Tuesday 22 December 2009

Christmas Cakes

I'm now in production, a bit late, but well under the wire. Two down, one to go and that's for me, so I can afford to be a bit more last minute. The other two were for my parents and my brother and sister-in-law. The hard bit is levering the thing out of the tin, cake intact. So far so good. The tin has lasted about fifteen years, so is bearing up quite well.

Chatting to a colleague at work it truns out she was making and indeed had made by the end of term the grand total of four. She's off to Liverpool to do all the cooking for her folks. Her parents are elderly, so she gets to do the cooking and they get to have Christmas at home, which seems like a very good deal.


Toying with the settings on me blog, as one does periodically and looking at the transliteration function, I though Malayalam was a good language to choose because if I remember correctly that is the language of the people who use the Syro-Malabar Rite. I didn't realise it did it there and then whilst you wrote, so I'm back in boring English now, function disabled.

Now where was I?

Monday 21 December 2009

Bloggers' Lunch

Thanks to Fr Mildew for another excellent bloggers' meet.

This time he entertained us, not with tales of escaping priests and his own take on The Tablet, but with a book of pictures as suggestions for the new minor basilica in Blackfen.

Whether Baroque or rococo, (ie to a musician whether JS or JC Bach, Handel or Stamitz,) it will look great rising above the surrounding suburban streets.

Coming across the piazza outside the Cathedral in sleet, it was time for one of those text conversations with my Dad.

L Is it snowing?
D Quite a bit!
L Returning from London then.
D A good idea.

Hopped on the tube to London Bridge to maximise trains, by which time it was really snowing, but the train arrived on time and I trudged home without a hitch. Hope everyone else was as lucky.

Not so easy for my Mum's French friends due for dinner tonight. They aren't going to my parent's place nor alas will they be able to get the Eurostar home tomorrow. And they said exceptionally cold in France has meant -17C. Brrr

Sunday 20 December 2009

Reading time

At the end of September, Delia lent me 'Come Rack! Come Rope!' and I started it and then read some St Francis of Assisi stuff on the basis that you just can't spend you entire life thinking, 'St Francis of Assisi, 'Make me a channel of your peace', that is the hymn I most dislike' and moving quickly onto other thoughts, the washing up, the need to get a pint of milk on the way home, anything really. See just what terrible effects terrible music has?

Then there were a few CTS pamphlets - St John Vianney - amazing how ignorant I am really...

Usually, by the end of term I'm no longer reading on the train, but sleeping, however, I returned to the Benson. I am now truly gripped and more to the point must finish it by tomorrow.

Saturday 19 December 2009

Rheinberger Horn Sonata

I had a trip to Foyles recently and besides marvelling at how many books of and about chant they have, found a new Horn Sonata to play.

Clearly a composer with good taste.

Foyles, btw, is always a bit of a shock because it's just so tidy and you can pay so easily. Oh yes and you can find what you want. A friend of mine was once looking for a Ravel opera score and having looked in pocket scores, Dover scores, random French scores (for they are sometimes different sizes from everything else published anywhere else,) went up to the desk (not the till in those day oh no that was probably on another floor...) and being the polite man that he is said, 'Ravel seems to crop up in a few places.' He said afterwards that what he felt like saying was, 'There's *&%$£ Ravel everywhere.' You had to really want a book or a piece of music in those days and be prepared for a quest to find it and a struggle to buy it.


I glanced over 'Allotmenteers Monthly' in the supermarket today.

Perfect parsnips everytime
Potato chitting tips

chirped the cover.

My thoughts turn to seeds and the fact that I never did clear the allotment properly and now all is covered in snow and the ground frozen. Digging; such a general New Year's resolution.

Maybe I'll get over there this week and see if frozen kale is at all palatable. Nothing a saucepan of boiling water won't fix, I'm sure.

And now to make chocolate brownies for non Xmas Pudding eaters.

Monday 14 December 2009

Divisi double stops

My lunch-time concert went without a hitch. Well, the minibus containig three cellos, two double basses, stools, the electric stage piano for the organ continuo and all the stands arrived 30 mins late, by which time we had unpacked everything else, put all the chairs out and were ready to go. We started playing five minutes after the stuff arrived, which I count as a success. The music was in my ruck sack. After my conducting from memory experience 18 months ago, I never put it down anywhere.

We did the Corelli Christmas Concerto, which has grown on me a lot. He just writes well for the violin and it's very uncomplicated straightforward stuff. You just have to try to play it well.

The Elgar Serenade passed off with only a few raised eyebrows on my part until the last chord of the which was a shock. Listening back to the recording today I heard a G natural in an E major chord. Due to the smallness of the orchestra;, I can tell you that the offending note came from one of two people - the outside second violins to be precise - and given how loudly it was played before sliding to a G#, I have a clear suspect.

Just in case you think I seek out offending players in a Toscaniniesque fashion, rest assured I do not. For one thing this is a school. So whereas out there in the big bad world, there are conductors I choose not to play for and conductors who don't want me (sniff), you just can't work like that in a school. These guys are learning and you can only learn to do concerts by doing them and that means the occasional prang.

Sunday 13 December 2009


The sanctuary was awash this morning with pink/rose/ whatever the correct shade is vestments receiving their second use.

Then I had a lovely roast dinner with the family with the largest indoor real Christmas tree I've ever seen, decorated up to the ceiling and they have lofty ceilings.

Yesterday, I went Christmas shopping with my Mum, sister-in-law and her Mum up London, where we dodged the crowds round Covent Garden and the South Bank and I got quite a few presents sorted out. Some work to do, but I'm getting there.

In the evening we went to hear a Buddy Holly tribute act who was a bit like Clark Kent, but morphed instead into Elvis in his second set which he seemed much happier singing. One of the raffle prizes was £100 of booze, mostly spirits, which I won. This was on top of winning a bottle of brandy last time I went there. Everyone in the family went home with their bottle of choice.

Wednesday 9 December 2009

Christmas Cards

Experience has taught me that is this the time that I should write them. It seems too early, but next week is always a bit mad and then we're into First Class stamp territory and the foreign cards arriving between Christmas and New Year - not that that's ever been a problem for various of my friends and family.... and it's nice to get post when you are on holiday.

I don't do round robins because I think they are are either smug

'April saw us on our round the world cruise...'

or occasionally a bit morbid (may be that's just the Welsh side of the family terrrrible, OK that's one particular slightly distant set of rellies...,)

'Molly the dog took a turn for the worse and we had to cancel our trip to... (think of less than exciting destination of your choice, probably owned by the National Trust.)'

The sadness is that they are fine in real life.

I have one set of friends from university who married each other and have six children. Chris writes the only round robin worth reading which has a paragraph about each child - 'Noah wants to be Dr Who when he grows up...' and used to end with '... and Rachel is expecting a baby in...' but now ends differently, though you never know. Maybe young Naomi needs a younger sibling.

If I had to write one, mine would go

digging digging digging
slip, click ouch shoulder
more concerts
Digging digging digging

Neither smug, nor morbid, just a list.

Tuesday 8 December 2009

Monday 7 December 2009

Walking the tightrope

which is having the success of a concert depending on one final chance to nail a piece, I found myself having one of my very specific anxiety dreams.

Thus I am shouting, 'But what's the RV number?' at a trumpet player expecting to play that Vivaldi Concerto for two trumpets even though we do not have the orchestral parts. Antonio, we all remember, wrote the same concerto four hundred times... before I phone up the local very helpful music shop to get the parts. I like them, you have but to say, 'Barenreiter, Urtext,' and they respond, 'Of course.' Then some random Russian turns up in the rehearsal and starts barking instructions at the strings.

The reality was that we got through the whole of the Corelli Christmas Concerto in forty minutes. The soloists are fine. The ripieni will be for the concert. The organ continuo boy was good. One Violin I forgot to come and I may just cut him... That way, he won't forget again and I won't have the worry of him messing something up and yes there will be plenty of musicians in the audience who will notice every little thing. He'll get to play in the other piece. I just have to time our arrival on foot at the venue at the same time as the minibus with the Cellos, Basses, stands and other bits arrives, so the school doesn't get a parking ticket. Last time we did a lunchtime concert, the building opposite the school caught fire, the road got closed and my HoD was left outside the place in the rain with the boys and the gear. He was not happy. ;-(

Anyway, I like Corelli. Good, honest music. Plays itself, if you can play it. Just those scary moments of doing an upbeat in a new tempo and feeling that only a quarter of the players are really with you. On the fix it list for Thurs. Sigh.

Sunday 6 December 2009

Wednesday 2 December 2009

Reports done

Having been chained to a computer, I am now free to get on with everything else.

In other news, the school dinners have taken a dive and everyone is depressed. Lunch represents a high point in the working day.

Yesterday's bean sprouts boiled in dish water with plain rice were worthy of Ash Wed. Today everything had chicken in it. Are they clearing out the freezers?