I am moved by Lady Percy 's expression of love. CLICK HERE - see if you agree.
Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
I re-comment on comments and re-re-re-comment on re-re-comments.
* One exception: short stories.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Music, great for humilation

Without lying openly I like to imply I know more about music than I do. Pretend I'm part of the priesthood. One or two of you recognise this and your comments are forgivingly kind. Thank you, for that.

Sunday was come-uppance.

It started with the coach hired to take us to Birmingham. Very new, very swish, each seat fitted with a three-point seat belt which I was unable to secure. Too fat! Already St Cecilia was warning me.

At the hall we sat in the wrong seats. My fault.

For Poulenc's organ concerto the conductor arrived at the podium with a man I took to be the organist. Strange, since the organ seat (just below the pipes in the pic) was a longish hike from the podium. But then the organist walked a dozen steps and sat behind a wooden box to the right of the orchestra. Surely he wasn't going to play this noisy music on something slightly larger than a Hammond organ all Americans have in their front room?

A musical roar quickly told me that the wooden box was merely a remote keyboard for the main organ. What a fool!

Then came Fauré's requiem. Eh? The orchestra disappeared leaving the choir alone on the stage. A modernish requiem sung a capella (unaccompanied)? It was in fact Poulenc's Figures Humaines settings of Eluard's poems. Not having bought a programme (I don't need one!) I hadn't realised it was scheduled. VR scowled; labelled it "vapid".

During the requiem proper a man abruptly rose from the male part of the choir, sidling awkwardly to one side. Too young to have prostate problems. Ah, the baritone soloist adopting a (slightly) better position. Get with it, RR.

Riding home I read a Ross Thomas. Enough music for the day.


  1. I am an enthusiastic believer in “making things happen” - I mean actively arranging to go somewhere, make that phone call, write that letter, speaking to a passer-by etc.

    Occasionally life sends us a present we had no part in instigating, but most worthwhile experiences have the added satisfaction of the self knowledge that you “made it happen”.

    Things don’t always turn out as you envisaged in the planning stage, but on this occasion you had a go and came back with a meaningful story to tell, which I am sure will arouse familiarity and wry smile from your readers.

  2. Unless you've played a piece before (or watched it) it's hard to tell what orchestra members are going to do during modern pieces. I like to try to guess just which percussionist clangs on what before they get around to it, because I'm almost always wrong. (The triangle players are so often hulking, long haired guys you'd think would be kettle drum players!)

  3. Sir Hugh: Not sure it was meaningful. Just part of a continuing saga about the benefits of live music (concerts, recitals) vs. canned music (radio, CDs, MP3).

    Live music's two benefits are high fidelity and being there at the music's creation. Against these must be set its disadvantages: getting there on a cold winter night, the coughing that always seems to be reserved for the pp passages, the irritation at seeing musicians dressed up in penguin suits, the sheer greed of recital audiences clapping to squeeze out encores, the suspension of belief required when a 20-stone tenor sings the picture song in Flute, etc, etc. Also, and perhaps most important, the slow realisation that one is part of a seemingly smug middle-class assembly whose reasons for being there are often suspect - one reason why I always wear my shabbiest clothes.

    Julia: "hard to tell what orchestra members are going to do during modern pieces". To which I would add, hard to tell what they're going play... In preparation for the Emerson Qt at the Festival Hall next Wednesday I have played and re-played Berg's Lyic Suite (Julliard, on YouTube) and am coming to the conclusion I may have bitten off more than I can chew, Unfortunately I allowed myself to hear a variant of the first movement in which Dawn Upshaw adds herself to the Kronos and rather wish I was going to hear that.

    All this familiarity with percussionists. Does that mean you've been booking lots of concerts in the choir seats? That was the favoured practice during the earlier years of our group trips to Birmingham. There seemed to be several disadvantages: the "stereo" was reversed, the nearness of the percussion meant too much of a good thing, and frequently the soloist in concerti became invisible (esp in the triple concerto). Gloomily I had to accept that the (wealthier) middle-class lot got a better crack of the whip in the stalls.

  4. The choir seats in the Rudolfinum are half the size of regular seats, so we've never booked them (Caroline sits there twice a year before her concerts, and says it is fun to be so high up, but only for a little bit as they are so hard and small).

    My favorite spot to perch is in the balcony, dead middle, as I like to watch the whole orchestra. Luckily ticket prices aren't outrageous.

    My Czech friends have special outfits and coats they reserve only for concerts. It seems respectful rather than pretentious, but that might be because concert goers here are not just middle class people, but all sorts. Plus, they cry when the orchestra plays Dvorak. Who could resist an audience like that!

  5. Julia: It's ironic that the instrumentalists are still gathered up into unsuitable garments whereas many conductors are allowed to opt for lightweight casual clothing (Mao jackets, typically) much more suited to music-making.

    Can't quarrel with tears as a form of musical response. And here's another irony. At the Last Night of the Proms concert it's traditional during the medley of sea shanties for a solo cello to play a very soulful variant of Tom Bowling. It's equally traditional for the prommers to pretend to cry at this. Whereas I cry for real.