scribbles tagged ‘orchestra’

Artistic temperaments

Saturday, April 18th, 2015 | tags: , , , , ,  |

The Minnesota Orchestra went on strike for 15 months, the nation’s longest-running contract dispute for a concert orchestra. Orchestra’s across the country are suffering similar challenges.  They’ve resolved the dispute with the orchestra taking another pay cut. They’re talented, dedicate professionals and their music should be accessible, but they’ve got to earn a wage that reflects their skill and societal value. If the orchestra is making a loss they need something to help raise awareness of their value. I’m now donating, but money isn’t always the answer,  I wonder what the management are doing to change the way they engage with potential audiences?  I’ll be popping along to see performance on May day. Hooray!

They’re based in a fantastic venue within walking distance of my home. I’m loving the advantages of city living, which I couldn’t really afford in southern, central, England.

Artistic temperaments
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Beethoven in the baroque basilica

Monday, April 13th, 2015 | tags: , , , , ,  |
St. Mary's Basilica

St Mary’s Basilica

St. Mary's BasilicaSt. Mary’s Basilica  (1914)  is less than a mile from my home, I can see it’s imposing dome from my windows. It was the first ‘Basilica’ in the USA. Designed by a French architect, Emmanuel Louis Masqueray, trained in Paris, the Minneapolis-opedia says:

The pro-cathedral’s architecture reflected Masqueray’s training at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. The pro-cathedral was designed in the style of late Renaissance and Baroque churches in France and Italy. Masqueray wanted the pro-cathedral to create a serene impression through perfect proportions, good lighting, and sincere composition. The focus of his design was the wide nave, or main worship space. At the time, it was said to be the widest nave in the world.

The lower windows are colourfully decorated with characters from the old testament. It’s not a church style I’m familiar with. I did recognise the fluer de l’isle built into the decoration, recognise the French connection.

I lit a candle for Dad

St. Mary's Basilica

Detail of glass window

I wandered in at 2.05pm on a Saturday afternoon to find a fantastic concert in progress. Minnesota Sinfonia performing Beethoven’s piano concerto #4 in g major, opus 58. Beautiful music filling this vast place. The audience were all shapes, sizes and colours. Some people looked homeless, shabby and sleeping in the pews. Other’s looked wealthy, dressed-up for a special event. Children in smart outfits, families that looked like tourists

The event was free

Because it was free, it gifted a spontaneous happiness, I donated more than I would have paid for a ticket. Free, quality, live music produced by experts in a building built by experts, built for the people, this is the sort of ‘humanity’ that inspires


Beethoven in the baroque basilica
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hold on tight!

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013 | tags: , , , , ,  |

Nicholas Ransley & Catrin AurThere was a charmingly shambolic tone to John Pryce-Jones conducting of the tasty Welsh National Opera orchestra for their Christmas Proms at Bristol’s Colston hall.

Rating: :-)  :-)  :-)

Ratings explained

Just John?

It wasn’t an Omnishambles by any stretch of the imagination. A completely retrievable set of miner shamblings by John that in no way seemed to undermined the orchestra’s ability to put on an awesome show. A very polished performance by the orchestra.

Christmas spirit?

The shamblings started when John introduced the 3rd piece in the set – and got it wrong. The Orchestra subtly let him know. John tried again, wrong again. By his fourth attempt he had worked-out what piece he was introducing. The audience giggled affectionately. Even the orchestra seemed amused by his unawareness of the running order. As the evening progressed and John threw in some sexist stereotypes under the guise of witty retorts to introduce each piece – he seemed drunk. His keenness to hold onto the rail around the conductors stand didn’t help make him look sober.

A blacker pot

The most entertaining part of John’s performance was when he shifted from conducting the orchestra to conducting the audience. We definitely needed his help, we didn’t know the tempo, the pitch, and couldn’t even remember the words to ‘Rule, Britannia’. We surely were a bit pathetic. Even our flag waving was decidedly below-par, no wonder are no longer an empire. We were a bit damp squibb-ish.

What was the set list?

My favourite was Grieg’s ‘In the hall of the mountain king’. The ‘Dam Busters March’ seemed like a bit of an outsider It certainly kept me happy and toe-tapping. I found ‘Those Magnificent men in their flying machines’ a tad more befuddling, a bit of befuddlement can be a good thing.

Musical Menu

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One Plucking Thing After Another

Monday, April 4th, 2011 | tags: , , , , ,  |

The People’s Republic of South Yorkshire brings us 8 players of- Bass, Barritone, Tenor, Soprano and Fridge Magnet Ukeleles. Fresh from New York’s Carniegie Hall with only hand luggage, the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain played the New Theatre Oxford to the delight of a mature audience and their teenage offspring. Witty banter inbetween singing, whistling, dancing all accompanied by Ukulele playing.  Playing songs from one musical genre in another style, for example, Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights re-interpretted in the genre of Swing bands

Recommended for anyone with a sense of humour, love of diverse musical genres or 80’s music, and Yorkshire people.

4 smiles: Ratings explained

The set included:

  • Hawkwind’s Silver Machine as an ode to commuters
  • David Bowie’s Life on Mars delivered with duet lyrics from other songs. One person singing I did it my way and so on while the lead vocalist sang the main lyric. It was fascinating, creative and worked extremely well.
  • Ian Dury and the Blockheads Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll as a polite tea party
  • Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights as a Swing band
  • Wheatus’s Teenage Dirtbag” as a polite love song
  • Sex Pistols Anarchy in the UK as a group campire singalong
  • Recognisable classical stuff that I am sadly ill-equipped to name
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after some chafing Finland awakes

Monday, December 6th, 2010 | tags: , , , , ,  |

During the BBC Proms the family House made a trip to see the Ulster Symphony Orchestra perform the Karelia suite in prom 68. It was very touching to see mum and dad, a Karelian, look so happy. Dad once again reminded me that he has a signed photograph of Colonel Mannerheim that was given to his mum.

Sibelius wrote Finlandia

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cor anglais and french horns

Monday, November 15th, 2010 | tags: , , , , , , ,  |

The opening piece of the evening was Morrow from Gattaca (re-used as a ‘theme’ in the film Atonement). Mistaking the track for Departure, within minutes tears were streaming down my face.

wendy: I first fell in love with Nyman’s music in 1983 when I saw the Draughtsman contract

mumsie: I remember, you’ve been playing Nyman’s music to me ever since

As we talk I realise how each time I purchased a Michael Nyman album I would bring it to mum and dads then play it to mumsie, insisting that she listened. I remember her continuing to do the laundry, prepare dinner, vacuum the house, never seeming to take time out to focus on just listening.

Now, watching the Bournmouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO) perform pieces that  I’d only previously heard. I noticed new things; how the lead Violin spoke to the lead Viola in Trysting fields, how the voices of different instruments came from different places. Listneing to music in the car, the instruments seem to be disembodied, the have no place to come from.

After the tuba’s and french horns had made some floor rocking contributions to ‘a watery death’:

mumsie: he does like his brass

wendy: which one is the Cor anglais?

mumsie: next to the Oboe’s, the tall thing that loops to the floor and back

wendy: woodwind?

mumsie: yes

Mumsie was pleased to recognise all the pieces. The closing scheduled piece, Memorial, was Nyman’s tribute to the victims of the 1985 Heysel stadium disaster. They decided to add a lightweight encore before letting us loose on the watery night streets of Bristol. Mum was pleased, evidently the BSO don’t normally do encores.

Michael Nyman wrote ‘Departure

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crackling air

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010 | tags: , ,  |

door 27The orchestra emerges from door 27

The crash barriers help stop the rather untamed orchestra from rushing out and hurting any unsuspecting passing pedestrians.

The orchestra is normally kept underground, in a bunker, they are let out for fresh air on national holidays. One day I noticed a lot of people gathering around this door, waiting for a glympse of the orchestra. The atmosphere was electric and slightly damp. Crackling air

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angst on a ukelele

Monday, August 10th, 2009 | tags: , ,  |

Angst in penguin suits,   with plummy accents,   on plucky ukeleles, by post-teenagers.   Despite all the apprarant innapropriateness,  it seems to work quite well.  

The Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain sing Smells like Teen Spirit

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get orf moi land

Sunday, June 14th, 2009 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

get orf moi land,

or  in regionally more accurate terms    ‘OI!   git orrrf my lahnd with the optional extra ‘OAR isle shoooooot yew” is often creatively  used by Bristolians to deal with all sorts of naughty intrusiveness.

Twigletssomeone hogging the twiglets?     ‘OI! git orrrf my lahnd…’

Seattle symphony stealing your artwork? ‘OI git orrrf my lahnd OAR else….

Seattle symphony orchestra is (allegedly) stamping on your emotions:   ‘OI git orrrf my lahnd OAR isle shoooooot yew

A birdy around the Wendy House garden has a reasonable variation on this call,   here she goes,   sat in the neighbours Rowan tree:

(18 seconds of chirpy   & wobbly camerawork warning)

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Freddy Kempf plays Griegs piano concerto

Monday, February 12th, 2007 | tags: , ,  |

Saturday night, the Seattle symphony plays at the Benaroya hall.   Freddy Kempf   played Grieg’s piano concerto.   Beautiful.   The fringe from Freddy’s traditional short back and sides danced with his body movements as he pumped the piano.    The piece is familair,   even to untrained ears such as mine, and thoroughly enjoyable.  

I am unable to comment on the following Bruckner symphony #9, I dreampt and dozed through it…  

Before the full orchestra took the stage I sneaked this photograph of the gap between the very grand Piano and the not so grand piano stool.   Between them over the heads of the audience we can see the lead Cellist preparing for the evening.


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Saturday night’s alright for Gershwin…

Sunday, October 1st, 2006 | tags: , , , ,  |

A thoroughly enjoyable evening. The musical evening was only marred by my  feeling short changed on by the unexplained program  change that effectively downgraded the promised experience   🙂 🙂

Ratings explained

Starting with Desert

Plum, apricot  and ginger pie in Earth and Ocean.   The first 3 desert wines we requested from the menu were not in stock.   After these 3 attempts at ordering  via the waitress the wine waiter came over.    I suggested that he take the trouble to inform the waitresses which of the menu items were unavailable.   Spot the spikiness.   I tried to smile while making this suggestion.   The wine waiter spontaneously offered several reasons for not having the listed wines in stock.   I wasn’t really interested in disruptions to his business processes,   he should tell the waitresses what is not available.   Sensing the depth of passion behind the Wendy Paddington Bear stare the wine waiter recovered ground  by suggesting that he pick on our behalf and charge us the price of our original choice (the cheapest on the list).  

  • Good deal.  
  • We gladly accepted.  
  • Excellent food.  
  • Friendly staff.  
  • Decently small portions.

Seattle symphony selection of Gershwin compositions

The conductor, Rudi Schlegel,  provided a semi-formal  verbal introduction for each piece to compensate for the lack of performance program notes.     He announced that  “I got rythm” had been replaced in the program and the audience simultaneously  groaned.   We were never told why they pulled this obvious audience pleaser.    

We started with a plucky rumba, the Cuban overture, inspired by Gershwin’s stay in Havanna.   Good stuff.   The ‘Porgy and Bess’ symphonic picture appeared to be a patchwork of  sections from different tunes within the Opera of that name.   I prefer being guided gently through a single composition than listening to compilation of musical highlights.   Not my taste.    

The highlight of the evening was undoubtedly Stewart Goodyear’s interpretation of a Rhapsody in Blue.  Vibrant,   then gentle,   fast then slow,   Stewart’s face and whole body flowing with the music.   Captivating.   I didn’t want it to end.   After 3  applause-prompted  curtain calls  Stewart played an encore.    Twinkling notes of a  soft Embracable you.   After the interval,   the replacement for  “I got rythm’ was a short,   sweet ‘promenade’ performed without Stewart Goodyear.   Urgh.   More like a weak apology than a replacement.

Benaroya Hall

The actual Orchestra on stage are not steeply tiered.   This makes it virtually impossible for the people in the first 8 rows of seating in the stalls to see the brass sections,   percussion,   reeds and Banjo.   Actually we could see the Banjo by twisting our necks to look underneath the Piano. The stalls seats after about row f are steeply staggered,   this enables attendees to see more of the orchestra.   For this reason I’d recommend seats towards the back of the stalls or in the gods.   This photograph is taken from row ‘f’ looking back towards the gods:

Benaroya Hall Circle from Orchestra

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Friday, September 29th, 2006 | tags: ,  |

Issaquah village theatre’s production of Andrew Lloyd-Weber and Tim Rice’s Tony award winning  Evita is excellent.   Well above the standards of a regional city production of a musical 🙂 🙂 🙂

Ratings explained

Professional performances that my parents compared  favouably with the London show.   The choreography was reminiscent of the original show, the set was robust and versataille. The set was simple and evidence of a well financed production.

Evita orchestra pit


A physically petite Evita (Jennifer Paz) morphed from slight ill fitting dress through tailored designerwear to huge ballgowns, filling all with a presence beyond her frame.   Che (Louis Hobson) strutted through the show with suitable attitude,   posture and untamed hair.   Juan Perón (Eric Jensen) had both physical and musical presence,   his affection for the petite Eva clearly and economically conveyed.

This is the only Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice production that I feel inclined to like,   mainly because of the special characteristics of the storyline.   The lead female character is successful within the confines of the patriarchy.   This is clearly detailed with the songs highlighting that she is a whore and should stay in the bedroom.   She is the underdog (bitch) made good through self knowledge and careful marketting of her strengths (capitalism).   In that sense she personifies the American dream.   The use of Che as a critical,   yet appreciative,   male, narrative tool provides a good balance to the story within the  sadly realistic  narrative of the patriarchy.   The story has wry wit,   pathos,   the heroine is somehow almost  likeable yet at the same time detestable (totalitarianism, imbezzlement).  

Eva Peron good or bad thing?  

Fight it out amongst yourselves 😉

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