What’s happening this weekend? Nothing? No Coronation, no Eurovision…
What shall we talk or blog about?
So who won Eurovision? Liverpool! I have never been to Liverpool, but I know someone who has; they had a ticket to the final rehearsal on Saturday afternoon and apparently it was awesome. Our television news had been following the lead up to the contest, from the special Eurovision train full of excited seasoned fans, to the full week of action in the city. Even if you couldn’t get tickets to the contest you could still enjoy the revelries and celebrate the first time in 25 years that we were holding the contest. It sounds like Liverpool did us proud.
So who actually won? The lighting and stage technicians… and all the other people back stage you don’t see. The turn around on the stage was sixty seconds apparently. The contest is not just about the song, it’s about the performance. Flashing lights, strange outfits, dancing of all sorts and scenes that couldn’t be described as dancing; all very different from the early years in black and white when singers came on in suits and nice dresses.
But which song won? Points come from judges in each competing country, then the viewers’ votes come in. Sweden’s Loreen won with her song Tattoo. It looked as though Finland would win at one stage, though I fell asleep during all the scoring and missed that bit. Finland came second and Israel third. Ukraine, last year’s winners, whose show it was, came a creditable sixth. And where did the United Kingdome come? Second last with Mae Muller’s I Wrote A Song, which I thought was quite good. Germany were last.
May Madness continues… after the excitement of the coronation I realised I did not need to take down my bunting, but just add to it and celebrate Eurovision 2023. Some ribbon from HaberDasherDo and a few safety pins..
...then I discovered Amazon would deliver a flag by 10pm… which turned out to be a bit bigger than I expected.
Teddy has been carrying the Ukrainian flag since Ukraine was invaded last year.
The Eurovision Song Contest was started in 1956 and I doubt those who participated in those early black and white days would recognise the colourful stage productions and strange outfits in the twenty first century. There are many more countries participating now, some newly created borders and a few countries not in Europe… Some countries have always loved it, while in the United Kingdom many of us may have been indifferent or embarrassed by our song entries. Sweden famously produced Abba whose songs have been a background to so many lives and when Ireland hosted the contest in 1994 the interval entertainment of Riverdance took on a life of its own and millions have been thrilled by the many live Riverdance shows.
Last year everything changed when the UK actually had a song people were talking about and seemed to have a chance of getting good scores, Sam Ryder with ‘Space Man’. More importantly Ukraine was was going to enter and despite the awful suffering of their country send a positive message to the world. Their Kalush Orchestra won with ‘Stefania’ and the UK came second. Ukraine should have been the host this year, but sadly that would be impossible so as second place holders the UK was chosen and are jointly hosting with Ukraine in Liverpool.
It is the first time for 25 years we have hosted the contest and for those who have always loved Eurovision and Liverpudlians, there is great excitement … and it’s catching. Whatever you think of the various songs a lot of people are having fun, both locals and Ukrainians in exile here. On the news you can have a break from what is going on in the rest of the world and see happy people gathering in Liverpool. There have been two semi finals and tomorrow is the Big Night...
The Coronation Weekend closes with a bank holiday and the return of rain, but Sunday was sunny for community picnics.
Saturday, day of the coronation, it drizzled and rained in London, while here it poured with rain all morning; families planning to watch on big screens and have a picnic with their friends were disappointed. But apart from the weather, which had been forecast all along, the coronation went well. For those looking forward to the coronation it lived up to their expectations.
My invitation to The Abbey?
If you were inside Westminster Abbey, early as directed, there was music to entertain you in the long wait for the royal arrival. If you were watching on television and switched on early you would know that five thousand military personnel arrived at Waterloo Station by train and marched over Westminster Bridge to take part in the procession. There were plenty more interesting snippets from commentators about the day’s plan’s, from how the many troops would line up ready to march, to the names of all the horses ( well not all of them ). At the abbey entrance we could see who was arriving and have fun trying to identify them. As the King and Queen left Buckingham Palace and the mounted guards and bands led the procession up The Mall, there were intriguing comments from the commentator which set off my writer’s imagination. ‘Apollo’s playing up’ . Hmm story idea, what if Apollo suddenly decided, after all the parades he’s been in, to make a bid for freedom!
Apollo the Drum Horse will be ridden by Lance Corporal Chris Diggle from the Band of the Household Cavalry. The nine-year-old horse stands at over 17 hands (1.73 metres) tall and weighs in at nearly 800 kilograms. He is described as a “big friendly giant” who “loves attention”.
The coronation service was full of contrasts; the guests in the abbey representing all strands of modern society and every religion as promised, but they were there to witness an ancient ceremony with aspects going far back beyond our own history to King Solomon being anointed with oil by Zadok the Priest.
It was a long service with lots of symbolic items being handed around, people with strange titles in all sorts of outfits and new and traditional music. Whether you were in the abbey or watching on television the history, music and human interest made it a unique experience. King Charles was probably one of the few people who had actually been to a coronation before. Even for regular church goers there were odd aspects to grasp. The strange chanting of psalm 71 by the Greek Orthodox choir seemed to take us right back to the time of King David.
The even bigger procession back to the palace was a feat of precision. Earlier in the week on the news channel we had seen the late night full rehearsal, strangely ghost like; now it was in full colour. There were more interesting touches. I liked the fact that Princess Anne nipped off to get changed then leapt onto her horse to join in the procession.
‘She gave a rare interview to CBC news that aired on Monday, saying: “I have a role as the Colonel of the Blues and Royals in the Household Cavalry regiment as Gold Stick. And Gold Stick was the original close protection officer.’
The coronation was always going to be a contrast to most people’s lives. Most people don’t go to church and have little to do with the military, while the royals are steeped in the traditions of both. But does the fact that so many people turn out for every royal occasion and many at home love to watch, demonstrate we love that which is outside our every day lives and is part of our history and heritage?
For those who were not interested in the coronation or averse to royalty there is always somewhere peaceful to get away from it all.
One hundred years ago today at 6pm, BBC radio officially broadcast for the first time; a news bulletin read twice, the second time slowly in case listeners wished to take notes. The BBC is celebrating its centenary all year and of course including television. But today radio deserves the limelight.
Neither television nor the internet has left radio in the shadows. We got our first television when I was four, so I can safely say only radio has been with me all my life.
‘Lord Reith, first director general of the BBC summarised the BBC’s purpose in three words: inform, educate, entertain; this remains part of the organisation’s mission statement to this day. It has also been adopted by broadcasters throughout the world, notably the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in the United States.’
Whether you turn on the radio for news the moment you return home or don’t even own a radio, BBC radio has almost certainly been part of your life. My son tells me about various interesting podcasts he has listened to, which turn out to be programmes I heard on the radio in the kitchen. My daughter could listen with ear phones on her smart phone to Woman’s Hour in the middle of the night while feeding babies. Surely all of us have been informed, educated or entertained at some time by BBC radio. Even if you have never set foot on these sceptred isles you may have listened all your life to BBC World Service.
It is not an exaggeration to say I probably could not survive without BBC Radio, yes of course we have commercial radio stations and for a while I was a fan of Classic FM, but we were driven apart by advertisements! Radio has been a great companion whilst at home with babies, housework, ironing, cooking, insomnia through to my recent widowhood.
For most of us radio was our first introduction to music, from Faure’s Dolly Suite, signature tune for Listen with Mother to British light music such as Eric Coates’ Sleepy Lagoon, still the signature tune for Desert Island Discs which has been going for one hundred years, or feels like it. It was first broadcast in the 1940’s long before my parents even met, but it was one of the backgrounds to my childhood. If you want something a bit more lively Calling All Workers, also composed by Eric Coates was the signature tune for Workers’ Playtime, broadcast as a morale booster for factory workers in World War 2.
Now we listen to every kind of music on all the various BBC stations, from your favourite pop song as you drive to work to Radio 3 broadcasting every single concert in the long Proms season.
Radio is above all the spoken word with no need for pictures; our own home theatre, story teller and entertainer. Afternoon plays, half hour comedies and specials such as real time reading all day of the complete Ulysses by James Joyce.
Do you listen to the radio, what music evokes memories? If you do tune in are you listening for news, music, drama or comedy?
What can any blogger write that doesn’t involve mentioning Covid, Brexit, The White House or the fact that a new year has started? Let us retreat to where most of us are at the moment, home. Home comforts, or what I now call Covid Comforts are keeping us going. If you are reading this it is unlikely you are in a refugee camp, an intensive care unit or a war zone; for that we should be grateful. If you look around your home I wonder how many modern wonders provide your life support system? The internet obviously, books, television, central heating, on line shopping, computer games. Before any of those was The Word, okay so radio came quite a while after the beginning of the Old Testament, but the first modern invention in my life was the radio, long before I could read, even before I could walk or talk music was seeping into my bones thanks to the BBC. Before I was born my parents were listening to programmes that are still being broadcast; The Archers, Desert Island Discs and Woman’s Hour.
Woman’s Hour has just had its seventy fifth birthday and received a letter from The Queen. When Dame Jenni Murray ( a national institution ) announced she was leaving after thirty three years, followed soon after by a similar announcement by Jane Garvey, who has been with the programme for thirteen years, my immediate thoughts were You can’t do this, not in the middle of a pandemic and my mother and husband have just died… As I have been listening at least since our first baby was born forty one years ago, there have been other favourite presenters, the programme will survive. The modern mother can listen on her iPhone while breastfeeding in the dark watches of the night. Many men also listen and people of all ages can hear the programme in the car or when out jogging. Very different from the early days when it was broadcast at 2pm and mothers were presumed to be sitting down for a rest after lunch while their babies were having their nap. There is fun, but there are dark topics. I imagine there is no controversial issue that has not been covered on the programme, Woman’s Hour is where we first heard about FMG. The final quarter of the hour is a serial, there is always something for everyone.
In that 2020 strange sunny spring and summer of isolation, Cyberspouse listened to Woman’s Hour every morning over our leisurely breakfasts in the sun lounge. BBC Radio Four in the mornings is packed with interesting programmes and three different serials. Thanks to Amazon I bought two more digital radios to add to our collection.
There is much more to say about radio; such as why are we fascinated by the shipping forecast… but that’s for another blog. For now here is something cheery, one of my early memories that I just heard on the radio. Light music is what we all need at the moment and there have been memorable tunes composed on both sides of the Atlantic. This is one for writers by Leroy Anderson, though I don’t think he could have written a piece about computers…
On Christmas Eve a return to Christmas Carols at Kings. A clip of Oh Come All Ye Faithful, from this evening’s Covid Careful pared down service, with just the boys and the King’s singers and no congregation. I watched it before I went to cook dinner and it did feel rather muted; a reminder that our great churches should be filled with people. So the second clip is the rousing Hark The Herald Angles Sing from more normal times.
The calendar has already opened on a ballet, so today’s window opens on an opera popular at Christmas.
Hansel and Gretel was composed in 1891/1892 by nineteenth-century composer Engelbert Humperdinck The libretto was written by his sister, based on the Grimm Brothers’ dark fairy tale of brother and sister lost in the forest and finding the witch’s gingerbread house. The first video is the evening prayer the children sing as they fall asleep in the forest.
The second piece has its own magic. On 19 June 1929, 250 children from 52 local schools, the Manchester Children’s Choir, travelled by tram to the Free Trade Hall in Manchester to record Nymphs and Shepherds by Henry Purcell with the Hallé Orchestra, under the direction of Sir Hamilton Harty. It was issued on Columbia 9909, a 12in 78rpm disc that cost four shillings and sixpence and sold 1million copies. The B side was the Dance Duet from Hansel and Gretel.
Today peep through the window to a traditional Christmas scene, carols from King’s College Cambridge. The choir are singing ‘The Angle Gabriel’ and you can see what happens to sweet little choir boys when they grow up in the second YouTube video.
You can listen toA Festival of Nine Lessons and Carolsbroadcast live at 3pm on BBC Radio 4 on Christmas Eve, as it has been since 1928. Patrick Magee, the senior chorister, wrote casually of this first broadcast in his journal “Christmas Eve. Practice 10-12.45. Go out to dinner with Mum and Dad. Carol service broadcasted. Comes off well. I read a lessons and sing a solo in ‘Lullay’.” You can watch the carols later on BBC 2 at 5.30pm. This Covid year the choir will be socially distanced and there will be no congregation, I wonder how different that will look and sound?
Bells are a popular theme at Christmas and Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells was a favourite of mine; this BBC studio recording was broadcast in December 1973, which is a very long time ago and now I’m listening, it doesn’t sound quite how I remember. But before you pop through the ether to hear all 25 minutes of it, today’s window brings warning of the perils of YouTubular. You may be sucked in, never to emerge into the real world again. I don’t often search YouTubular. I used to wonder when I first started blogging how other bloggers made music magically appear on their blogs. Then I realised they did not actually play the music themselves or invite musicians to their house, they cheated by finding it on Youtubular.
It starts by looking up a piece of music, if you can remember the title or performer. You then discover there are hundreds of different performers, versions and settings, especially for universally known pieces. Some have no film, just a picture of a CD cover, boring, move on… but be careful, do you want to share a great performance of a choral work, or that film made in a tiny church with your aunty’s choir; their singing even more shaky than the hand of the person holding the smart phone to film them. Or you might find yourself in a flash mob performance and you can’t resist watching to see what happens next.
So at last you have chosen a piece to link in to your blog, but when you press Publish and check the link, there is some bloke you have never heard of singing a song totally different from the one you have just written about. YouTube moves on, it never runs out of music, you could spend all evening, perhaps the rest of your life enraptured by strange advertisements and led into the next piece of music… If you like the music playing and it’s a long piece, you can read the 14, 378 comments and if you don’t like the music choose something else from the display at the side of the screen; scrolling down for ever and ever…
But saddest are the YouTubular videos that have 0 views, no thumbs up or thumbs down in the thirteen years they have been there, notes unheard. It is our duty to view, listen and share them; after all, we writers know what it is like to publish words that may never be read, disappearing into the ether forever.
Today is the 250th birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven, or at least the anniversary of the day he was baptised, but he has been celebrating all year; though like everyone else, he had to cancel all his live concerts and parties. So today’s window opens in Germany once more, to a very special Christmas performance and plenty of Freude!
Freude! Freude! … Alle Menschen warden Brüder. / Joy! Joy! … All men shall become brothers.
On December 23rd 1989, only a month and a half after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Leonard Bernstein led a concert in West Berlin. Two days later, on Christmas Day, he led an identical concert across the border, in what was previously East Germany. The music was Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
Ode to Joy was first written in 1785 by German poet Friedrich Schiller as a celebration of the brotherhood of man. Beethoven set the words for the final, choral movement of the Symphony completed in 1824. Having soloists and a choir burst into joyful singing in a symphony was revolutionary, but it has obviously stood the test of time.
Bernstein made one change for this two-concert series: he directed the choir to sing “Freiheit” (freedom) instead of “Freude” (joy).
The Ode to Joy is also the anthem of The European Union; an instrumental ( and much shorter ! ) version for a continent of many languages. Alas for British Remainers, this music is now a bitter reminder of the Brexit disaster and all that we are about to lose. Luckily Tidalscribe will be remaining in the European Union and adhering to Schiller and Beethoven’s optimism and belief in the brotherhood of man – brotherhood in the figurative inclusive sense .