Silly Saturday – Guide to What’s Not On

When I wrote on Silly Saturday exactly a year ago How To Cheat At The Chelsea Flower Show, I never imagined that the BBC would be cheating this year.

https://tidalscribe.wordpress.com/2019/05/25/silly-saturday-how-to-cheat-at-the-chelsea-flower-show/
The presenters have been standing in their own gardens at home this week and showing clips of previous shows, because The Chelsea Flower Show is one of the many events that is Not On this year. We all know why, but I’m not going to mention Covid 19. Does it really matter? Thanks to television and television archives, unless you were planning to go and mingle with the heaving hordes, one flower show is much the same as the next on television. Lots of colour, same presenters, some more irritating than others and all that is missing is the scent of the blooms.

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If you want to know what’s on this year, the answer is probably nothing. Those theatre tickets you got for Christmas and the whole season of your favourite orchestra you purchased months ago are all wasted. Nothing beats a live performance, whether you are squashed between two hefty modern patrons in a narrow row at a very old West End theatre or wading through mud at a pop festival, watching on television will not be the same. There are advantages to your humble or perhaps gigantic wide screen television such as comfort, no queues for the toilets, eating your dinner on your lap or enjoying a takeaway.

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Optimistically the BBC has apparently delayed announcing the 2020 Proms till the end of May. Will it really go ahead with all those people filling the Royal Albert Hall, or will they have a spaced out audience of a few dozen and only soloists or string quartets dotted on the stage. They could dress orchestras in full protective clothing, but any safe option would rather detract from the festival atmosphere. Most concerts are not broadcast on television, the BBC could get away with showing a few old concerts, though music lovers might notice the difference if they broadcast a black and white 1940s concert with Sir Malcom Sargent conducting.

https://www.bbc.com/historyofthebbc/research/the-proms-and-the-bbc

Whatever happens, the Sun will surely rise on June 21st BUT
‘This year’s summer solstice celebrations at Stonehenge have been cancelled because of the ban on mass gatherings prompted by the coronavirus.
Senior druid King Arthur Pendragon said it was disappointing but unsurprising. The sunrise will instead be live-streamed on English Heritage’s social media.’ 

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It won’t be quite the same.

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Bournemouth Air Festival has been cancelled so don’t come round to my beach hut in August this year. Air shows are best seen live. We may watch the Red Arrows doing a fly past over Buckingham Palace on television, but I’m sure it’s more exciting watching from the balcony of the palace.

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What events will you not be going to this year?

Friday Flash Fiction – 727 – Musical Chairs

‘Mother’s decided she would like to go out for her birthday.’
‘We could take her to a film matinee at the Regent Centre’ suggested Roger.
‘No, she wants to go to a concert.’
‘Even better, free lunchtime organ concert at The Pavilion, sorted.’
‘I don’t think that’s what she had in mind; she was talking about the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, wants to look at the book when she comes round.’
‘When did she say she was coming?’
‘You’re picking her up now.’

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Twenty minutes later Roger helped his mother-in-law out of the car and escorted her to the back door via a conducted tour of the garden.
‘I see you haven’t got that gutter fixed yet’ she exclaimed triumphantly.
With gritted teeth he ushered her into the kitchen, the kettle was already boiling.

Leaflets were laid out on the coffee table as they sipped their tea.
‘How about Melodies From The Musicals,’ said Roger ‘or a piano recital on Sunday?’
‘Too dull; next Wednesday night at The Lighthouse sounds good’ she passed the brochure to her daughter.
‘Shostakovich, an hour and a quarter, are you sure?’
‘Yes, is that the symphony with the big orchestra and lots of drums? Good, let’s go to that, it may well be my last birthday.’
‘It may be rather loud’ said Roger hopefully.
‘Not for someone hard of hearing’ she retorted.
‘Roger, why don’t you go on the internet and see if they have any seats left? Make sure they’re on the end of the row in case Mother has one of her funny turns.’
He stomped upstairs while the two women perused the brochure.
‘Oh look Mum, the second half is a new commission, can’t pronounce the composer. Making full use of the percussion section, this exciting new composer takes Shostakovich as his inspiration. The fifty five minute work is a profound comment on post soviet, Twenty First Century Russia sounds a bit heavy.’
‘You’re never too old to try something new’ her mother chuckled.

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On Wednesday night Roger queued up for a programme as he waited for his wife and mother-in-law to come out of the ladies.
‘Thought you were never coming out.’
‘Long queue, everyone making sure they went before it started, it is a long piece.’
The old lady was pleased with her seat in the front row and settled back to watch the orchestra manoeuvre onto the stage. The symphony lived up to her expectations, the percussionists put their heart and soul into the performance. She tapped her feet and strummed her fingers on the arms of the seat. The vibrations shook every ache and pain out of her body, she hadn’t felt so alive for years.
As the applause died down she turned excitedly to her daughter and son-in-law.
‘You didn’t fall asleep in that Roger. Do you remember the last time we came here, the poor bloke only pinged his triangle twice; tonight he was in his element.’
‘Do you want to pop to the ladies Mother?’
She shook her head. ‘I wouldn’t mind an ice cream.’
‘We’ll try not to be too long.’
The old lady nodded and watched everyone get up to stretch their legs; she was soon sitting alone staring at the empty stage, wondering how steep the steps were. She stood up; within moments she was perched on the seat behind the timpani; how different everything looked from up here. She admired the array of instruments, drums, xylophones, glockenspiels and chimes; just as fascinating were the selection of implements to strike them. She picked up a stick and hesitantly tapped the drum, then struck it firmly.

A young man in tails strode onto the stage then stopped. An old lady smiled disarmingly at him.
‘You don’t mind do you dear, it is my birthday.’
He looked round nervously, then demonstrated each instrument and let her try.

Backstage the conductor was glad to hear the percussion section practising for the difficult new piece.

As Roger returned with three tubs of New Forest ice cream he was surprised to see his mother-in-law being escorted back to her seat by a member of the orchestra. Settling down, he read the programme with dismay.
‘Oh dear, I don’t think we’re going to enjoy the next piece, we could leave…’
‘Certainly not, I wouldn’t miss it for the world’ the old lady replied.

blogger-recognition-2019

Friday Flash Fiction 300 – Encore

I realised the pain had stopped, I was dreaming, pleasantly drifting, music somewhere. Had it all been a dream?

When I first got the diagnosis I had joked with the other players of the string section, cellos always outlive their players. Mine certainly would, she was already three centuries old, how many had played her? Drifting, where was she now, my beautiful instrument?

Doctors give you a sentence, what they don’t say is that only half the sentence will be real living. I gave her back, I didn’t own her anyway; few musicians can afford to own the great instruments. They didn’t rush me, everyone was keeping up the pretence I was going to play again. The only positive to come from my untimely demise would be another player getting the chance to play her.

We’re going on stage, everyone’s tuning up. I can’t see, the others are leading me on. When did I lose my sight? It doesn’t matter, I know the concerto off by heart. I just wish I knew where we were. My arms aren’t working, how can I play without my hands? Am I still fixed to all those tubes and drips, still dreaming… I can’t open my eyes, I can’t wake up…

Everyone’s clapping. I can feel the audience, I’m close to the front of the stage. I can feel the breathing of the other string players…  complete silence, I know I am in good hands. I sing the opening chords… they say the sound of the cello is the closest of any instrument to the human voice. I had a human voice, now I have a cello voice.

They say, who says, did I read it or just know it? They say when you die you become what you loved most.

Paul Jones is a brilliant young cellist; married to Emma Dexter they are the golden couple of the music world, but their lives are about to change forever when Emma finds out the devastating truth of who she really is.

Music, medicine and mystery are the themes of this novel.

Download the first in the trilogy for only 99 pence.

Impossibly Positive

One of my favourite parts of summer is the world’s greatest music festival, the BBC Proms.

It didn’t always belong to the BBC and it wasn’t always held in the Royal Albert Hall. The first Proms concert took place on 10 August 1895 in the newly built Queen’s Hall in London. The aim was to reach a wider audience by offering more popular programmes, adopting a less formal promenade arrangement and keeping ticket prices low.

The first radio broadcast of a promenade concert by the BBC was in 1927 and every prom is now broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and repeated, so there is plenty of chance to listen at home.

The Queen’s Hall was destroyed by bombs in 1941, during WW2.

The Royal Albert Hall was opened by Queen Victoria in 1871 and is inextricably linked with The Proms. Even if you have never been to South Kensington you may recognise the famous round building and the warm red interior. Some of the prom concerts are broadcast on television and always of course the Last Night. When a camera pans down the height of the hall you feel dizzy and the top seats and gallery are very high. We once had cheap seats near the top for a concert with a famous pianist; we looked down as a tiny puppet tip toed over to a toy piano. The year we booked lots of concerts, so we could qualify for last night seats, we planned with care; big symphonies sit anywhere, but if you want to see your favourite soloist get the best seats you can afford nearer the stage. Live concerts are always different from listening to recorded music and The Proms have extra atmosphere; everyone is there to enjoy themselves and because they love music. At the end you emerge into a summer night and surge with the happy throng walking down Exhibition Road to South Kensington tube station.

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But there is a lot to be said for watching on television. As happens every year, with life getting in the way, I have recorded more proms than I have watched since they started on July 19th, but I have enjoyed several very different concerts so far. What struck me this year was how wonderful it is to have two hours of positive thoughts and enthusiasm with no mention of Brexit, world leaders or general doom. Music is a universal language that brings us together.

The advantage of television is having presenters to tell you about the music and chat to musicians during the interval. Our presenters are impossibly positive; after all they are listening to the best musicians from around the world and being paid to share their love of music. One of them is so enthusiastic he talks at twice the normal speed, if he was a piece of music he would be ‘Flight of the Bumblebee.’ Often presenters get so excited they nearly topple off their high balcony.

If we are not musicians we may not always understand what presenters and musical guests are talking about, perhaps they don’t either, but that’s all part of the fun. They may spend longer talking about a new piece of music having its world premiere than the piece actually lasts. If you hear the words this wonderful sound picture it probably means there is no tune, but hearing pieces of music you don’t know is all part of the experience.

When the music actually starts, there is more entertainment. The camera pans over members of the orchestra, to the happy prommers standing in the arena, then round to the huge choir. We can wonder why the biggest bloke in the choir has been put next to the skinniest, we can make comments on the dresses of the soloists and we can marvel at the blur of bows in the string sections. It’s all very different from 125 years ago.

Read more about The Proms

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/1sgMxZvFzHQG3Y1HktMfg6w/history-of-the-proms

Have you been to The Proms? Are you a musician or a listener?

My novel Brief Encounters of the Third Kind follows the story of a golden couple of music. The Royal Albert Hall has a walk on part.

As the first in a trilogy you can download for just 99 pence.

sunshine-blogger

 

 

Sunday Salon – Views and Reviews

Three books, a BBC television comedy and Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra rounds off the season with two very different concerts.

Kill Joys by Martin Stratford

Twelfth in the  Havenchester Crime series

Private detectives Alec and Julie Tanner have a good team and their colleagues’ skills are vital in solving cases and saving their lives. There is more going on than anybody on either side of the law realises in delightfully dark plots at odds with a respectable hotel, a pleasant village and a museum that should only be of interest to lovers of literature. Can a feud between two families be resolved by two young lovers or are they putting themselves in danger? The action increases in pace and an innocent woman finds herself in a nightmare situation. Events move rapidly to the denouement in a deliciously complex plot spiced with the author’s usual dark humour.

 

Fancy Meeting You Here  by Jim Webster

A relaxing book to dip into, with tales and thoughts of Jim Webster who has farmed all his life near the Cumbrian coast. Poignantly we gather that for a farmer governments come and go, Brexit or no Brexit, people with little idea about real farming or local conditions can come along with new regulations and policies. For a sheep dog there are no worries about politics, but Sal has set views about what the sheep should be doing and what humans should be doing and when. There are pleasant walks and even a recipe for no cooking apple chutney. Whether you live in the countryside or have never set foot in a field, you will enjoy this book.

 

More Glimpses by Hugh W. Roberts

I enjoyed the first book and this is another great selection of stories. Topically the last story is about plastics, has a solution been found? Yes, but only at a terrible cost. Each story is delightfully unique; a new slant on fairies at the bottom of the garden, a wedding bouquet like no other, royal shopping and some very tiny dark tales.

I read these three books as e books downloaded onto my Kindle. I posted the reviews on Goodreads, but they have all been rejected by Amazon. Two of the authors I have reviewed before with no problems; but out of all the long list of guidelines to adhere to could this be the one I am breaking?

To contribute to … Customer Reviews…  you must have spent at least £40 on Amazon.co.uk using a valid payment card in the past 12 months.

As Amazon allows us to buy books for as little as 99 pence this seems unfair to authors and readers.

Now for some comedy. I love a good half hour television comedy and there have been some very different series, gentle, dark, clever that we have enjoyed or are enjoying at Chez Beachwriter. Just finished last week was ‘Don’t Forget The Driver’ co written and starring Toby Jones. An exquisite six episodes of dark and gentle humour about Peter, a coach driver, who lives in Bognor Regis with his daughter and nearby his elderly mother. The first episode opens with Peter on his mobile phone to his identical twin in Australia; he stands on the beach in front of the webcam – Facetime the hard way – the Australian family spot something on the beach, which turns out to be a dead body…

Every character is subtly created and each episode takes us on a different outing, with the first a trip to France, returning with an extra passenger…

Another trip full of Japanese passengers interested in culture finds a very serious gentleman asking Peter to help him understand Shakespeare and iambic pentameters. The confused conversation ends with Peter saying ‘Okay Mr. Pentameter’.

The last episode finishes poignantly with Peter diverting his coachload of school band pupils to the cemetery.

https://www.comedy.co.uk/tv/dont_forget_the_driver/

 

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Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra is Classsic FM’s Orchestra in the South of England. Classic FM is a commercial radio station which is often good except for irritating advertisements. Over the autumn, summer and spring the BSO play a few Saturday evenings and Sunday matinees at the Bournemouth Pavilion. A Classic FM presenter introduces popular pieces, with of course some jokes, mention of the weather, the seaside and interesting tit bits about the composers. The last concert on Saturday 11th May was ‘Hall of Fame’ with four pieces guaranteed to be enjoyed by various ages. The theatre was packed. William Tell Overture was followed by that great tradition of half the orchestra retreating while the men (and a woman ) in black stack chairs, manoeuvre the grand piano onto the stage and hopefully remember to lock the wheels in place. The chairs and music stands are repositioned and I always wonder if the musicians will end up with their right parts of music.

The second piece was Beethoven’s Fifth Piano concerto. After the interval the stage was reorganised again while the audience went out for an ice cream. In the second half the Carmen Suite was followed by the 1812 Overture as finale, a Classic FM favourite for finishing concerts and loud enough for someone near us to open their bag of Malteasers.

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Wednesday 15th was very different; the end of the main season at the Lighthouse Poole, being broadcast live on BBC Radio Three with chief conductor Kiril Karabits. Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius, a great choral drama with the Bournemouth Symphony Chorus and three top soloists. Elgar was a Roman Catholic and based the work on Cardinal Newman’s poem of the same name ( no, I haven’t read it ). One hundred minutes which seemed to go by quickly. Part one finds Gerontius, American tenor Paul Appleby, on his death bed and the priest sends him on his journey. In part two his guardian angel, mezzo-soprano Alice Coote, appears and eventually he sees God for the briefest moment with the chorus building up to the famous climax ‘Praise to the Holiest in the Height’. His guardian angel then gently leads him off to rest in purgatory, which doesn’t sound too bad.The whole work is a great drama with plenty of spine tingling moments, obviously a piece still popular with modern audiences whatever their beliefs. Kiril Karabits allowed a long moment of silence after the final chords of ‘Amen’ before lowering his baton.

https://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/news/17644256.review-bso-the-dream-of-gerontius-by-elgar

https://www.facebook.com/Bournemouth-Symphony-Chorus-252826548066372

 

Albertopolis

Everyone remembers the first time they see a dinosaur. For many of us it will have been on our first visit to the Natural History Museum in London. As you walked in the Great Hall there he was staring at you, the huge skeleton of Diplodocus. We were on a junior school outing, squashed cheese and tomato sandwiches in Kensington Gardens, then round the museum with our activity sheets. It wasn’t until I visited as an adult that I was disappointed to discover he was only a plaster cast of the original, uncovered in the plains of fossil-rich Wyoming.

One memorable visit was when two friends and I took our seven children, including three toddlers in buggies, on the tube train. On the way home in rush hour the poor passengers had to contend with four large plastic diplodocuses, their dangerously long tails waving in their faces. Diplodocus is now touring round the country and you can see a real Blue Whale skeleton instead.

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/jan/01/dippy-diplodocus-london-tour-replica-dinosaur-whale-natural-history-museum

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But Prince Albert would have been pleased how many school children and families visit Albertopolis.  Over 150 years ago open fields and market gardens changed when two men had a vision to develop a part of London dedicated to the arts and sciences, using the profits of the Great Exhibition of 1851 held in nearby Hyde Park. Nicknamed ‘Albertopolis’, the area was designed to celebrate the achievements and grandeur of Victorian Britain, it is still thriving today with three museums, colleges and the Royal Albert Hall.

https://www.discoveringbritain.org/activities/greater-london/walks/albertopolis.html

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Prince Albert’s vision for the hall was to promote understanding and appreciation of the Arts and Sciences. When he died of typhoid fever in 1861, plans were put on hold until they were rekindled by Albert’s collaborator Henry Cole. The Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences was opened on 29 March 1871 by Queen Victoria. Albert’s very ornate statue sits across the road in Kensington Gardens. The design of the Hall was inspired by Cole’s visits to ruined Roman amphitheatres and it was originally intended to accommodate 30,000 people, reduced to 7,000 for financial and practical reasons, and today to around 5,500. Every summer it is the main venue for the BBC Proms, the world’s greatest music festival, which surely would have pleased the prince.

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Even if you have never been to London, the building will be familiar if you watch The Proms on television; a good way to enjoy the concerts as you get to meet musicians and find out about the music. There is something for everyone from ‘Cuba meets Jamaica’ to the first appearance of the Estonian Festival Orchestra founded in 2011. Premiers of new music are bundled in with old favourites so no one will be scared off. You will learn to interpret the words of the commentators; ‘what an amazing sound picture’ – no tune – ‘especially commissioned work’ – it’s only five minutes long…

But you can’t beat a live performance. I must confess I have never queued for cheap tickets on the day to stand in the arena with the Promenaders. I have not lived near enough and don’t like queuing or standing, is my excuse, but enthusiasts will tell you it is a wonderful experience and some go to every concert. If you are booking seats, all you need to know is don’t book the cheap seats near the top if you want to hear your favourite pianist or violinist  – the soloists look like tiny puppets going on stage. But if you are going to hear a big symphony or the Planet Suite, sit wherever you like, it will be fun. If you want to go on the famous Last Night plan well ahead and check how the ballot system works.

What are your museum memories? Have you been to The Proms?

Flash Fiction Friday – Flashback

Simon Simmons, the Radio Three presenter, looked forward to the rest of the day. He had enjoyed a pleasant lunch and he was on time for the afternoon rehearsal. Another town, another concert hall, another orchestra and a conductor he had never met before; Ukrainian, Polish or Scandinavian? It didn’t matter; one of those brilliant young polymaths who spoke several European languages perfectly and had studied in all the major cities.

The music was well known to Simon, he had his notes ready for the seven thirty pm live broadcast; all he had to remember was the conductor’s name and how to pronounce it.

The conductor looked older, shorter than he expected and if he dressed that flamboyantly for a rehearsal, the audience could look forward to a colourful concert. He was checking the music on the stands, a punctual and efficient man thought Simon as he approached him with arm outstretched.

But the conductor did not shake his hand, instead he peered arrogantly at him and spoke volubly in German. Perhaps he had forgotten what country he was in, not surprising the way these maestros charged around the globe.

‘Welcome to England.’

The conductor ignored him and stepped up onto the rostrum to examine the music. They both turned to the sound of approaching footsteps. A young man in jeans and T-shirt appeared from backstage, he spoke in perfect English with a precise East European accent.

‘Good afternoon, you are from the BBC? I am glad you could come to the rehearsal.’ He lowered his voice. ‘Is that your sound man on my rostrum?’

‘No, I thought he was the…’ Simon did not want to offend the world famous conductor. ‘He’s not with us, so he is obviously not meant to be here, though he does look familiar, shall I call someone…’

Before he could finish they were interrupted by the sharp guttural tones of the stranger. The conductor looked puzzled, but replied in German and approached him. The two engaged in lively conversation; the conductor patted the man’s arm and turned to Simon.

‘I presume he can’t understand English, I think he’s German, but I can’t grasp his accent. We may have a, how do you say, ‘nutter’ on our hands, he thinks he is Beethoven.’

Simon felt a lurch in his stomach, that’s where he had seen the man before, in paintings.

The conductor laughed. ‘He does look like him.’

The stranger scowled, well aware they were laughing at him.

Simon had an idea, it seemed a shame not to harvest the situation for future broadcast anecdotes, especially if they let him do The Proms this year. He motioned to the Steinway piano at the side of the stage.

The conductor smiled in agreement. ‘Let Beethoven prove by playing to us.’

He turned and spoke in German to the stranger, who strode over to the piano, then halted. He examined the instrument, lifted the lid carefully and propped it open, then fingered the keys as if they were a lover’s body. He played a few chords, held his ears, then nodded in approval.

As he played exquisitely, both men recognised a Beethoven sonata, though the tempo was faster than they expected and he added extra flourishes.

‘So he’s a brilliant musician,’ said Simon ‘as are many visiting soloists. Ask him what today’s date is.’

A few brief words were exchanged.

‘Twenty Seventh of February’

‘That’s today’s date.’

‘1813…’

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An extract from Maestro, one of the short stories in Times and Tides.

 

Pause and Applause

We were at a matinee concert at Bournemouth Pavilion, near the front was a young mother with a little boy who was chatting excitedly, when the music started he quietened. After a few bars the conductor raised his baton for a pause in the music; the little boy called out in a loud voice STOP. It was so funny. The conductor lowered his baton unperturbed and the orchestra carried on playing, but before the next piece of music a busy body usherette came bustling down and moved the mother and child further back and to the side. I hope it didn’t discourage them from live concerts.  After all, the child was better behaved than some adults and Bournemouth Pavilion seems to attract more than its fair share of odd people when Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra are playing.

The seats are very close together with little leg room, not surprising in a building nearly a hundred years old, so just getting to one’s seat involves lots of very English ‘excuse me’s and ‘sorry’s. One afternoon in the foyer, an ‘odd chap’ was already causing confusion in the queue for programmes. Soon after I sat down he came shuffling along, huffing and puffing, treading on toes as he made his way to the middle of the row in front, then with much shuffling, grunts and elbows flying finally sat down. Nobody could believe it when in the middle of the first piece of music he stood up and reversed the whole procedure till he finally reached the aisle again.

One evening the lady in front of me started rummaging in her bag the moment the first notes were played, her friend whispered advice ‘In my experience the more you look the less likely you are to find what you are looking for.’ The rummaging continued until the last note when she triumphantly held aloft what she had been looking for – her glasses.

Surely no one would unwrap sweets noisily? Yes, perhaps they can be excused if they have just had a coughing fit. But why would anyone eat a packet of crisps in a concert? One evening, across the aisle from us, sat a lady who we assumed had come along as carer or friend with a very disabled lady in a state of the art wheelchair. The disabled lady sat quietly enjoying the concert and needed no attention from her friend, so what on earth was her companion doing digging in her bag, rustling around, disturbing everybody and probably the orchestra as well?

Visit another Pavilion concert in a previous blog.

https://tidalscribe.wordpress.com/2018/02/26/wagner-elgar-and-all-star-superslam-wrestling

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Not everyone intentionally causes havoc at a concert. We were at the Lighthouse in Poole, the BSO were at full throttle in a lively movement of a Tchaikovsky symphony when we felt our seats vibrating. It wasn’t the music; several well built Saint John’s Ambulance people were wheeling a stretcher down the aisle, with even more disruption as they tried to get to the collapsed man; finally they wheeled him off with his poor wife, clutching her handbag, following after them. The orchestra played on valiantly, presumably the conductor would not have seen all the action, some of the orchestra must have, unless they were totally absorbed in the music.

Some people enjoy a night out without hearing the concert. I knew an elderly couple who came to the Lighthouse throughout the season. He loved music, she did not and figured they could afford for him to go to more concerts if they didn’t buy tickets for her. She was quite happy to sit in the foyer with her knitting, holding court, chatting to the Saint John Ambulance and bar staff. At one stage she made a friend who also sat out the concert waiting for her husband.

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If you have never been to a live concert before don’t worry, you won’t draw attention to yourself if you follow two simple rules. Don’t clap till you are surrounded by applause; even regulars don’t always know when a piece of music has ended. Second rule, don’t stand up, don’t move a muscle until the orchestra leaves the stage. You may think the concert is over because the conductor and soloist have been applauded and left the stage. Don’t be deceived, they will return, perhaps several times to more frantic applause and just when you really think it’s over and you will be in time to catch your train or get to the car park before your ticket expires, the pianist will sit down smiling and play an encore. At one concert the flamboyant pianist played three encores, each with enthusiastic flourishes, did I detect  a look of panic on the faces of the orchestra members, was she ever going to go home?

 

 

Friday Flash Fiction – Musical Chairs

 

‘Mother’s decided what she would like to do for her birthday.’

Roger had come home to find leaflets spread all over the coffee table and his wife and mother-in-law enjoying tea and cake.

‘She wants to go to a concert.’

‘How about Melodies From The Musicals,’ said Roger ‘or this piano recital at the town hall?’

‘Too dull; next Wednesday night at the concert hall sounds wonderful’ the old lady passed the brochure to her daughter.

‘Shostakovich, an hour and a quarter, are you sure?’

‘Yes, is that the symphony with the big orchestra and lots of drums? Good, let’s go to that, it may well be my last birthday.’

‘It might be rather loud’ said Roger hopefully.

‘Not for someone hard of hearing’ she retorted.

‘I’m not sure if you will like the second half’ said his wife ‘…a new commission, can’t pronounce the composer. Making full use of the percussion section, this exciting new composer takes Shostakovich as his inspiration. The fifty five minute work is a profound comment on post Soviet, Twenty First Century Russia, sounds a bit heavy.

‘You’re never too old to try something new’ her mother chuckled

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Photo by abednego ago on Pexels.com

 

The old lady was pleased with her seat in the front row and settled back to watch the orchestra manoeuvre onto the stage. Shostakovich lived up to her expectations; the percussionists put their heart and soul into the performance. She tapped her feet and strummed her fingers on the arms of the seat. The vibrations shook every ache and pain out of her body, she hadn’t felt so alive for years. As the applause died down she turned excitedly to her daughter and son-in-law.

‘You didn’t fall asleep in that Roger. Do you remember the last time we came here, that poor chap only pinged his triangle twice; tonight he was in his element.’

‘Do you want to pop to the ladies Mother?’

She shook her head. ‘I wouldn’t mind an ice cream.’

‘We’ll try not to be too long.’

The old lady nodded and watched everyone get up to stretch their legs; she was soon sitting alone staring at the empty stage, wondering how steep the side steps were. She stood up; within moments she was perched on the seat behind the timpani, how different everything looked from up here. She admired the array of instruments, drums, xylophones, glockenspiels and chimes; just as fascinating were the selection of implements to strike them. She picked up a stick and hesitantly tapped the drum, then struck it firmly.

A young man in tails strode onto the stage then stopped in surprise.

‘You don’t mind do you dear, it is my birthday.’

He looked round nervously, then demonstrated each instrument and let the old lady try.

Backstage the conductor was glad to hear the percussion section having a last minute practice for the difficult new piece.

As Roger returned with three tubs of ice cream he was surprised to see his mother-in-law being escorted back to her seat by a member of the orchestra. Settling down, he read the programme with dismay.

‘Oh dear, I don’t think we’re going to enjoy the next piece, we could leave…’

‘Certainly not, I wouldn’t miss it for the world’ his mother-in-law replied.

 

 

Musical Notes

In high school our music teacher said he was once at a concert where the conductor fell backwards off the podium. Whether this story was true or not, it was a good way to encourage us to go and see a real live symphony orchestra in the hope of seeing the conductor fall. Perhaps that was why I was happy to go along with my parents and younger brother and sister to see the West Australian Symphony Orchestra give their free Sunday afternoon concerts at His Majesty’s Theatre in Perth. As my parents loved classical music, but had a tight budget, this was a welcome treat.37691213_2195243867172058_7940072414816239616_n

The greatest classical music festival in the world, the BBC Proms, is now well under way and it was to a prom concert that my parents went on one of their first dates. Dad wasn’t interested in concerts, he just asked Mum where she would like to go for an evening out. Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto was one of the pieces played and Dad loved it.

Unless we are lucky enough to be born into a family of musicians, most of us first hear and absorb music from the radio or themes from television programmes. What is registered in our brains forever depends on our parents’ taste and the decade we were born. Don’t give your age away by mentioning The Lone Ranger when you hear the William Tell Overture.

Despite their love of music my parents never acquired a record player, but just as cassette tapes were being invented Dad acquired a large reel to reel tape recorder for which you could buy classical music tapes. I still had to listen to pop music on friends’ record players. The hefty machine made its way to Australia in our packing cases when we emigrated. Later on, my best friend Marjorie and I commandeered it to record our favourite pop programme, we then did endless GoGo dancing in our little lounge; we must have driven my parents mad.

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Promenade concerts had existed in London’s pleasure gardens since the mid 18th century, but The Proms as we know them were inaugurated on 10 August 1895 in the Queen’s Hall by the impresario Robert Newman, seeking a wider audience for concert hall music by offering low ticket prices and an informal atmosphere, where eating, drinking and smoking were permitted to the promenaders! You can still buy £6 tickets on the day of every concert to stand in the arena, but smoking is certainly not on.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/proms

If you can’t get along to the Royal Albert Hall all the concerts are broadcast live on BBC Radio 3, repeated and available on iplayer. Some are broadcast on television, complete with background film and chats with musicians. We are told that people all over the world will be listening; in Australia my mother once watched the Last Night of the Proms at Christmas, while my sister told me she listened to a prom while driving along a road in the bush.

This is a true festival and there are orchestras and artists from all over the world playing many sorts of music. The first night of the proms featured Anna Meredith/59 Productions’ Five Telegrams, a response to the centenary of the end of the First World War, with specially produced digital projections. It looked fantastic on television, but to fully appreciate it one surely had to be there. Another completely new experience was Jacob Collier and Friends; Jacob, a young vocalist and multi- instrumentalist, became an online sensation with his one man multi tracked arrangements of well known songs.

The musical theme at Tidalscribe continues on Friday with flash fiction ‘Musical Chairs’.

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Music inspired my character Emma Dexter in Brief Encounters of the Third Kind. Her mother has good reason to fear her daughter is not human and among her phenomenal abilities she has become a brilliant composer, pianist and violinist.