released at the end of the 1970s as two LPs (vinyl). I think it would have been classified as ‘pop’ music. It was the decade when the first of the “Star Wars” films were seen.

One of the most popular tracks is probably “Forever Autumn” (I think it may have also been released as a single) which is a wistful song coming in the part of the story when the narrator is missing his sweetheart.

“Through autumn’s golden glow we used to kick our way, you always loved this time of year.”

He is also coming to realise that the world he was familiar with was changing deeply and dramatically – nothing would ever be the same again. So he concludes that “my life will be Forever Autumn ’cause you’re not here”.

I think “forever Autumn” describes a feeling, a sadness, a nostalgia, that many people would recognise and that song connects with that feeling in its melody and lyrics effectively. It is true to that moment, you could say.

I am also bound to say, that even when Autumn arrives early, or leaves late, staying longer than we’d normally expect; nevertheless, it is not forever Autumn in the end.

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