Sunday 20 April 2008

Tortoise Tales

In the mid 1970s, when we had droughts in the Summer, my parents got us a tortoise. (I remember my slightly older cousins telling me that we were not allowed to have a paddling pool because Mr Heath said so. Visions of the Prime Minister swooping teacher like on the pool if we filled it. Always was a little on the dramatic side.) It refused all the food it was given and ate weeds in the lawn and dahlias and other carefully tended plants.

About five years ago it made an escape attempt and disappeared to pastures new. Better weeds beckoned. My parents were not too sad, for My Dad had had to build little fences around all his flower beds. Otherwise he'd plant stuff and come out the next day to find little stumps where his flowers had been.

Now the mystery of the AWOL Tortoise is over. My parents have been in contact with the man who lives in the house behind and it seems that Speedy lived there for the last few years, but has now gone to live in a tortoise sanctuary belonging to the son of the owners of the pink house opposite them. ( Three houses away from a tortoise santuary, who would have thought we were so close....)

Anyway, Speedy now has other tortoise company after over 30 years of solitude and some female company, for he is a Mr Tortoise, we now discover.

And they all lived happily ever after.

Saturday 19 April 2008

Auntie Joanna on R4 Today Programme on Pope Benedict

She really packed in a lot in a short amount of time.

Impressive stuff! Good for her.

Saturday 12 April 2008

The Parish Book of Chant

Musica sacra (see right for link) have brought out a new book, which seems pretty comprehensive and beautifully and carefully produced. Square notation etc. Might get one. About time it came in handy.

When I started teaching in 1993, I bought Hymns Old and New, thinking that working in a Catholic School I should have the then standard hymn book. It cost £30, I seem to remember and it arrived when I was off work with 'flu. I was quite excited at the time. This was big money for a probationary teacher. Buying music in that 'investing in standard repertoire' kinda way is always very exciting. Like buying the '48' or Mozart Horn Concertos.

The Hymn Book is a bit beaten up now. No particular complaints about the binding. Here I am Lord and Eagle's Wings have page turns in them, so it's not just what you sing and hear that is awkward, folks. The latter has the page turn in because each verse has a slightly different text underlay in addition to requiring the congregation to sing a C# against a G major chord. And you thought the augmented 4th was a no no. Thus you end up with a separate line for every verse printed above the piano (organ?) accompaniment. Sigh. Doubt and ambiguity sown into the very fabric of the music. These folks don't do strophic it seems. Let's play the 'does the next verse have an anacrusis' game. That explains the lack of a metrical index at the back.

Some of the numbers that were presumably written with just guitar chords have quite spectacularly bad keyboard accompaniments. The difference between the organ and piano are ignored and all notions of four part harmony cast off. In fact the harmonic vocab is amazingly restricted. Did modulations get banned, dissonance.....? All a mystery to me. Make me a channel of your peace goes off the bottom of a four octave organ manual. You fail orchestration exams for doing that sort of thing. You fail harmony exams for having forbidden doublings and consecutives. That hymn has ruined that prayer for me and put me off the Franciscans, because I hear it in my head whenever St Francis is mentioned. I wonder how many ugly pieces of music, art, language and architecture have had the same effect on people. Probably lots.

This comes to mind because yesterday I had the great great pleasure of rehearsing a Haydn Violin Concerto with a little Chamber Orch before school. The contrast is so great that I can't really quantify it and the Haydn is technically not that hard to play. The players are between 11 and 14. Getting them to play stylishly and to really listen and understand the importance of their part at any time in the movement will take some work, but I am very much looking forward to the performance. It's just fabulous music and they are a very musical bunch. I am very fortunate, I know.
(Haydn was a Catholic of course and said the Rosary daily apparently.)

As to the stuff at Mass I just shut up and play the stuff when required and change things so that they are a little more correct. Dumpy consecutive 5ths at the bottom of the bass clef are great in the Pink Panther, but odd when you teach Bach Chorales.

I belive that things are on the turn. I'd better stop or this will turn into one of my many unpublished posts on liturgical music. I'm saving you from some serious rants believe me. Just remember to be nice to organists and remember that it's often not their fault that they are playing that hymn you hate. They probably hate it too.

As to Marty H. Why do we play any music written by Protestants in Catholic Churches? Are we saying music doesn't really communicate at a very deep level? Better keep that rant to myself, but you get my drift. If you want a taste of Catholic Italy, listen to Monteverdi and feel the warmth. It's really there.

Anyway this book looks to be a very good thing.


One of my favourite colours is that light green you get when trees are coming into leaf.

I'm currently looking at apple trees online. Hoping to buy a couple in the Autumn.

This being Kent cox's orange pippin and Bramley are the hot favourites. We are the garden of England and all.

I love coxes and according to what I've read they store well. Yum.

My Father loves apple pies and crumbles, so if I could possible get a tree that has its bumper year when my parents have their off year, we will be onto a good thing. Apple sauce on porridge is nice for breakfast as is cold apple crumble of course. The culinary possibilities are endless. Apple blossom is very beautiful, very delicate.

Lots of April showers at the mo, so not great for gardening, but one can dream.

Every morning I look at the allotments from the train and lots of people have been very busy preparing their beds for all seeds that will go in. I'm hanging back for various reasons just now but will get planting some quick cropping stuff later on.

Gordy in the US

The Times' only mention of the Papal Visit to the US next week (lucky you folks) was to point out that Gordon Brown is going then too.

It would seem that attention will be elsewhere.

No plans for a meeting, which given Brown's anti Catholic legislation at the moment, is a shame.

Friday 11 April 2008

New Research

Must be a quiet news day.

According to page 3 of today's Times there are serious gender probs in the world of instruments.

Girls play the flute and boys play the bass guitar.

Pupils get bullied for playing the 'wrong' instrument. The flute teacher at work said that boys at his all boys school used to make comments about his 'hand bag.' But he soldiered on and even plays the piccolo. What's that a purse, a clutch bag?

Anyway, towards the end of the article it stated that boys like instruments that you hit (we call them percussion instruments - too technical Huh?) and ones that require physical exertion.

This week I did a class performance thing on Gamelan and we added the orchestral gong in for a bit of authenticity. So a very good percussionist got to bong the gong. I like it because it gets louder after you've hit it. The class ended the lesson saying to the player,'Hit it as hard as you can.' I took the very heavy beater into protective custody at that point. (Clearly, my attempt to evoke the shimmering, meditative sounds of Indonesia, were OK up to a point, but we were now reverting to collective type and it was break time. Test things to their limit and in Music this means hard and loud.) Rank films are all very well, but the nasty metallic smack of a tam tam struck in anger is an experience I have no wish to visit on anyone. I could have cried when a pupil dropped some cymbals in front of me once. And people wonder why Music Teachers have nervous break downs? Not this one. Avoid percussion instruments, especially the metal ones.

Musical instruments are very different from each other. Men and women are different. I see lots of women and men playing all sorts of instruments in orchestras. No probs. It didn't say what level the players were at. Maybe if you excel, you aren't so bothered what other people think. You love your instrument and probably play in various groups where you are appreciated for the sound you make. Folks I know in orchestras, all we talk about is music. I don't know much else about them. We're happy.

Not many girls playing stuff at work. It's a boys school. Actually, often the only girl is the conductor. Me!

Sunday 6 April 2008

Sunday Night Live

My favourite prog on EWTN is Sunday Night Live which I watch on Saturday Night at 10pm GMT, though that may be different now.

Just checked and it's going to be put on their TV archive page. I keep being away or out, so have missed it for a few weeks now. Great.

My other favourite prog is The Journey Home. I've learnt a huge amount factually from people who have done all the hard work reading the Church Fathers, St Augustine et al and generally leaving no stone unturned to find out the truth, followed up by leaving their various Protestant denominations to become Catholics.

After my failed attempt to go to Mass in London, I popped off to Blackfen (wouldn't be doing that in China, now would I?) where Fr Tim said everything I'd heard on EWTN re sola scriptura, the need for the Church to interpret scripture, the canon coming from what was read in the Liturgy etc. Catholicism: so consistent it's like Maths.


Travelling back from one of our ancient universities this am via London, I happened upon the Olympic Torch build up.

I wrongly thought that I could get Mass at Notre Dame de France. So for anyone else thinking that thought it's at 12 noon not 12.30. Sigh. Trudge. Probably in French, maybe Cantonese, not fussed as long as it's a Mass. Actually, I was hoping it was in Cantonese, then maybe I could pray better for Chinese Catholics.

Didn't want to hang around in ancient seat of learning due to the snow and the fact that I didn't get round to checking Mass times. Last weekend my Dad and I had to enquire in Tourist info in Wales as to Mass in the next town as we needed a different time, so maybe that could be a new raising awareness of Catholics thing. When the Bank ask for a direct debit or two to check I am that Miss Leutgeb, I have been know to launch into SPUC and so on.... Yes we're everywhere even paying taxes for those pesky schools that keep appearing at the top of league tables...

But I digress,as usual. The torch thing had quite a few people gathered in Trafalgar Sqaure at that point. Saw a few police vans scream by along The Strand and then a few people with Tibetan flags coming out of Charing X Station. My contribution? Indifference, so not much. Judging by the police cordon jogging along with the torch by the time it got to Tower Bridge, quite a few other people had already expressed their hostility to the Games in China.

Tuesday 1 April 2008

Film Meme

"Top-five critically lauded movies I detest" meme.

Cheers Mac.

1 Not critically acclaimed, but in the manner of the GCSE Music Performing criteria which now does not use the word 'memorable' as that can be taken in two ways. We had several memorable performances this year and one had us rolling around. Tears they were a streaming. You had to be there.

Mac and I once went on a jolly jaunt to Bluewater and ended up in screen 19, the one you don't have to show a ticket to get in. (Yes we had paid.) We walked out, so bad was the film. It was a Christmas, feel good, let's all get together, workaholic man, ends up having a good time with his folks plot....well I assume that he did, we'd left by that point.

One of my brothers thought that maybe they don't mind if you just wander into that screen, you might buy an icecream or something...

2 Star Wars
Love the music, I am a horn player after all and big American film scores are just great for us.
Never actually seen the film all the way through.
Harrison Ford is very gumpy and Princess Leia's hair annoys me.
It's very slow too, all that wandering around with R2D2 and C3P0 in the desert.
Space Invader type weapons effects, silly.

3 Some James Bond
I have 2 brothers and have had to watch them lots and lots.
Women falling over in high heals and the later ones with woman with PhDs in Astrophysics. Is there no via media?
Why all the casinos?

4 Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Compared to the other two, it's rubbish.

5 Um struggling
Harry Potter The first One
The dialogue was very clunky and they seemed to keep explaing the plot all the time.

Phew. Can't tag everyone I tagged this am, so if you feeling lonesome for a meme, consider yourself tagged!

Doors, they be a squeaking

Radio 3 has just started to play 'orrible music.

Having just enjoyed one of the Leonora Overtures (the one with that has lots of Florestan's beginning of Act II stuff and the trumpet fanfare, I don't know which one, why did he have to write so many overtures to just the one opera?) and then a slightly flat, to my ear, performance of the F major Romance, a soprano warbles with lots of awful string glissandi.

Rest assured, dear reader, unless it has a good tune, or some other deeply redeeming feature like a cracking good rhythm it's not good music. I'm sure it has lots of very interesting organising features and set theory analysis would explain it all, but it sounds awful.

Poor BBCSO, fancy having to practise this. Still thay have a lot of this sort of thing to play.

Modernist music; good for writing essays about, rubbish to play and listen to.
Modern Liturgical music; rubbish for writing essays about, rubbish to pray and listen to.

Whoops and applause greet the conclusion. A UK premiere.

Beethoven 7 to end. A proper symphony. Tovey said the odd numbered Beethoven symphonies were best and he was right.